Incubation Journal

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Preparation: Well, we’re going to give this a try. We went over to my parents’ house today so that I could dig my old Hova-Bator still air incubator out of the basement. I got it cleaned up and plugged in and was pleased to find that after twenty-some years on the shelf, it still works! I even found and printed a PDF of the long-lost instruction booklet. I’ve never hatched anything out before, although I have a very vague memory of two quail eggs that sat in the box for a few weeks. Nothing came of it, of course, probably because I knew nothing about humidity or turning the eggs. I imagine I just plopped them in there and waited. This time around, I’ve done some research and hope for some actual fluffy-butts to emerge from these eggs.

Day One: OK, the eggs are in. I was originally going to only use seven eggs from my Easter Egger because she seems to be extremely popular with the rooster, so I was pretty sure they’d be fertile. But then I used three White Leghorn eggs last night and noticed that they all had bulls-eyes, so I decided to stick a few white eggs and some Marans eggs in there as well. So there are fourteen eggs in all, and I figure at least one of them has to hatch, right? Now I just have to remember to keep the water reservoir filled and turn the eggs morning, afternoon, and evening!

Day Three: Everything’s going smoothly so far. One of my biggest concerns was that I would forget to keep the water channel filled, but it doesn’t evaporate too quickly. As long as I top it off every few days, I think it will be fine. And I’m actually remembering to turn the eggs three times a day! Still have this annoying feeling that even if I do everything right, nothing will hatch. I can candle the eggs in a few days and see if anything’s happening. Trying to be patient and hopeful!

Day Six: Well, I was so excited after candling the eggs tonight that I had to write a separate post about it. But to recap, there are actually chicks developing in all three of the white eggs and at least three of the four brown ones. Not sure about the blues, but I’m thrilled with what I’m seeing!

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Day Eight: Candled again tonight. Looks like the embryo in one of the white eggs has stopped developing, but the rest are larger and still active. I was able to capture the movement in one egg on video, which is awesome! I’ll try to post it somewhere and link it up here.

Day Eleven: Slightly nervous. We had problems with our power at the beginning of January — half of the house started flickering/dimming, and then started going off entirely at random times. Took two electricians and the power company to find the main problem, which is that the prongs holding our power meter are old and not doing their job very well. The last guy from the power company said he squeezed them as tight as he could to make it secure, but that when it started happening again, we would need to have the meter replaced. Well, of course, we’re back to the flickering. So I’m praying that the old meter will hold on for ten more days until the eggs have a chance to hatch. I can easily transport baby chicks over to my parents’ house for the day that the power will have to be shut off, but the idea of trying to get the eggs over there and back intact is scary! On the bright (punny much?) side, we read that day ten was a good day for candling, so we took another quick peek. Can’t believe how big they’re getting!

Day Thirteen: I discarded the dead white egg, but for some reason I kept the brown one in which I hadn’t been able to see any development. And I’m glad I did, because tonight, I could suddenly see a beautiful network of veins and a big, wiggly embryo in there! I have no idea why I couldn’t see anything before, but it’s there now!

Day Sixteen: The eggs are moving! I heard something and peeked in the window to see one of the blue eggs wiggling around. It stopped and then started again. Honestly, I just hadn’t considered the fact that the chicks were large enough now to make that happen! Just two days till lockdown.

Day Nineteen: We can hear cheeping from inside the incubator! It even looks like one egg has the beginnings of a pip. I think we might be seeing baby chicks tomorrow instead of Sunday…

Day Twenty: Wow! We started out the day with one freshly hatched chick and ended up with seven! The other six eggs have all pipped, but one is at the wrong end and a couple others haven’t changed much since early afternoon. We’ll see if they make any progress by morning. I’ve got the beautiful new brooder that Ben made me all set up to transfer the babies to tomorrow. Still slightly shocked that this whole thing seems to have worked!

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Clockwise from top left: a zipped egg, hatchling #1, hatchling #2.

Day Twenty-One: Amazing. 100% hatch rate. There were just three eggs left this morning when I moved all of the hatchlings to the brooder, and by mid afternoon, they were all out. I have to admit, I bought this awesome book the other day, and after reading the part about operating an incubator, I had basically given up on this hatch producing much. There are so many variables, and I was controlling so few of them. But I’m really glad that we sort of stumbled through this thing and kept things simple, because now I know that the simple way works. We have thirteen healthy chicks eating, drinking, and happily sprawling in the brooder tonight, and that is just plain awesome. Now we just need to get a decent percentage of pullets out of the deal!

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Just arrived in the brooder. Still sporting the funky, freshly-hatched look.

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