While not producing eggs up to full steam, I am still managing to get a dozen eggs from 14 girls every two days. I have two in full blown ugly molt, and one that is trying to go broody. Plus we are in the dead dark of winter.
There is a family up the road that has just finished building a coop and asked me if I could hatch a dozen winter chicks for them to fill their coop. Well, I didn't have a broody, so I started researching incubators. I settled upon a little known incubator that not only sported plenty of room, up to 48 hen eggs, and had a great view, but was fairly easy on the budget.
I followed the directions in setting it up and adjusting the temperature, which was quite easy. The temperature is controlled with a simple 60W bulb. The eggs are gently rolled instead of tipped to rotate.
To get the dozen pellets the neighbor wanted, I decided to set 24 eggs. Some of those won't hatch, and of those half can be males. So that would get me close.
By day 10 I should have seen development in the eggs with candling. There was nothing. All 24 eggs where clear, duds. So either my incubator temperature spiked for too long ( I caught it one night not switching off and it was 104) or every single one of my eggs was infertile. It could happen, but I can't see it.
The incubator regulates its temperature by switching the light bulb on and off. If it needs to reach the required 99.5'F it stays on. If it has reached the 99.5'F, it simply blinks on and off to maintain it. Honestly, this can drive you positively INSANE. We moved our incubator from the dining room to an equally temperature stable, albeit, less visual room, the office. You could see the incubator blinking on and off in the dining room through the windows from over two miles across the valley at night.
|Day 11 Clear French Blue Maran Egg|
The drum is made from a heavy duty plastic material that is not only washable, but can go in the dishwasher to sterilize it between hatches! A huge bonus. Although I don't think it holds the heat very well, even in a 70'F house. So I made a thermal blanket that wraps around it and it held on with simple elastic bands. I used industrial insulated ironing board fabric. I think it helps hold the temperature a little bit better than without.
SO, as soon as I can find out if the neighbor wants me to try again, I'll set some more eggs and see if I can get this incubator to produce some chicks.
The company is being fantastic. They said they would send me a new base, which is where the thermal regulator is. We had more eggs to eat yesterday, and I definitely have fertile eggs.
The neighbor up the road also called this afternoon and said to keep trying! So as soon as we get it all going again, I'll update :D
December 23rd - Incubator is plugged in and heating up and we'll start collecting hatching eggs again tomorrow!
UPDATE - 31 December
I collected 22 eggs from the goofballs. Turns out, only 8 are even laying when I took a good look at what eggs were being collected. (For all of you non chicken people, yes, when you have different breeds you can tell the owner of the eggs. Even if you have few enough of the SAME breed, you can tell who laid which egg.)
5 of the girls are either just finishing molt, or are in the middle of a molt. You know, because the middle of a Nebraska December is an awesome time to go naked! One, Daisy, is just out of chicken jail for being broody, so she isn't laying either.
SO, 22 eggs went into the incubator on Monday morning. Because I forgot how to count to 4, I candled eggs tonight. I should have counted tomorrow, as MONDAY was day ZERO. So some of my eggs aren't quite far enough along, if they are fertile, to see into, since I have some seriously DENSE and dark eggs. 5 eggs though are CLEARLY veining and all have great air cells.
I will candle again on the real day 10, which is NEXT Thursday. Tune in.
I cannot believe I'm trying it again with this base (new one will be here later). I hooked up another temperature gauge and hygrometer , which I can watch remotely and can set alarms if the temperature breaks a set of parameters that I set. So while I am having to babysit the base, I feel better about it.
I am also going to pick up some tubing that fits into one of the lid vent holes and attach a funnel to it so that I am able to better add water to the drum. A cup of hot water is a drip, overflow, wet egg accident waiting to happen. This time I have a couple of empty pie sections, but that won't always be the case. The tubing will allow me to more accurately add fluid.
Check back for more updates! (will be added to THIS entry)
UPDATE** 4 January 2016 Day 7.5
We started with 22. Of those, only 4 are fertile and are from 3 birds. There is clear veining in each and a little wiggly chick with a big eye. I could not get a clear photo. We noticed that the rooster mates more when he's out watching the girls free range. They haven't been able to do that to any degree for the past two weeks due to some seriously wicked winter weather. That combined with a general winter slow down from the girls left us with fewer eggs to choose from.
COME ON SPRING!
I'll hatch these 4 eggs and see if the coop up the road wants to start their chicken learning adventure with 4 chickens, with another hatch in a month.
Update - Tuesday 5 January day 8.5
I checked on the iffy one of the 4 eggs. Last night I could see the embryo, but couldn't make out movement. Tonight, she was dancing like a flea on a hot skillet! So she's good for now.
I have the incubator on a cool down phase at 98.5'F and 50% humidity. At least that is what the hygrometer is saying. I know it's not accurate, but it's as close as I can get after running a hygrometer test with salt. It's amazing how off these "accurate" things are, even from each other.
Next update Day 13.5 - Sunday
I've kept the cool down cycle going at about 97.9 and the humidity is running anywhere from 47-51%. All four eggs have little ladies kicking and dancing inside. I did catch the incubator jump up to 99.1' today. I have NO IDEA why. I had it stabilized at 98ish degrees for a week! I simply removed the lid for a couple of minutes. I pretended momma hen went on a walkabout. So far, it hasn't done it again. (blue egg is a space holder to insure that the other eggs get turned properly)
They go into lockdown, when I switch off the turning mechanism, on Friday night. That will also be the day I do a final non-turning candling. Hatching should be anywhere from Sunday afternoon to Wednesday.
Next Update- Day 18 Friday
Four eggs went into lock down and they all looked great when candled. I knocked the humidity up to 65% and walked away. There will be no lid lifting until hatch day on day 21 (Monday after 3pm).
Day19, 20 - If we held a BRIGHT flashlight over the lid and focused really hard on the light spot on the shell, you could see the egg wiggle the tiniest bit.
Day 21 - 6am-ish One solid external pip on egg #2 in the rows. At 8am, there was no change at all. I intervened at 15 hours with no change in the pip except for the membrane drying out. Upon assisting the chick (I've done this before.) About 11pm the chick passed away. It had never absorbed the yolk sack. So nature took its course. I have been adding hot water to keep the humidity up to as close as I can get to 60% in a dry house. I did check, without TURNING the eggs, and all 4 had their heads internally pipped into the air cell.
Day 22- Egg #1 pipped and fully hatched out Tuesday at 630am. She is adorable and a salt and pepper blue with a fluffy white butt and wing tips. At this time Egg#3 and #4 both had pipped as well. Egg#3 hatched fully at 6pm. The older chick was dry and fluffy and curious about her new sister. She especially enjoyed chasing her and picking on her. Sigh. Egg #4 still only had a small pip at 2am, but had rolled upside down. At 4am the hole was bigger. This morning, which was hour 18 after the first hole through the shell, there was no change but the chick was peeping like made. She was stuck. A light tug on the dried out shell, and out she came. Her membrane was leather.
I had to take the mean girls out to the broader. They were WAAAY too interested in the new chick and the umbilical to the shell. I put them in a small lunch pail cooler, lined with a paper towel and took them out to the barn to the brooder box under their Premier1 brooding plate. I showed them the food and water and walked away.
The new girl has the same exact markings as the first two chicks. LOL. That rooster has some STRONG genes as the hens are NOT the same breed.
I'll get photos when everyone is dry and behaving.