the moments that create my life

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Our newest little chicks

One of my favorite parts of living on a farm has always been the wonder of new life. No matter the animal, I have always loved seeing the birthing process bring forth new life. I have witnessed many a cow and goat give birth, but never observed chicks hatching in real life. 
So! In November, when one of our hens went broody, we jumped at the chance to hatch out some chicks. Our initial thought was to let her handle the whole deal on her own. It was still warm enough that I didn't worry and just let her do her thing. That is, until she kept collecting eggs and ended up with 28 (yes, twenty-eight!!) eggs that she was sitting on. The large amount of eggs was a little much as she kept rolling partially developed eggs out of the clutch, causing them to get mixed in to our egg collections if we weren't careful. Since no one wants to accidentally open up a partially developed egg, we decided to move our eggs inside our house to an incubator rather than set up outside since it was so cold.
This was an egg that accidentally got picked up
because it was outside of the clutch. Since the
development had clearly stopped, we used it as an
opportunity to show the kids the beauty and
wonder of creation.
 Initially, we brought the twenty-eight eggs inside and candled them. It was a little difficult to see a great deal of detail as our shells were dark brown and very thick. But it was so neat to see the development of veins turn into movement and eyeballs. Of the group, twenty-six eggs showed signs of development. We kept the other two eggs in the incubator just in case, but didn't have high expectations for them. The kids were faithful to check the incubator and eager to check development as often as we could. 

In early December, one early morning I just knew I heard bumping in the incubator. [I get up at 5:15 just about every morning. I don't like mornings. I don't like talking before my two cups of coffee. I have to get up really early to beat this crowd and not want to pinch their heads off before our day gets started.]I could never see it, but kept hearing it since it was basically silent in our house. I just left them alone and got everyone off to school. When I got back though, I heard chirping! Chirping! From inside the egg. As I investigated, I realized there were three chirping, moving eggs. 
I moved those eggs to another incubator and began the waiting process. The most valuable lesson that I learned during our first hatch starts here. Since our hen collected eggs over the time span of days/weeks, our eggs were not on the same development schedule. That one fact made it very difficult to keep condition optimal. Egg turning, temperature and humidity are all different at the varying stages of development. I had to move the eggs out of the larger incubator as they showed signs of hatching, but you're not supposed to touch them within three days of hatch. 

On our very first hatch day, we had four little chicks hatch. Two of them were flawless hatches. Two of them were not very beautiful to watch, a little worrying really. We didn't think they were ever going to make it out and may have broken a few rules to help them. 
Over the course of the next week and a half, we had a total of thirteen chicks hatch out successfully. Only one of those showed signs of weakness and an ability to really "get going". He was the only chick that died expectedly overnight after hatch. All of the others were completely healthy. After their twenty-four to thirty-six hours in the incubator, we moved them to our brooder boxes. 

Last Monday, we had two more chicks hatch that evening. One of them was the most beautiful chick that we had had so far. There were three other eggs showing movement and chirping. I went to bed hopeful for a lot of new chicks in the morning. I did hear the chicks chirping in the middle of the night, but groggily chalked it up to new chicks hatching. When I did wake up Tuesday morning, our newest chicks were dead. There were some partially hatched chicks that had died. Our remaining eggs had died and showed no signs of movement. I believe that our incubator thermometer had a malfunction. The eggs and chicks were very hot to the touch, but the thermometer was giving off a too cold temperature warning. 

We were admittedly a little sad and very disappointed. The first hatch has taught us many lessons. The most important one is to collect all of the eggs and incubate them based on a uniform development timeline. Doing so will make tracking and controlling conditions much easier. The second most important thing that I learned is to have multiple methods of temperature measurement. I did not have an additional thermometer in my incubator as I was using it in the brooder box. I may have noticed a temperature change had I had one. 
Overall, we were pretty pleased with our first hatch. We are now so excited to see what our chicks look like and whether we have hens or roosters. Our roosters are Leghorns and Rhode Island Reds. The hens that seem to have contributed to the clutch are Plymouth Barred Rock, ISA Browns and a Rhode Island Red. Their initial colorings are pretty interesting and look to be very unique! 

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