This is the third in a four-post series about hatching eggs from our 5 deceased laying hens who fell victim to a predator, along with nearly all of their temporary flock-mates, during their transitional stay at Harmonious Homestead. For more, read The Absence of Chickens and Incubating Chicken Eggs. There are varying opinions about the importance, and risk, of candling eggs while hatching them via an incubator. Some feel it is unnecessary exposure to bacteria, which could result in a greater number of developing embryo losses. Others feel it is an essential source of information about how the incubation is progressing and what might be going right or wrong in the incubator. During my first try incubating eggs, I found myself somewhere in the middle, hoping to minimize the risk of contamination while still checking the eggs in order to remove any non-developing eggs and avoid a messy situation. On day 7, I candled each egg for the first time. Previous reading led me to believe that it may be difficult to see the tiny embryos, but i found it to be fairly easy to tell which eggs were developing. Even the blue eggs, with two layers of pigmentation, were fairly easy for me to see through using no special equipment, just the flashlight on my iPhone. I invited Rachel and Lil of Harmonious Homestead over to take a look and assist me with photos. We crowded into the bathroom, our only room without a window. I held my phone in one hand and the egg in the other, sealing the light of the the flashlight as well as I could so that it would shine only through the shell of the egg. The light revealed a spiderweb of veins and a sizable air sac in the developing eggs and just a indistinct cloud of yolk in the duds. (Viable, developing egg, you can see the embryo as a dark spot just to the left of the corner of the phone.) After candling each egg, I recorded whether or not the egg was developing on a chart. I decided to keep those that did not appear to be developing in the incubator for a few more days before checking them again and discarding them if they were, indeed, lacking embryos. (Another developing egg. Note the spiderweb of veins, slightly difficult to make out in this photo, and the visible air sac at the top of the egg.) While it was a little disheartening to find that many of the eggs from Rachel’s rooster Shackleton II weren’t developing, we knew the experiment was a long-shot from the beginning. Many of the eggs from her next door neighbor were viable and developing, though. So I knew my clutch would hatch quite a few purebred Ameraucana chicks in just two more weeks. (This egg had a clear blood ring around the yolk. We decided to crack it open and investigate as part of this homesteading/homeschooling activity. The head, body and eye were easy to make out.)
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This is the second in a four-post series about hatching eggs from our 5 deceased laying hens who fell victim to a predator, along with nearly all of their temporary flock-mates, during their transitional stay at Harmonious Homestead. For more, read The Absence of Chickens.
Introducing another partner in our quest to raise a new generation of chickens, the HovaBator incubator from City Folk’s Farm Shop.
The HovaBator 1588 is a Styrofoam picture-window incubator with digital electronic controls and temperature and humidity sensors. It has a few optional add-ons, including the automatic egg-turner that we brought home with us.
Right out of the box, the entire operation is intuitive and easy to assemble. The bottom tray goes down first, then the water reservoir, the hardware cloth hatching surface and then the lid. Our automatic egg-turner sits on top of the hardware cloth grate, its power cord exiting through a small, specifically-manufactured channel.
The digital controls and sensor reading displays are all on the lid of the incubator, along with the large plexiglass window.
To get the eggs started, I searched the internet and found quite a few informative sites about hatching chicken eggs. Instead of giving you a step-by-step myself, since this is my first time endeavoring to hatch eggs, I’ll point you to some resources in the next post of this series.
It’s been eight days since our five little ladies have moved in, and we’ve learned quite a bit already!
First of all, chicks are incredibly fun. My sister and one of my nieces were visiting this past weekend, and my niece kept finding herself sitting in the room with the chicks and losing track of the time.
Secondly, chicks grow insanely fast. It’s almost as if you can see them growing. I should have taken daily photos, but time escaped me. They’re at least four times the size they were when they came home.
The personality differences are absolutely entertaining. Our two Barred Rock girls are more adventurous and more likely to jump up on my hand. Betty (the barred rock pictured in the series below) was the first to jump up, beginning her ascent onto their (then shorter) food container the first night we had them home! The Rhode Island Reds are more timid but more likely to fall sleep while being held. They are a bit smaller, too, with Austra at about two-thirds of the size of Batgirl.
So far, chicken raising is fitting into our lives quite well. They delight us, and we can’t wait for their first eggs.
Oh, and the final two chicks have been named Beyonce and Pippin.