Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hatching - a risky business!

My husband picked up this incubator from his mom on the off-chance that we would need it. We initially weren't planning to use the incubator to hatch chicks this spring, but when we didn't receive the Partridge Chantecler chicks that we'd ordered, we began looking for hatching eggs and ordered a water bottle that was missing from the incubator. Our crazy trip to Calgary gave us the opportunity to stop in at a wonderful couple's farm and pick up a dozen Partridge Chantecler eggs. We also picked up a couple of roosters as a favor for a lady who lives in our area, and were given 10 Serama eggs as well. After letting the eggs rest for a day, we fired up the incubator and began the watching and waiting!

The Serama eggs were very small and we had to make some modifications to the egg turning rack for them. The automatic turner was set to turn the eggs every hour, the temperature was set to about 99 degrees. It was difficult to monitor the temperature and humidity, as the dial for adjusting the temperature was very touchy and the humidity depended entirely on how big the puddle was on the bottom of the incubator. We had some major 'oopses' with the temperature fluctuating wildly, the humidity being completely out of whack, and the eggs getting stuck and not turning. These events didn't seem to harm the birds though, they weren't deformed, stuck in their shells, or whatever.

We candled the eggs about once a week. We don't have a real candler, so we rigged up a box with a bright light in it and began the learning process. We had no idea what we were looking for, but with the first candling found several clear eggs which indicates that no chick is growing. We looked up pictures on the internet of what an egg is supposed to look like, and compared that with what we were seeing. Of course the PC eggs were brown, making them difficult to see through. Eventually we began to see the reddish mass of veins and a few veins running across the egg to the shell indicating a growing chick. The second candling was much easier, as the chick inside the good eggs was a dark mass. With each candling we eliminated a few eggs, and at hatching had 10 Partridge Chantecler eggs and 3 Serama eggs.

I was shocked to read in our hatching book that eggs that are not growing before day 9 can be removed from the incubator - and eaten! We didn't... :-)

The eggs were getting noisy, cheeping could be heard from the inside of the eggs. We removed the egg turner on Day 18 as recommended, leaving a hardware cloth screen for the chicks to hatch on. We increased the humidity slightly and lowered the temperature a bit.

We brought the incubator into the living room for hatching, and we hovered over it; it was so fun to watch the progress.  We were totally shocked when the first eggs began hatching on Day 20 instead of 21!  The Serama eggs hatched first, but the Partridge Chantecler eggs were only a few hours behind.

The first chick working it's way around the shell

Top of the shell popped off, they're really packed in there tight!

Pushing it's way out of the shell

First steps, flopping around among the other eggs

The first little Serama chick, they are really small!

A Partridge Chantecler Chick

The final outcome was that only one of the remaining Serama eggs didn't hatch, otherwise it was a great hatch with no deformed or weak chicks!  We are the proud caretakers of 2 tiny Serama chicks and 10 Partridge Chantecler chicks!  All the chicks hatched within a 24 hr period, with all 10 PC chicks within a 15.5 hour span.  I introduced them to water and feed and they are off and growing!  

All in all, it was a fantastic experience.  It's good to know that hatching eggs aren't as sensitive as we were led to believe.  We broke the 'rules' and opened the incubator several times during hatching.  My husband is a 'hands on' kind of guy and couldn't keep from helping the occasional chick out and listening to the eggs to see if there was peeping!  Next year I'd like to try using a broody hen so they can look after the chicks after hatching too, but at least we now we have some experience using the incubator if that doesn't work out!

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