Well, I've got about as many eggs as I think I'll get... That is, a full dozen from the meaties and umpteen from the layer x anconas.
I believe it's time to fire up the incubator! Yippee.
I could wait for more meatie eggs, but they're only laying 1 or 2 per day between the 4 of them... Unfortunately their laying systems aren't up to the task, particularly with making shells. In another 2 weeks I'll have 15-20 eggs, but meanwhile this dozen will have gone stale. So might as well get cracking!
I've been storing them in our coolest room in egg cartons, tilting them at 45 degree angles and changing their orientation once per day. This helps stop the yolk sticking to one side of the shell membrane, as can happen when eggs are left for a while in one position. To make sure I end up with as many fertile eggs as possible I'm going to absolutely cram the incubator full, leaving out the auto turner.
My incubator is a simple Hovabator, nothing to write home about, but I've had good hatches in it before. Actually this one is brand new but I've got no reason to suspect it won't work. Even so I'm firing it up for 48 hours to make sure the setting is stable before I put the eggs in. A few plastic bottles full of water can act as a heat sink in that time, giving a better indication of how well the thermostat is coping.
I know this isn't natural chicken incubation, so it's probably making some people wonder at the title of my blog. However the small foam incubators are reasonably power-efficient (average about 24W without the turner), and because the meaties have a very short lifespan (let alone laying lifespan) I need to set as many eggs as I can right now. There's no telling when their systems will pack it in, much as I wish they could just go on enjoying life. Unfortunately they've been bred to self destruct.
However I'll be hoping to brood naturally when the chicks hatch. If I don't get a broody hen in time I'll simply cold-brood. That will at least cut down on the amount of energy that gets used in the process of creating new chickens! And later in the season there will definitely be broody hens I can use as sitters as well as brooders. It's just that I have to act now, while I have fertile meatie eggs.
Now back to the auto turner and those eggs I'll be setting... After candling at day 7 I should be able to discard any infertile eggs and make enough room to insert the egg turner if I really want to. If it's not a drama to keep turning eggs by hand I'll simply keep doing that (a lot depends on how busy I am in the next few weeks; I have some retaining wall projects going on.)
So that's where I'm at, folks—two days away from setting a bunch of eggs. Heaven forbid I accidentally drop that carton of broiler x leghorn eggs... They took a lot of effort from all of us to produce, and if there's one thing that makes me feel better about even the gammy-legged girl (who's still in the hospital cage on cushions), it's that she might have offspring with more survival chance than she ever had.