Sunday, March 29, 2015

So Much Hatching Going On

The past two weeks have been filled with the tiny peeps of our newest arrivals. While we still need to work on perfecting our incubator process, we did hatch two black orpington chickens, and three ducks.

This was our first egg to hatch. One thing that I learned through the process was that chickens hatch differently from ducks. The chickens made a small hole, called a pip, and then slowly enlarged it until they could push themselves out.

The babies were so tired when they finally emerged. It was really sweet to see how they would cuddle up with the remaining eggs, periodically calling out to the others as they had the energy.

The babies should stay in the incubator until they dry out quite a bit and get to their adorable, fluffy state. 

When the ducks hatched, they would create an area of cracking, which would be followed by the egg wiggling. I am quite sure that the wiggling was from them turning in the egg, because the cracks would appear later on another side. When the cracks formed at least mostly around the egg, they would start pushing their way out. I did manage to get a video of out of them hatching. 

We have a Hova-Bator  incubator. It worked well for the price, but we did need to make a few tweeks. Adding the optional egg turner was a great suggestion from my sister-in-law. The eggs need to be turned a minimum of three times daily, and having it automatically done was not only easier, but made it so we were not dropping the temperature frequently by opening the incubator up. 

During the incubation period, we discovered that having a hygrometer was quite important. The chickens had a much harder time hatching then the ducks did, and I believe it is because the humidity was a bit dry for the them. By the time the ducklings were hatching, we had a digital one that we really like. The digital hygrometer/thermometer combo also showed us that the thermometer that came with the incubator showed about 8 degrees lower. Ideally, keeping the incubator at 99 to 100 degrees is what we were aiming for, so 8 degrees of difference was causing the babies to not develop like they should have been.
We kept a simple spray bottle next to the incubator so a few spritzes could quickly be sprayed in to raise the humidity as needed. We averaged out at 50% most of the time, but sometimes it did get up around 80% for a little while. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Waiting for Peeps

About a month ago, our family had a very sad surprise. A neighbor's dog made its way into our backyard and killed four of our six hens while I was picking up Princess from school. We had let the chickens free-roam while we were finishing up their run, just making sure that they were shut in for the night so that coyotes or skunks could not get them. Since they stayed close to the house, we had thought they were safe during the day.

Especially after making the effort to bring them on our move with us, loosing our girls was pretty tough. I was particularly heartbroken over Pearl, who was our sweet Delaware who had lost both her feet to frostbite when she was young. At least two of the girls, Sweetie and Starlight, made their way to safety.

After we got over our shock of losing our girls, we started planning how to build up our flock again. Brady's sister sent us a really wonderful present in the form of a big box with lots of fertilized eggs. She raises some heritage and interesting breeds up in Idaho, so if you are around that neck of the woods, you can check out what neat birds she has here. She sent us some bantam cochins, black orpingtons, and some ducks. The eggs have been nestled in our incubator and we are counting down the days until they start hatching. While the ducks will take a bit longer, the chickens should be any day now. We can't wait to meet our new babies!

Brady bought an egg candler so that we could check on the chick's development as we waited. Candling eggs is incredibly neat. It reminds me of watching ultrasounds of our kids. There is not a super clear view of the chick, but the blood vessels feeding it from the yolk are there, as well the dark area that is the chick's body. I really like just seeing the small movements and knowing that there is life contained within the egg shell. Yesterday, I even saw a tiny silhouette of a foot that briefly stretched out.

We did try to capture some pictures of the candled eggs.  The eggs had been in the incubator for 16 days at this point.  Mainly you can see the blood vessels, but you can make out the darker "blob" of developing chick,.

Here is a video that Brady took to try and catch some of the movement.

This is the egg candler we are using. I would highly recommend it.