Tag Archives: eggs

Book Review – The Most Perfect Thing

The Most Perfect Thing

by Tim Birkhead

Bloomsbury (2016)

Hardback 220 pp  £18.99

ISBN-10: 1632863693

ISBN-13:978-1632863690

I started reading the book and was instantly taken back to my days producing hatching eggs. Though I’d worked part-time while I was at school, I’d only reared chicks and worked in a hatchery. When I started full time they found me a job on a breeding farm run by a manager who had started working with poultry in the 1930s and had been a lecturer at agricultural college.

While the book taught me about eggs I was drifting back in a parallel world where I was a teenager again, being taught the same things for the first time. I was surprised by how it all came back.

There was also a lot in the book that I didn’t know, which was interesting and wide-ranging, but also possibly one of the faults – in a few places I felt it did get a bit lecturing. It didn’t stop the flow of reading, or detract much from the enjoyment, but it did jar slightly.

Despite this it was easy reading, so I was educated, informed and entertained at the same time and could, if time had allowed, have read it all in one sitting.

I’m happy to recommend it to bird watchers and general readers, with just one proviso – it’s very good, but it doesn’t strike me as the sort of book I could love. There’s just something a little cold in the tone. But that could just be me – don’t let it put you off.

 

Medecine, mistakes and a misapprehension

On the grounds of good taste I’m not going to go into detail about what happened at hospital this afternoon.

The facilities are good, the staff were cheerful and I was only away from home for 45 minutes (we can see the hospital from our house so travel doesn’t take long). Despite this I’m not very happy with the experience.

It’s hard to feel satisfaction when you go in for tests and come out without having the tests done.

The NHS did not cover itself in glory today.

However, my day was better than the man who was waiting with me. He  was under the misapprehension that they were going to put the camera down his throat.

 

Today’s photographs are just a few selected from thousands…

 

 

A yolk about eggs

We collected the eggs today, not that there were many, as we’ve sent most of the hens to market and it’s the wrong time of year. (Of course, from a chicken’s point of view, it’s always the wrong time of year to go to market).

In fact there were two eggs, and being from bantams, they were both small. One was much smaller than the other. On Monday I weighed three of these eggs and they weighed just over 90 grams, which isn’t much more than one decent egg. In fact I used all three of them in place of the one required for the Grantham Gingerbread.

 

This put me in mind of a limerick, (which I altered to match the circumstances).

 

There was a young hen from Devizes,

Whose eggs were two different sizes.

One was so small,

it was no use at all,

But the other won several prizes.

 

 


Incubator Diaries (Part 7)

This is the final report.

We hatched seven chicks from fifteen eggs and, although I’m very pleased with the seven chicks that hatched,  I’m not very happy about the overall result.

Of the eight that didn’t hatch, three (the two brown eggs and one bantam egg) were infertile. The brown egg layers are all old birds, which might be a factor, but they share a cockerel with the hen that laid the green eggs (all three of them hatched) and were collected clean and fresh so I had expected better.

The other five were all  bantam eggs and come from just one hen. The infertile egg may well have been caused by the fact we had to store the eggs for two weeks to get enough to hatch. I should have marked that laying dates on the eggs so I could check the correlation with hatchability.

The ones that didn’t hatch were a mixture of mid to late term fatalities and were rather black inside.

Looking at all the possible causes I think we can ignore temperature, humidity, power failure and poor turning as they are all taken care of automatically (though I will test the temperature next time I set it up to check the accuracy of the built-in thermometer). They are on a good ration so I’m going to ignore poor nutrition for now.

That leaves inbreeding, poor ventilation, diseased or infected eggs and lethal genes.

I know what a lethal gene is, but I haven’t a clue how it would show itself.

I can’t vouch for ventilation – I will probably ventilate more in the next attempt and see what happens.

However, as the weight loss from evaporation was what we expected I’m assuming that humidity  and ventilation were about right.

In truth, I can’t remember the parentage of the breeding stock, as they were passed on to us without much detail. The  bird that laid and hatched the clutches of 11 and 8 on top of the coop is a half sister to the bird that laid these eggs but the “half” may make a difference.

That leaves diseased/infected eggs, which was my fear from the beginning. Our nest boxes aren’t brilliant so there is often dirt on the shells, which can allow germs into the egg via pores in the shell. That, plus the length of time we had to keep the eggs, is probably the cause.

