It pays to get a good seat.

Many years ago, I watched an NBA game from five rows behind the Chicago Bulls bench; we’re talking Jordan, Pippin, Rodman…it was breathtaking. The seat made all the difference.

And you know the people on that plane in LOST know this. The seat to which you had been assigned made the difference between life and death.

It seems this is also true for my incubator and egg turner.

As I approach my second hatching, I’ve had time to ruminate over the first: what worked, what I would do differently, and contemplating patterns that reveal what thermometers and hygrometers cannot. Confused? Here’s an illustration of C3.0’s hatch in the egg turner:

C30 incubator

The egg turner seats 41 chicken eggs; the yellow square in the upper left is the motor for the turner. The blue and dark brown eggs were numbered and laid out as illustrated above, and that’s where they stayed, turning slowly, until I heard #37 peep from within his shell at the end of Day 19.

The first eggs to hatch, on Day 20, were #29, #36, #37,  and #15. #1 & #8 were the first of the Ameraucanas to hatch. See a pattern? The two LA preemies were #7 & #12. Hmmmm….

Now, this is a very fine incubator, and new, with a circulating fan. There shouldn’t be that much difference in temperature from one corner to the other. And, yet…

When I incubate C3.1, I will rotate the eggs each time I candle, and watch closely for the outcome…

All hope is lost.

Oh, gentle reader, pray for me please, for, verily, I have lost what’s left of my mind.

The hatch of 3.0, my first, and shipped eggs of a difficult breed to hatch, to boot, went pretty much as expected, but not as hoped. As soon as I saw that I would have ten chicks, the laws of Nature and mathematics dictated that five of those will be roos; I will only be keeping one of each breed. This brings Heedley’s Hens up to fifteen, presuming no further losses, and, well…I have an itch.

While Ameraucanas and Marans lay lovely, unusually-coloured eggs, neither breed is known for high production. It’s great that we’ll have purebred hatching eggs come spring and lovely colour in our egg cartons, but pretty don’t feed the bulldog.

And, yes, I have 15-18 Kevin Porter heritage turkey poults coming in the final days of May, but that’s not quite scratching the aforementioned itch.

By now, you’re sitting back in your chair, gasping, the back of your hand to your parted lips…yes, gentle reader, yes. I just bought more hatching eggs.

But, wait! There’s more!! I ordered the eggs to coincide exactly with the arrival of the poults, hereafter known as T1.0.

This weekend, The Man will make the finishing touches on the crate in the coop, and C3.0 will move out of the house and in with their older sisters. Hilarity will ensue. This will leave the baby brooder in the house free for a thorough cleaning and new sand before the poults arrive. If the new hatching eggs are set at about the time the poults arrive, we can build the turkey house and stabilise the poults in two weeks, and get them into their new home in time for the newly-hatched chicks to move into the baby brooder.

By the time C3.1 is too big for the baby brooder, C3.0 will be integrated and roosting with the older girls, and C3.1 can move into the crate in the coop. Think I’m kidding? I have it all sketched out on the school calendar on the side of the fridge. I swear, it’s true, and those of you who know me know it’s true.

So…may I introduce you to C3.1?

I felt a need to pay homage to the girls I lost, my magnificent 1.0 girls. My first decision was to get more Plymouth Barred Rocks, in honour of the fantastic production I had from Coraline, Maisie, and especially Abby. These won’t be hatchery PBRs, though. Plymouth Barred Rocks are one of the oldest breeds in America, and there are breeders who have developed the finest heritage stock, going back many generations.

There are two important lines of heritage PBRs in America, and my eggs are coming from one of those lines, Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch. I just heard from Fred of Fred’s Hens, from whom I will be getting the eggs. Here’s a pic of some of my babies’ daddy (the eggs will be fertilised by two different cocks, for genetic diversity):

LL

Is he not studly?!

I still find the occasional black and white striped feather around here, and they make me so sad. I look forward to having more Plymouth Barred Rocks here. Some really snooty ones.

And what about the second breed? I miss me some Buffy and Trixie. You know that. I know that you know that. You know that I know that you know that. How to have Orpingtons again, and still be du a gwyn?

Blue, Black, Splash Orpingtons, my dear, breeder quality, not from a hatchery.

900x900px-LL-f7da7946_Christmastrio

SplashOrpingtonHen

Quite.

The same lovely, affectionate personalities of my Buffy and Trixie, and broodiness, too, but much larger than hatchery birds. It will be like having feathered basketballs strewn about the yard.

So, now you are up-to-date with my insanity. The Man is in support of this insanity, by the way, but I don’t think he’s quite put together that two more breeds, if we’re , you know…breed them, means…two more roosters

Please disregard previous post.

