Sunday, April 21, 2013

Chicks (in notepad, tired of losing posts typing live)

I have been up to a lot of different

things.  This time of year, especially,

there are a million things that need my


Because I don't already have enough on my

plate, I decided to make a homemade

incubator.  I had saved a big extra sturdy

styrofoam shipping container we received

over the winter holidays packed full of

specialty meats, and we had the usual

spring surplus of eggs, so I decided to try

and build a homemade incubator, following

directions easily found on the net.

I demolished an old ceramic lamp for the

lamp parts. That wasn't too easy, because

the thing was a lot thicker than it looked.

 Then I bought a couple of 25 watt bulbs

for about $2.50 and the cheapest hot water

heater thermostat I could find at Home

Depot for about 9.50. 

I put an old cookie tray on the bottom, a

wire rack over that, and then I covered

that with a couple of old terry washcloths.

I drilled the hole and wired the lamp

parts.  I had a hard time figuring which

was the in and out on the thermostat, but

took an educated guess and plugged it in

and it worked so I guessed right.

Since it was an inexpensive thermostat, the

temperature regulator was pretty touchy and

I spent Easter afternoon trying to regulate

it. That involved waiting patiently for the

light to shut off and then quickly checking

the temperature to get the high end.  If it

was too high, I would would try and lower

the thermostat when the thermometer reached

around 101 to shut it off. 

Then it wouldn't come back on until around

88F, which I thought was too low.  One

poultry book I have was quite specific

about maintaining regular temperatures

around 101, another said most bird eggs

hatch between 90 and 100 so I was hoping

that swing would be ok.  I was pretty sure

that temps too high would be bad, although

I had read of successful hatches when the

temp reached 104 for several hours during

incubation, I didn't want to keep it there.

For about 8 days I had been saving each

day's eggs, held point down in an eggs

carton. I placed the egg carton one side

higher than the other and switched high

eggs several times I day.  The eggs being

held are supposed to be between 50 and 60

F, but mine were a bit higher in the low

60's.  The other storage location I tried

was too cold.

When I thought I had the temp regulated as

good as it was going to get, I put the eggs

in.  Then the temps really pulled a nutty. 

Because of the mass of the cool eggs, it

affected the thermostat setting.  So I

spent some of the next day tinkering with

the thermostat AGAIN withe the eggs in

place.  Finally, I just had to figure it

was close enough.

I checked with two other thermometers, and

one said a couple degrees higher and the

other said a couple of degrees lower, so I

stayed with the original thermometer hoping

that was the most accurate.

I placed the eggs on their sides, after

first marking one side with and "X" and the

other with and "O".  Inside the "o" I wrote

a number.  As I had saved the eggs, I

filled the carton from one side to the

other, and the newest eggs started with the

lowest number, and I marked them up to 22,

the amount I felt was plenty for the

incubator, and also all I had collected by

the first day of incubation. 

I wanted to see in the end if how old the

egg was made a difference.

The eggs were an assortment of our barnyard

flock.  The two white leghorn roosters both

have barred rock ancestors. Their father,

or grandfather, I have lost track by now,

was descended from our original barred


Then we have a black australop hen from

outside stock, a white leghorn from the

same outside stock (hatchery purchased

secondhand as chicks), a barred

rock/leghorn cross related to the roosters,

and an old white leghorn that flew in from

who knows where and adopted our flock many

years ago.

I think that hen is long gone and the third

hen is hatchery or crossbred, but the

Willow insists it is the old hen.  I call

her the energizer chicken for her

outstanding laying reliability.

Our other brown egg layer in the main flock

is this year's barred rock offspring the

black australop brooded out last spring.  I

figured when the leghorn crossbreds threw

the barred rock, but the Willow like to

think it was out of the Australop.  Well,

that hen certainly knew that was HER chick

after she sat on it for 21 days!  The only

one in the clutch to hatch, and she was a

good mama.

So the fertility of any of the little

barred rocks might be questionable; one of

the two roosters was definitely her father,

and the other also related somehow.

That's why I am going on about who was who,

because I was trying to count my chickens

before they were hatched! LOL

I had ONE egg from the barred rock pair,

and I happily marked that number 1 as it

came Easter morning just in time for the


I wasn't sure about that one, because both

are old birds and definitely related


Three days into the incubating I had a

chance for a couple for pilgrim goose eggs

and I took it.  I KNOW you're not supposed

to hatch them together due to different

temp and humidity requirements, but since I

had a temperature swing going on anyhow,

and I would have to increase humidity at

hatch for the chickens and the goose eggs

have to be in there longer, I thought it

was worth a shot.

Here I just lost a big long part of the

post, and it's late so I will cut to the


I have 5 chicks in the brooder. The first

one to pip died in the shell.  I cracked

and chipped some of the shell off the

others and let them finish by themselves.

One had a bit of bleeding and I applied

some crushed fresh yarrow as a styptic with

much success.

Another chick that I tried to help hasn't

gone so well, I think a blood vessel was

damaged and while the yarrow stopped the

bleeding it has not made what appears to be

part of the eggs sack go away and the chick

it very weak and still in the incubator.

I had to take the others out of the

incubator right way because they were

falling on the other eggs and while they

say that it fine I didn't think so, so I

cupped them in my hand and dashed up to the


In retrospect I can see that the wet chick

flopping all over the eggs helps to keep

them moist, which has been a problem since

I keep opening the darn incubator.

Note to self: Install a glass top if

attempted again.

The next chick I didn't even realize was

pipping until it was half out of it's shell

and it was quite lively and vocal.  It was

in a corner of the incubator.

The other ones to hatch first were more

directly under the bulb or in the middle of

the eggs.

I have two others that are having trouble

hatching and I have picked some of the

shell and some of the membrane and I am

trying to keep the membrane that is exposed

moist with water drops, but I am afraid to

drown the chicks whose beaks are exposed.

I don't want to rush them out and have them

bleed or the yellow bulge.  But I don't

want to wait too long and have them die

like the first one, which looked fine

(although dead) when I took the shell off.

Out of 22 eggs, on the 21-22 day, I have 5

in the brooder.  Three white leghorn cross

and two that look like black australop. 

One white leghorn died pipping.  One black

australop (barred rock?) weak and egg sack.

Two white having trouble hatching.

So about 25% hatch rate, maybe 30 if I get

lucky.  Maybe half pipped.  I think

temperature variability and heredity both

had an impact.

The ones that have not pipped yet were

closest to the three air holes on one long


Once I have decided to end the incubation,

I will do a tally and see if how old the

eggs were had an impact, since I will look

at the numbers on the ones that didn't

hatch.  I haven't been keeping track of

ones that have hatched.

I would have been able to tell the

difference between the hens of the brown

eggs but I have chucked the eggshell

remains.  They are pretty nasty.

I kept thinking of balut.


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