I’m going to do some calculations now and see what I can do to improve.

 

 

 

 

 

The Incubator Diaries (Part 3)

I haven’t done a lot with the eggs, because I thought it was probably better to leave them alone and not be always fiddling. It’s better to leave the lid on, as this preserves the heat and humidity.

Does that sound plausible?

In truth I just didn’t get on with it because I had other things to do. That’s the story of my life – “other things to do”.  That’s on my list of things to do – improve my time management.

Fortunately when I weighed them and checked the weight loss they are just about on target. The blue eggs are spot on – weighing 153 g against a target of 152.9 g. The Polish eggs are out by 0.2 g per egg, which isn’t significant. The brown ones are a bit out – 2 g per egg. However, they are bigger and they are from older birds so the shells will be more porous and the expected loss will be higher as a consequence. We will just have to see what happens. In an ideal world we wouldn’t mix such a diverse selection, but they needed to go in when they did to hatch on a Wednesday when we could see them.

That’s the trouble with keeping a small number of birds, you end up keeping the eggs until you have enough and as they age the hatchability declines. I just checked the exact figures – keep them for 7 days and you are OK, after that they start to decline both in terms of hatchability and the health of the chicks you hatch.

It also says (which was something I once knew, but had forgotten) that they will take a little longer to hatch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ready to hatch – I hope!

I am now hoping my calculations are right, because if they don’t hatch on Wednesday my life won’t be worth living.

We should have candled them by now too, but I didn’t get on with ordering the right light and I don’t have a powerful enough torch to do the job. Candling is shining a light through the egg to see if it has a developing embryo inside.  For now it will have to remain a mystery.

The turning gear is now removed and the humidity turned up to 65% (as you need to keep the egg membranes moist to help the chick get out of the egg).

By Wednesday all will be revealed!

A strange egg…

We had the second class from new College in today and I decided to open an egg up to show them a bit of science. As you can imagine from the featured image, I got a shock when I cracked it open.

I’ve seen eggs with meat and blood spots before but I’ve never actually seen one with so much blood in it. I assume that as the egg was having its thick albumen layer added the bird must have bled from the oviduct. It’s definitely not started incubating, because there are no blood vessels. Whatever the reason, it caused a bit of a stir, rather like a satanic conjuring trick.

It’s been wet today but despite that we’ve seen off a lot of jobs, and the flowers in the garden are starting to look great.

The students helped us catch the Polish bantams, which have been at liberty since Monday, so that was good, as although two of the birds were happy enough to go back, one put up more determined resistance.  As we are down to three we don’t want to lose another, particularly as there had been a cat eyeing them up yesterday.

 

We have some more information and photos up on the Individual Pages, the cow is repainted, the pigsaw’s tail is made (but not yet attached), I’ve been making signs for Open Farm Sunday, and we have two TV companies wanting to visit us (on the same day!). It will all come to nothing, I’m sure, but in any event, as a man with “a good face for radio” I’m not likely to be needed.

 

Silly Sunday 2

Number 1 son offered to make lunch, and without thinking I said “Yes please.”

He’s in his 20s, he’s been away for 3 years, he hasn’t starved to death, it was beans on toast. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, first of all, he decided to add scrambled eggs. Second, without telling me what he was doing, he left the eggs on the stove and went to do something else. The first I knew about it was when the smoke started to catch in my throat.

Strange I thought, burning food doesn’t usually – then I was grasped by another coughing fit.

Our traditional egg dish for breakfast and brunch type meals can best be described as  a form of scrambled eggs in which the eggs are bashed about a bit and things like vegetables and bacon are mixed in.

In this case he added onion and chilli. I may have mentioned last week that he is a in a chilli phase. Much the same as I am in  a milk drinking phase.

When you burn chilli it appears to produce a throat grasping acrid smoke that makes your eyes water.

The thing about child rearing is that you have to encourage them, even when it means eating burnt eggs with too much chilli in them.

The erst of the day, quite frankly, was an anticlimax after that, so that’s where I’ll end – a smoky kitchen, tears in my eyes, a rasp in my throat and a deep-seated desire to see him finish his Masters, get a job and bugger off before he destroys my kitchen or my taste buds.