There have been times in my life when I have made things much more complicated than they needed to be. If I’m being honest, there have been many, many such times. My mother will back me up on this one. Candling my first eggs has proved to be just such a time.

You see, after all I went through to MacGyver a homemade candler, all the youtube research, the scavenging, the cutting of high-gauge wire…a simpler and much more effective tool was right around the corner.

The Man came home yesterday with this, two for $25 off at amazon:

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Now, I didn’t think anything of it, until he pulled me aside to a dark corner (not like that, perv) and showed me how well it lit up one of our girls’ eggs. My first reaction was, well, yeah, but that’s a light Alexia egg, but it was not, It was an egg from Hermione, who lays our darkest egg, lit up like a lightbulb. Not only that, but the rubber end of the flashlight was exactly the right size to provide a light seal; no light at all leaked out to obscure the view.

I rushed to the room with the incubator, calling Stepdaughter the Elder in for an assist. I had her call out to me, from our records, a number of an egg in which we had been unable to see anything the night before. Miraculously (it seemed to me), the egg was completely lit up, like an x-ray.

I candled only enough eggs to learn this was not a fluke; overcandling disturbs embryo development.

Ladies and gentlechickens, it gives me great pleasure to report…3.0 is looking much better than previously thought!

Helloooo? Anybody Home?

It’s Day Eight for 3.0; time to candle and see what we have so far. I tried candling with two different flashlights last night, to no avail. Between the writing on the eggs, the bumps and freckles on the eggs, and the shit on the eggs, I had no idea what I was looking at. I gave up after about six of them.

Clearly, more intensive methods were required. When in doubt…youtube.

I saw this video last night, and this one this morning, and what I am creating is an amalgam of the two. Pretty freaking brill, though I say it myself, who shouldn’t.

I began by stealing a large (10″) clay flower pot from the garden, and giving it a good scrub in the tub. What could be better?! It doesn’t leak light, contains heat, is fireproof, and comes with a ready-made viewing hole, to boot, almost the perfect size! (The diameter of the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot is 1 1/4″; the recommended size for viewing chicken eggs is 1 1/2″.)

My first move was to sand down all the rough edges around the drainage hole. Our precious eggs were going on there, and it needed to be smoooooth. This was surprisingly easy; the clay gave way without much of a fight. I could have enlarged the hole, had I been so inclined. I was not.

I then went back to the first video and stole his idea of lining the pot with aluminum foil, to increase the power of the light.

I was going to need a light source, one that was short enough to fit under the 9.5″ high pot. Failing that (and I did), I’d need to modify (read: destroy) one to suit the purpose. This was not as hard as one might think; we have all manner of baby girl table lamps around here, and destroying one of them could only enrich my soul.

Oh, stop. You try living with little Peter Rabbit lamps everywhere, and see how you like it.

Only one problem: the lamp was about 6″ too tall. It seemed perfect for modification (sounds nicer than “destruction”, don’t you think?), as the center rod is metal, and a wire runs through it:

photo

As you can see in the photo above, I took a pipe cutter to the top of the rod. I tired to do the same at the bottom, but the stand was just too inhibiting. I wanted to keep the stand as part of the light mechanism. Something was going to have to hold the light upright.

I did what I always do…I adapted. It was much more MacGyvery than I had hoped, but the end result is this:

photo 1

What with all the cutting pipe surrounding around the wire, I thought it prudent to see if it still worked…

I lined the pot with aluminum foil, only to learn that little, if anything, sticks to a damp, clay pot. So, I stuck the foil to itself, and wrapped a large elastic band around the lip of the pot. Hey, I didn’t say it was going to be pretty.

photo 3

This, inverted over the lamp, looks as though it will do the job. I say “looks as though” because I won’t be able to really tell until I can try it out in a dark room, tonight. Stepdaughter the Elder has been called into service to take notes as I candle each egg.

But I did see this:

photo 4

Right? I mean, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, but…that’s an embryo, right?! Go #17! Get on with your bad self!

How to lose 13% of your body weight in only 21 days!

In this morning’s post, I intimated that I was going to attempt to monitor the progress of the hatching eggs using a weighing technique. I have found a less-intimidating equation, and thought I would share.

It comes to this: chicken eggs should, ideally, lose 13% of their weight between Day 1 and Day 21. I am prepared to take their word on this one. I am nothing if not trusting.

Take the total weight of your eggs on Day 1: 80.4 oz.

Multiplied by 0.87 to get weight your eggs should be on Day 21: 69.95 oz

Multiplied by 0.13 to get weight your eggs should lose over 21 days: 10.45 oz.

