Sunday, January 10, 2016

Backyard Chickens - Hatch #3

My latest venture into unprocessed foods had been raising backyard chickens. The result is organic, free range eggs that taste so much better than store bought eggs. Though, I'd love to talk about the health benefits of eating eggs from your very own chickens, I'm instead concerned with documenting my success and failure when it comes to hatching chicks in our incubator.

So, I'll start off by saying that our first hatch was the most successful even though I didn't follow all the rules and was somewhat fumbling along in the process. In the second hatch, only three eggs hatched, which I later discovered had to do with the temperature being slightly too low since it is winter.

So for hatch #3, here is what I did.

We started with close to fifteen eggs; however, we discovered in our first candling that one of the chickens didn't have fertile eggs. So, of course we had to take those eggs out. In future hatches, rather than wasting eggs I'm going to make breakfast and inspect each egg as they go in the pan. Since you can tell by the size of the dot on the yoke, I'll know which chickens have fertile eggs. Oh, and yes, it's completely fine to eat fertilized eggs; as long as a chicken hasn't had a chance to sit on them.

So after removing the six eggs, we candled for the second time, and had to remove another. This reduced our final hatch to eight eggs. Since it is winter, I checked the incubator regularly to assure the temperature was at least at or above 99.5 F. I also added water on occasion, but kept the initial humidity at around 40. On day eighteen, I removed the turner from the incubator and set the eggs down on the grate. After this I didn't open the incubator until all the chicks were hatched and I was sure that none of the remaining eggs had peep holes. I also added more water and monitored the humidity to keep it at or above 60 once the turner was out. When some of the eggs were peeped, I added more water to increase the humidity even more, and this seemed to help them along. We had three hatch today which was great.

Another thing I did this time is I numbered each egg by the day that they were laid in order to see if the success or failure of a hatch depended at all on this date. What I found was that the day made no difference. I saved eggs for five days before putting them in the incubator and then added eggs for day six after the other eggs had been in there for a day. Out of the eggs that hatched, we had two day six eggs, two day one eggs and one day five egg.

Hatch Data:
Day 22: day 5 Welsummer egg hatched.
Day 23: day 1 Welsummer egg hatched.
Day 24: day 6 Welsummer egg, day 1 Road Island Red, and day 6 Road Island Red eggs hatched.

The eggs that haven't hatched and probably won't are two Road Island Red eggs and one Welsummer egg that I dropped before putting in the incubator. Since the egg didn't break, I put it in the incubator anyway to see if it would be okay. I'm guessing the answer was no.

Anyway, five out of eight isn't bad at all. I think for future hatches I'll try to do the same thing I did this time. I will resist all urges to open the incubator prior to all the eggs hatching. At least I'll make sure there are no peeps before doing so. When removing chicks, I'll remember to put a wet paper towel in the incubator since this really helps raise the humidity.

The things I will most likely change will be that I won't be hatching in the winter again. It is too much work with constantly having to adjust the temperature since the temperature in the house effects the temperature inside the incubator. I also plan to add a wet paper towel when I take the eggs out of the turner. This method is very effective for raising the humidity and it seems like I'm always struggling to keep it over 60. Lastly, I'm going to plan for the birds hatching on day 22 or day 23. I don't know if this is in any way related to when I take the turner out, but I may try taking the turner out a day earlier to see if the eggs hatch earlier. I'll also probably add day seven as well to try my chances at getting more chickens. If I do that, I'll save eggs for six days, then add day seven afterward. I believe it's okay to save eggs up to six days, but I'll probably double check that before doing so.

Overall, I'm happy with the hatch and I look forward to raising the little darlings.