The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Nervous chicken mother

Chicken embryo day 20I am a nervous chicken mother.  For three weeks now, the kitchen thermometer has occupied one of my central processors and I even had a nightmare that the heater was running too hot (only to wake up and find that I was right.)  I've peered at the eggs, candled them, topped off their water, and, as of Friday, taken out the egg turner and replaced it with a paper liner for hatching.  Despite all that, I didn't really believe we'd end up with a living chick.  "If we even get one," I promised myself, "it will be a success."

Twenty-one days will be up today at 1 pm, and by Friday night I was starting to lose faith.  I'd read all kinds of reports on the internet of ways chicks can die in the shell.  Not only can I kill them if I let the temperature get too hot or too cold (which I did a grand total of four times), but the chicks could drown while trying to hatch if I kept the incubator too humid.  Shells that look porous when candled (didn't I have one of those?) tend to let in bacteria and the chicks die young, and then there's the question of whether our old hens are even able to create a viable embryo at their advanced ages.

Then, Saturday afternoon, I heard a strange bumping sound from the corner of the kitchen.  I pulled out the incubator and peered in to see that not one but two eggs were rocking to and fro.  Someone was alive inside!  Half an hour later, a third egg joined the chorus, and at supper time egg number four chimed in.  Then, silence as the wearied chicks rested inside their hard shells.

Today will be the big day.  Will we hatch live chicks?  How many?  Whose eggs?  So far, all three eggs laid by the young Golden Comet have shown signs of life along with one of the eggs from the old girls.  No matter what happens, I plan to throw another batch of eggs in as soon as the chicks are fully dry and ready to move to a brooder --- if I can manage to keep at least 57% of my eggs alive to 20 days, this incubation experiment has merit.  It's a good thing I "planned" this hatch to coincide with a day of rest, because it's going to take a team of mules to drag me away from my spectator role.

Our chicken waterer is ready to go in the brooder to get the chicks off to a healthy start.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Good luck! My mom is worrying over a set of turkey eggs right now, so I'm hearing a lot from nervous poultry mommas. Must be exciting to be there!
Comment by Madeline Sun Apr 17 08:26:15 2011

Far too exciting! I woke up at 6 am and came in with a flashlight to check on the eggs. Went back to sleep for an hour to dream about chicks and incubators and brooders, then woke up again to see two eggs with little holes forming and the chicks peeping loudly inside their shells.

Good luck to your mom!

Comment by anna Sun Apr 17 08:43:21 2011

Hey Anna, Thanks for your diligent posts. My farmer and I built a 200 egg incubator out of an old refrigerator. I am stoked to repurpose old stuff. Anywho, the farmer has been putting the turkey poults in the Inc in batches so he waits a few days and leaves them in his house for up to a week until he has enough to batch. My question is: how long did you take from the hen laying the egg until you actually put the egg in the incubator?

Also what do you think you are paying in electricity to hatch these 7 eggs? per day and for the whole sha-bang.

Best to you and yours, Steven

Comment by Steven Roberts Mon Apr 18 16:49:05 2011

Those are great questions! Our flock is pretty small and old, so it took me four days to save up the eggs. In the meantime, I kept the eggs blunt-end up in an egg carton and tipped them twice a day --- see this post about storing eggs for hatching. The age of the eggs didn't seem to make a difference in the hatch.

I meant to plug in the Kill-o-watt to answer your question, but didn't! So I'll have to go on what the manual says which is 12 watts average, 18 watts maximum. Assuming we used the maximum (probably true --- I let it get somewhat chilly at night), we used about 9 kw for the 21 day period, which probably cost about 90 cents. That said, we also had to run a space heater at night for most of the time to keep the temperature around the incubator high enough for it to work, so the price was considerably more!

Comment by anna Mon Apr 18 19:26:26 2011

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