Divided by 21 to get desired weight loss per day: 0.5 oz/day

So, if I weigh again on Day 7, that will be six days, so my eggs should, ideally, have lost a total of 3.0 oz. If they have lost less, humidity is too high. If they have lost more, humidity is too low.

Your thoughts, please!

Meet 3.0. Some assembly required.

At last, some hopeful news. I know I haven’t blogged Trixie’s death yet. I’ll do it as soon as I can bear it. Same for the obituaries.

This morning, our long-awaited hatching eggs arrived from The Garry Farm, our first hatch ever. The new Genesis 1588 has been assembled and sterilised, the brooder is even set up (not too optimistic, am I?). I went to the post office in my jammies, because I just don’t care.

Shipped eggs are notoriously difficult to hatch, as the shipping often renders them nonviable; it doesn’t take much jostling for air sacs to detach, or for eggs to be scrambled, frozen, or overheated. That said, The Garry Farm is pretty famous for the care it takes sending shipped eggs. I was hopeful.

The reviews do not exaggerate, gentle reader; each dozen arrived in a medium-sized USPS Priority Mail shipping box. Each box was lined with heavy-duty large bubble wrap, and, within, a smaller USPS Priority Mail shipping box, the 7x7x6 size. Included in the large box were detailed instructions for the handling and hatching of the eggs…and a prayer for their delivery and, well…delivery.

Now, I am not anyone’s idea of a praying woman, but, let me tell you: with all we’ve been through lately, I am very moved. I am all the more moved because I have a very strong feeling that the Garries have God’s ear. They’re the real thing, y’all.

The Stepdaughters and I each brought one of the smaller boxes up to the room set aside for incubation and brooding, as though we were carrying The Hope Diamond. Upon opening, each smaller box was lined with more bubble wrap, and the eggs were within, each egg bubble wrapped again, individually:

photo 1

photo 2

To unwrap these eggs is to get a masterclass in shipping hatching eggs. I hope to ship Dúagwýn’s eggs someday in the not-too-distant future, and my customers will be the benefactors of the Garries’ instruction. All 37 eggs arrived intact, shipped from Georgia to Albany-ish, over the course of three days. (Yes, 37. There was an extra Lavender Ameraucana egg. Because that’s how the Garries roll.)

That sounds like a lot, I know, but they’re not all for us. I bought 24 eggs (it was 12, but The Man and I decided to add another dozen after our first three losses, and I’m so glad we did), and the other dozen bought by NotHeedleyWendy, who will be living and dying with this hatch along with me. How well I do will determine if she has new chicks this year. No pressure.

I did not candle. I really don’t know what to look for at this stage, and 24 of my eggs are very dark. I will take a look tonight when the room is dark, but I seriously don’t think I’ll see much. I did weigh.

photo 3

There is an extremely complex method of tracking the weight loss of a developing egg. I will be tracking just to see that they are losing weight at comparable rates. Again, I don’t know how successful candling will be for the Marans eggs.

After weighing and numbering, each egg went into the turner, inside the incubator:

photo 4

They will sit there for a few hours, coming up to room temperature, then the incubator will be closed up and turned on. The egg turner, however, will not. I have been advised to leave the eggs unturned for at least two days, to allow any detached air sacs to reattach. I am relying on the experience of those who have gone before me.

You may notice two coloured plastic straws at the bottom of the photo above. The canals for water are in a plastic tray beneath the turner, covered by 1/4″ hardware cloth. I was wondering how on earth I was going to fill them, should the need arise, without disturbing the egg turner. So, I cut two bendy straws, fed them through the hardware cloth into the canals. There they wait, easily accessible for me to add water via syringe, should the need arise.

And, there you have it, ladies and gentlechickens…3.0. Fingers crossed, please.

I have a good incubator. I have a basic understanding and good advice. I am going to try to fuss as little as possible and not deviate from the plan. I hope it goes well. I really need this. We all do.

I know nothing. Again.

I have ordered three dozen eggs for hatching, to be shipped this coming Monday: 24 for me, 12 for a friend. I did the research on the incubator, and have just been gifted a shiny, new Genesis 1588 with egg turner. So, I’m all ready to hatch me some chicks, right?

WRONG.

Great googly moogly! I had no idea how much there was to learn, and I now have precisely five days in which to learn it all. I started here, and there has several dozen links for more information. I don’t even have a candler, and most of my eggs are Marans!

I am freaking out, people!

Okay, chickeneers, I need your help. Those of you who have incubated eggs, particularly shipped eggs, please let me hear your best tips and most urgent cautions. Helpful links also gratefully accepted.

Help me make babies, y’all!