Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hatching eggs, Day 8

This morning we set up the candler and checked the eggs for life.  A candler, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, is a gadget used to focus a light so that one may see the shadow of a developing chick.  It can be as simple as a LED flashlight shining through a hole in a can or, in our case, a birdhouse box with a 100 watt bulb screwed into the bottom.

By holding the egg in front of the lighted hole, the developing chick looks like a freckle surrounded by reddish veins spidering away onto the yoke.  It was relatively easy to read the lighter blue shelled eggs.  The darker shelled ones are more of a challenge.  To confirm we'll try again in another few days.
 I don't have a camera to show you what I saw so I made a sketch for you:
The pocket on top is an air space between the shell and shell membrane that the developing chick needs to breathe.  The shell on the air end is more porous allowing gases to exchange while keeping out bacteria and other nasties.  When the chick hatches, this air pocket may provide the chick with its first breath.

For those who want more science-y info on hatching chicks, check the following link:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hatching eggs, day one

And so the adventure begins.  After a bit of planning, I decided to try to hatch a few eggs.  Mind you I've never done this before so everything is a new adventure.  If it works, we'll celebrate.  If it doesn't, we chalk one up for a learning experience and try again at another time.

Chickens are funny birds.  The girls have their choice of eight nestboxes yet insist on all piling into the same one or two.  By-in-large, they wait their turns, then go charging in as soon as the nest is clear of its previous occupant.  Although there are ways to make sure that one is only gleaning the eggs from a given bird, most of the girls produce eggs which are fairly easy to identify to a specific hen (each one produces a different color for the other).  I don't know if this means of identification may change as the girls get older, but it appears to work for now.

It takes about 21 days for a fertile hen's egg to incubate and hatch.  A mature hen, depending on the breed, will lay one egg for every 18 or so hours of daylight.  A hen will continue to lay and leave her nest until something triggers inside her to brood or sit on the eggs to hatch them.  Some breeds are referred to as 'broody' because this behavior triggers easily for them.  Others, not so much. 

We're using a incubator with an automatic egg turner.  It has been calibrated to heat at a consistent 99.5F and stay at about 50% humidity.  Obviously Moma hen does have an egg turner or humidistat, however she does periodically turn her eggs to keep the developing chick forming in a uniform fashion.  Her body also provides nice warm, moist heat to keep the eggs from drying out.  Every day we'll check the humidity levels and tempertures, adjusting where necessary.

In about a week, we'll candle the eggs to check for development.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Chickenland update

So what's going on?  Why haven't we heard from you?  Well things are brewing in Chickenland!  The girls are all laying like mad and look like they are getting ready for Spring (who isn't after all this snow?).

Each day as I collect eggs, I've been inspecting them, setting aside those that I'd like to try to hatch.  Before you comedians out there start cracking wise about me making a nest in my living room or sitting on a bunch of eggs while watching TV reruns, I have an incubator set up in one of the darker rooms in the house.  This is an experiment.  We'll see what the girls produce.  With any luck, we'll have some peepers by April.

Stay tuned.  I'll tell you all about it soon...

Sandy & Goldie

Sandy has grown to be my big beautiful boy.  He is very affectionate with the girls and tolerate of my comings and goings to Chickenland.  He rules the roost with a gentle peck.  Our other rooster, Junior, is slightly smaller, understanding that he is second in command to provide 'support services' if Sandy calls for him.  
When the winter light began to fade, the volume of eggs gradually dropped off to one or two eggs per day.  We keep a heat lamp near the waterer for supplimental warmth however everyone gets all snuggled in on the roost making the lamp almost unnecessary.  When outside temps are in the twenty's, the chickenhouse is a nice warm 40F.  Now that the days are lengthening, the girls are giving us five or six eggs per day. On the warmer days, we open up the house to the outside yard, however the girls are content to mearly look out the door at the snow rather than venture out into it.

Now everyone is settling down into the next boxes.  We'll see what comes.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Let's have some fun

After waking to yet another cold, grey day, wind biting cold, I decided that we need to find something in February to celebrate.  What?  Celebrate? Ok, we have the 'big holidays': Groundhog day, Valentine's day, and Presidents day but thanks to our tax dollars at work and some helpful marketing people, there is so much more!  Pick some favorites and embrace the day!

Fun Stuff

February 1 Serpent Day
February 2 Purification Day
February 3 Cordova Ice Worm Day (Superbowl Sunday)
February 4 Create A Vacuum Day
February 5 Disaster Day
February 6 Lame Duck Day
February 7 Charles Dickens Day
February 8 Kite Flying Day
February 9 Toothache Day
February 10 Umbrella Day
February 11 White Tee-Shirt Day and Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk Day
February 12 National Plum Pudding Day
February 13 Get A Different Name Day and Dream Your Sweet Day
February 14 Ferris Wheel Day and National Heart to Heart Day
February 15 National Gum Drop Day
February 16 Do A Grouch A Favor Day
February 17 Champion Crab Races Day
February 18 National Battery Day
February 19 National Chocolate Mint Day
February 20 Hoodie Hoo Day (for chasing Winter away)
February 21 Card Reading Day
February 22 Be Humble Day
February 23 International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day
February 24 National Tortilla Chip Day
February 25 Pistol Patent Day (Samuel Colt)
February 26 National Pistachio Day
February 27 International Polar Bear Day
February 28 Public Sleeping Day
February 29 National Surf and Turf Day

Food Related
National Cherry Month
National Grapefruit Month
National Hot Breakfast Month
National Macadamia Nut Month
National Snack Food Month

February 19-25 National Pancake Week
February 1 National Baked Alaska Day
February 3 National Carrot Cake Day
February 4 National Homemade Soup Day
February 4 National Stuffed Mushroom Day
February 7 National Fettuccine Alfredo Day
February 8 National Molasses Bar Day
February 9 National Bagels and Lox Day
February 10 National Cream Cheese Brownie Day
February 11 National Peppermint Patty Day
February 12 National Plum Pudding Day
February 13 National Tortellini Day
February 14 National Cream-Filled Chocolates Day
February 15 National Gumdrop Day
February 16 National Almond Day
February 17 National Indian Pudding Day
February 19 National Chocolate Mint Day
February 20 National Cherry Pie Day
February 21 National Sticky Bun Day
February 22 National Cook a Sweet Potato Day
February 22 National Margarita Day
February 23 National Banana Bread Day
February 24 National Tortilla Chip Day
February 25 National Chocolate-Covered Peanuts Day
February 25 National Clam Chowder Day
February 26 National Pistachio Day
February 27 National Chocolate Cake Day
February 27 National Strawberry Day
February 27 National Kahlua Day
February 28 National Chocolate Souffle Day