Category Archives: Backyard Chickens

Chicken Hatch Day 20: First Chick!

first_chick

The first chick hatched about 7:30 this morning. It’s a Rhode Island Red x Easter Egger from our friend Claudia, and I really hope it’s a girl.

We’re starting to see a lot more action in our eggs! I think this little one will have company soon. You can view the hatch live here.

 

 

Chicken Hatch Day 20: First Pip!

We’re heading into day 20 of our incubator hatch, and we just got our first pip!

first_pip

We’ve been hearing muffled peeps from the eggs all day, so at least some of the chicks have broken through the aircell and are breathing through the shell now. And one is getting ready to make an appearance in the next 24 hours. View the live stream here.

Chicken Hatch Day 18: Lockdown

ready_for_lockdown

(photo by Anne Dirkse)

Tonight the eggs reached another big milestone: Lockdown. This means we’re in the home stretch, and we took the eggs out of the automatic turner and laid them down on their sides so the embryos can get in position for hatch. We may even see them start rolling around a bit in the next day or two as the chicks move inside. So, we’ve started up our live stream (via Ustream) to keep an eye on the incubator.

high_tech_tripod

The main thing about lockdown is that the humidity requirements are higher, especially at high altitude. I’ve been weighing a few of the eggs to track how much liquid they’ve lost (chicken eggs should lose about 13% during the course of incubation.)

weigh-in

They seem to be pretty much on track in terms of weight loss and air cell size, so we’ll increase humidity to around 70% from now on. (We’ve been keeping it around 50%, but it should be higher during lockdown so the shell membranes don’t dry out and “shrink-wrap” the chick.)

fill_the_wells

(photo by Anne Dirkse)

place_the_eggs_on_their_sides

(photo by Anne Dirkse)

The other thing about lockdown is that we’re not supposed to open the incubator from now until the chicks dry off, so it’s going to be a long (and possibly anxious) few days.

locked_down

And just to keep things interesting, it looks like we might get yet another late season snowstorm tomorrow. That’s 3 Mondays in a row now, and I’m convinced it’s because I have eggs in the incubator (Colorado, you can thank me later.) But the generator’s ready, so bring on the snow. I might even wash my car tomorrow.

 

Chicken Hatch Day 14: Candling #2

It’s hard to believe, but we’re already 2/3 of the way done with our incubation. In just about a week the chicks should be getting ready to make their appearance!

We candled the eggs again tonight, and the chicks are big enough now that it’s hard to see anything going on inside. Especially with the darker shelled eggs, there’s not much to see besides a few veins:

Candlingd14_LFEE

 

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Chicken Hatch Day 8: Candling

After waiting patiently for 8 days, tonight we candled all of the eggs to see how many are developing.

LF_EE

Of course, I snuck a peek at 3 of them last night, but that only amplified my excitement. So as soon as night fell, our friends across the street came over and we got started.

KP_developing

As much as I love candling eggs, it’s always such a stressful endeavor. Handling so many tiny, fragile lifeforms makes my fingers feel like they’ve turned to sticks of butter. But this time, at least we weren’t crammed into a pitch black closet with a growling hen.

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Chicken Hatch Day 7: I just couldn’t help myself

 

I peeked at 3 of them. It was completely necessary, though — my sister and I needed to test out the camera equipment, and the focus is different when you’re looking at veins inside the egg. Or something like that.

CutletDay7

 

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Chicken Hatch Day 1: Sitting on my hands

incubating_away

The eggs have been in the incubator for about 24 hours, and their contents have already begun resembling chick embryos — with the beginnings of a digestive tract, vertebrae, a nervous system, a head, and an eye. In about an hour, the heart will start to form. At least, I hope this is what’s happening in there.

I can’t actually see what’s going on inside each egg for about 5 days, and I’m planning to “candle” the eggs to check for development around day 7. Until then, I wait.

Chicken Hatch Day 0: Setting the incubator

Tonight’s the start of our (21 day) incubation process! The eggs are now coming up to temperature, and we should start seeing some action the weekend of April 26th. I’ll be posting periodic updates as I check the eggs for development and get ready for hatch day.

I let the eggs rest overnight in their cartons, with the fat end up (this helps the aircell attach.) I ran the incubator overnight too, making sure it was holding steady at 99.5 degrees Farenheit and around 45-50% humidity. Then, I checked out the eggs with a flashlight to weed out any that might not be viable.

This is called “candling,” I guess because in the old days it was done using a candle. And it’s really fun, though probably not so much in the old days when you had to worry about cooking the egg. I’ll be doing it again around days 7 and 14, so that I can pull out any eggs that stop developing (and also watch the embryos moving inside.) But this time, I’m just looking for things that might decrease viability — like blood spots, or rolling air cells, or extremely porous shells.

soft_spot

This is a reject egg from Salty, my Light Brahma — note the thin spots in the shell. Salty tends to lay thin-shelled eggs, so she didn’t contribute many to this hatch.

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Hatching Something New

I’ve raised chicks twice before: The 14 day-old chicks that my sister and I got from a feed store three years ago, and the three chicks that our broody hen hatched last September. And in less than a month, my third batch will be here.

warming_the_incubator

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The Eggs Have Arrived

I spent way too much time today on the road, gathering some extra eggs to fill up our incubator. And of course, I ended up with just a few too many, but that will give me room to choose the best of the bunch.

I got 11 eggs from my friend Claudia, who adopted our extra rooster a while back. He is an Easter Egger (EE), which is not really a breed — just a mutt chicken that carries the blue egg gene. EEs are often sold from hatcheries and feed stores as “Araucanas” or “Ameraucanas” but my (limited) understanding is that 99% of the time, they are neither. Most of them are mutts, and any bird that lays a green egg falls into this category (true Araucanas and Ameraucanas lay blue eggs, along with a whole host of other very specific traits.)

mack_and_friends

Mislabeling aside, Easter Eggers are some of my favorite chickens — they come in all different colors, they’re productive layers, and mine have been some of the prettiest (and friendliest) hens in the flock. Not to mention their lovely mint-green eggs.

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