Why do we need another chicken blog or forum?

Many chicken forums are moderated to sell commercial feed, chemicals and ideology.
I prefer to find my own balance between nature, welfare and cost in raising happy chickens.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

incubation update: 3 days from hatch


Whatever you do, don't attempt what I've photographed below. After taking this shot and writing the post, I began to notice that the temperature in the incubator was dropping. Each time I opened the lid it dropped even more, stabilising a degree lower each time. I felt it was a dodgy thermostat but I now believe the plastic mesh box used to separate the later-hatching eggs was to blame. I think perhaps somehow its presence upset the dynamics of the incubator and played havoc with the thermostat. I can't be sure of this of course -- it may have been dust in the wafer that coincidentally became dislodged as the mesh box was removed -- but it's better to be safe than sorry.

I've got 2 lots of eggs in the incubator, staggered a week apart. I just thought I'd set out what I did and why, so anyone else looking at staggering a hatch might have some extra info to go by.

Not that I'm expert at it! However I do know that if the hatch is staggered by only a few days, there can be problems with the excess humidity of the first hatch affecting those that are just about to break into the air cell. I've usually had zero hatch in the later batch if they were only a few days older and tried to break into the air space when there was a lot of excess moisture.

The first batch in the incubator are due to hatch on Monday (in 3 days' time). However there were some temperature problems (too low) for a few days so I'd expect them to be a bit later than that; perhaps Tuesday. (I did lose some eggs during periods of low temperature and have already taken them out after candling.) Unfortunately the incubator has proved very temperamental. I suspect the wingnut and screw that set the wafer thermostat are a bit loose, and hence tend to jiggle when the lid is lifted while turning eggs. After deciding this was the case and taking extra care when lifting and setting the lid, I've seen no more temperature drops.

The second batch (9 eggs) is due to hatch a week and a day after the first. These eggs are now being turned by hand while the others are allowed to keep still; to stop any jostling and to make sure I turn all the ones I should be turning, I've set them into their own little mesh basket inside the incubator. Made of plastic gutter-mesh, the basket should help keep the more delicate later-hatching eggs safe from being jostled, contaminated with hatch-debris and so forth.

This is the worst time in the whole incubation period for me — a habitual fiddler, I have to sit on my hands. But at least now the temperature is holding!

Fingers crossed for some happy healthy chickens.


Mrs. Reverend Doctor said...

what breeds are you hatching?

Erica Bandanna said...

Commercial red layer x ancona; and commercial meat hybrid x leghorn.

The ancona is from hardy local stock, and I like their rate of maturity, temperament and style/colour. They don't lay as well as the commercial birds so the result should have a longer laying lifespan.

The meat hybrids are crossed to leghorn to produce a bird that can live comfortably into reproductive age, but still make good table cockerels at around the 16 week mark. However I feel this will take 2 crossings (back to leghorn) to get around the health defects of the poor hybrids.