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.

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