Saturday, March 30, 2013

Signs of Spring

Just checking in.  The weather has been warming up quite a bit lately, melting off the snow and stirring the garden to life.
Sometimes it's just nice to walk along and look for their little faces peaking up through the parting snow.

For those who are curious: the second batch of eggs are coming along.  Little wiggly feet can been clearly distinguished in several of them.  We're getting close.  The babies will grow considerably the next few days.  Still we patiently wait and listen for those first few peeps.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Hatching !!, candling and waiting

As snows blow once again, fiercely about us, today looked like a nice day to hunker down and talk to the eggs in the incubator.
About two dozen eggs were initially were set in the incubator a little over a week ago.  These were checked on day seven for development.  Those that absolutely looked like nothing was going on, were removed.  Those that were questionable and without doubt looked like a chick was forming were placed back into their warm cradles. 

So far it appears that we have 18 eggs that show some signs of life.  I never cease to be amazed as I watch  the shadow of a little pea wiggle and turn in front of the light.  I imagine the little chick saying, "please turn off the light! I'm trying to get some sleep."

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Maple Sugaring weekend

I almost let it get by!  This is the first weekend of Maple Sugar Weekend in New York!  What does that mean?  It means that the air is filled with the lovely aromas of maple sap being boiled down to make maple syrup, maple spreads, and maple crystal candies.  This last winter was perfect for the sugarers in our area.  We had deep snows, slow melt, and a long cold spell for the trees to rest and recover from last summer's drought.
The Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) is a native tree of North America.  Trees were tapped by Aboriginal tribes well before Columbus arrived by inserting a hollow wooden tube into the side of the tree.  As the sap rises in the Spring, some of it is deverted to come out the tube.  A similar principle is used today using more modern materials.
 Once the sap is collected, the water is boiled off and syrup bottled for use.  A sealed bottle of fresh maple syrup will keep for about six months.  Maple sugar will keep quite a bit longer if stored in an airtight container in the freezer.
Including Canada, Northeast America provides the majority of the maple syrup to the world (also see: 

For more information about next week's events including places where you can see and purchase NY maple products:
For more interesting facts about maple sugar:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hatching, update

The welcome wagon was all set up and ready for any babies who appeared.  We watched with rapt attention as the eggs rocked and softly worked their way around the inside of the incubator.  A muffled peeping could be heard from one of the eggs.

Perhaps it was a mistake however I chose not to intervene but let the chicks hatch out on their own.  To no avail, no chicks hatched.

I have removed the batch from the incubator and set a new batch in.  We've restarted the clock.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Hatching, day 20

What do I hear?  What do I see?  A rocking egg?  A tiny peep-peep-peep calling out from that shell?  I may be a little silly, but I've been talking to them every day.

"Ladies, this is me.  I'll be your mom when you come out.  It's a happy, friendly place.  You'll have a snug little bed and fresh clover to eat.  Enjoy your naps cause soon it will be time to wakey! wakey!"

Just a year ago, my big boy Sandy was a wee little fuzzball along with his brothers and sisters.  Hard to believe.  For now, we listen for the babies to call for mom.

Peep!  Peep!  Don't go to sleep!  When you wake up we'll be here!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hatching: Day 18

It is now day 18.  The eggs have a few more days in the incubator before we can expect or hope to expect the tiny sounds of peeping from the central room.  Early this morning the eggs were all candled one more time, then removed from the egg turner and carefully laid onto the floor of the incubator. 

During the next few days, the unhatched chicks will wiggle around inside their shells, positioning themselves so that their heads are close to the air pocket.  What's left of the yolk will be enclosed inside their bodies and their belly button (yes, chickens have belly buttons) will close.  The yolk will provide the chick with the food and water it will need during and after hatching.

During most of the incubation, the humidity has been kept at a steady 50 - 60%.  This was done by filling the wells located in the bottom of the incubator with warm water.  The last few days however, it's helpful to the chick to increase the humidity.  This will lessen the likelihood of the shell sticking to the chick, making hatching more difficult.  To do this, the wells were filled again and clean damp sponges have been added. 

The nursery is now closed.  Now we wait...

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Hatching chicks, Day 12

The incubator has been humming away, keeping the babies warm as they gradually turn into chicks.  We candled the eggs again today to see what is developing.  According to the experts (eggs-perts?), we should be able to see the heart beat by now.  Unfortunately, due to the color and density of the shells, we've had no such luck.  That being said, we have seen the little chicks wiggling around inside their eggs!

According to the Mississippi State University website, one can expect the chick to grow and develop based on the following schedule:

Before Egg Laying:
Division and growth of living cells
Segregation of cells into groups of special function (tissues)
Between Laying and Incubation
No growth; stage of inactive embryonic life (*my note: an egg can remain undistrubed for up to 10 days before incubation and still be viable.)
During Incubation:
First day
16 hours - first sign of resemblance to a chick embryo
18 hours - appearance of alimentary tract
20 hours - appearance of vertebral column
21 hours - beginning of nervous system
22 hours - beginning of head
24 hours - beginning of eye
Second day
25 hours - beginning of heart
35 hours - beginning of ear
42 hours - heart beats
Third day
60 hours - beginning of nose
62 hours - beginning of legs
64 hours - beginning of wings
Fourth day - beginning of tongue
Fifth day - formation of reproductive organs and differentiation of sex
Sixth day - beginning of beak
Eighth day - beginning of feathers
Tenth day - beginning of hardening of beak
Thirteenth day - appearance of scales and claws
Fourteenth day - embryo gets into position suitable for breaking shell
Sixteenth day - scales, claws and beak becoming firm and horny
Seventeenth day - beak turns toward air cell
Nineteenth day - yolk sac begins to enter body cavity
Twentieth day - yolk sac completely drawn into body cavity; embryo occupies practically all the space within the egg except the air cell
Twenty-first day - hatching of chick

So what are we looking at?  By all appearances, five of the eleven eggs have signs of continued development.
Those with veins showing when candled continue to darken more and more each time.  What's more exciting is that some of these now show a pronounced shadow about the size and shape of a large butterbean (about the size of a nickle).  I was surprised this morning when one of these little beans wiggled around as I gently turned it in front of the light.  That 21st day is approaching fast!

What about the others?  About half of the eggs appear to not be developing.  This is not unusual for hens as young as ours.  Most of those that did not grow appear under the candler like the one in the lower right hand corner.  This is perfectly normal.  After the others hatch, we'll start collecting another group and try again.