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Musing during hatch

Egg pippingI still don't know how successful this hatch will be, but fifteen hours into day 21, there are now two fully fluffed chicks in the brooder, one wet chick flopping its way out of the shell, and five more pipping.  I've got a lot of thoughts on the process so far:

  • All of this activity has taken place in one half of the incubator, making me wonder if temperatures aren't exactly the same throughout.  Perhaps next time I should flip the orientation of the egg tray each time I weigh it
  • Or maybe hatch time varies by breed?  All of the fully hatched chicks are my mail-ordered cuckoo maran eggs, and so are a couple of the pippers.
Incubator humidity
  • Humidity isn't so hard to deal with during hatch as people make it seem.  Adding a wet washcloth to the bottom of the incubator under the wells and pouring in a bit of baby bottle temperature water whenever I mess around inside lets me keep humidity in the incubator quite high with the vent partly open, and the humidity rebounds in minutes when I have to open the lid.
  • I was overreacting about space in the incubator.  All of the chicks who have hatched so far have been brimming with life, not soft and easily damaged like the ones that died in the incubator last time.  Since the chicks hatch over quite a long time period, I can take out dried off chicks and empty shells at intervals, leaving more space for each newly hatched bird.

Hatched chickThat said, I still had nightmares and woke up three times during night 20, coming in with a flashlight to check on the eggs.  In an effort to ease my mind and get a full night's sleep for night 21, I downloaded three free ebooks about incubation, the most useful of which has been Incubation: Natural and Artificial by J.H. Sutcliffe.  Yes, this book is over a century old, but I was looking for tried and true information.  I learned that my gut feeling that I should turn any pipped eggs upright if their hole is pointing to the floor instead of the ceiling is right on track and that you can tell if an unpipped egg is alive on day 21 by using the witch test (you know, put it in some warm water and see if it floats.)  I'll save that last tidbit of information for an emergency.

Photos this morning aren't very inspired since it's not quite daylight and my photographer (Mark) is still sound asleep.  I'm sure you'll see more cute pictures tonight.

Our newest chicks are still spending all of their time under the brooder, but I expect them to venture out and try their chicken waterer today.


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This is really eggciting. Is it possible that the older layers (your hens are just throwing weaker less viable babies) in humans the older the mom or dad the more likely there is to be problems with the embryos (higher rate of both genetic and non genetic birth defects). In zebrafish even though the fish still lay really well at 2 years, many of the eggs are duds or turn out to have babies that show defects several days after birth, sometimes even 2 weeks after birth.
Comment by Rebecca Tue May 17 10:23:14 2011

I think you hit the nail on the head. I was reading in the incubation ebook that hens older than two years produce eggs with lower hatch rates, and our old hens are old. When I look back at my notes, both of the chicks that made it out of the shell last time around were from our younger hen (although she's still past the two year mark.) Not thinking of that (and wanting the good foraging genetics), the 12 Golden Comet eggs I put in this time around were nearly all from the old hens (9 to 3), so I don't think I should expect much from them.

That said, three of the old hen eggs are currently pipping! I suspect they'll need help if they're going to make it, so I need to decide whether those potentially weakened chicks are worth helping out of the egg.

In more pleasant news, we now have four living cuckoo marans chicks in the brooder, and two more pipping!

Comment by anna Tue May 17 11:03:20 2011

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime