Tag Archives: hatching

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Seven healthy chicks!

Subtitle: The Incubator Diaries Part 6

I don’t think there will be any more. It’s two days since the last one hatched and time to call it a day. I will break open the remaining eggs later today and see if there’s a pattern to the hatching failures. A hatch rate of 45% is very disappointing but I suspect the fault is with the eggs rather than the incubation. It’s a lesson to build on for the future, whatever happens.

In the meantime we have seven healthy chicks.

They are now going to have a hectic three days of being the centre of attention as we have people in until Wednesday. There’s something about chicks and children that go well together.

 

 

Men in Sheds, eating scones

Bob brought some of his store of plum jam and Julia provided the scones. Really we should have made scones but we haven’t been able to get into the kitchen much this week (due to the preparations for the run) so it was off to the shop.

Everyone seemed to enjoy them, anyway and we will be making more jam in a fortnight when he is going to bring us some plums.

Next Tuesday we are going to visit a permaculture project. It’s not that Men in Sheds are particularly interested in permaculture, but the Farmer is interested in using them as free labour to build a permaculture project in the allotments. Presumably that means another year when we can’t plan anything for the allotment.

With any luck it will be something like the one we planned two years ago but weren’t allowed to do.

Planning is not a strong point of this project…

Can you add your own version of a heart-rending sigh here please.

Anyway, I enjoyed the scones and some chicks have hatched so it’s been a good day. In a moment I’m hoping to take Julia away for lunch and have an afternoon off.

 

Phew! (Incubator Diaries part 4)

I’m in the centre, preparing to close up and pick Julia up from work. It’s been a quiet day and I  have done a reasonable amount of work, albeit of an unpaid nature.

The main part fo the day has been spent in researching historic bread recipes, and after five hours of reading the internet I’m left with the impression that although a few things may have changed (such as better yeast, electric ovens and more refined flour) bread is basically the same as it was 1,000 years ago. White bread, brown bread, rye bread. I suppose we don’t have to eat peas, beans and acorns but apart from that I’m not sure there’s much difference.

If I want to bake some historic breads I’m going to have to turn to spices rather than making plain loaves, or maybe run up the outdoor oven. It probably isn’t worth the effort as you can get that outdoor oven finish by baking it at high temperature and throwing some ash at it as a finishing touch.

Meanwhile, when I haven’t been thinking of bread I’ve been looking into the incubator.

Three of the eggs have now pipped and there’s a weedy chirping sound emerging from the machine.

This is a long way from the end result I’m hoping for, but it’s a start. At least I know some of them have developed properly.

I’m resisting the temptation to help nature along by peeling some shell off as I’m sure it’s better for chicks to do it themselves.

I’ll take a picture or two before I go and load them when I get home.

Fingers crossed!

Six more chicks!

The group was walking across the yard for a final look at the bantams tonight when Alasdair spotted a mouse. He’s not fond of mice and he’s very good at spotting small scurrying things.

However, it wasn’t a mouse, it was a chick. There were six of them altogether, four black, one yellow and one stripy.

They took some counting because Mother Hen wasn’t happy at the idea of us having a look. She was protective to the point of being aggressive and a number of the photos show a black blur attacking the photographer.

Amazing. I’m still waiting for the first signs of hatching but another hen, with no electronics, has just hatched six. That’s Hens 25 – Incubator Nil at the moment.

 

 

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.

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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!

Keets and curly sandwiches…

Having had quite a lot of sandwiches left over from yesterday’s high tea, I didn’t need to make too much effort for lunch. In fact all I had to do was peel back the cling film. They had started to dry out a little and curl at the edges, bit let’s face it, having eaten in a number of typical English cafes in the 60s and 70s, and enjoyed the legendary hospitality of British Rail, I’m no stranger to dry, dodgy sandwiches.

We have saved today’s eggs from the Polish bantams and will start to hatch them in a week or so – you can generally keep them a week without a problem.The main problem is making sure we get good quality eggs and making sure they don’t get put in with the eggs for sale. You know how it is round here…

It will probably take that long to strip down the machine and get it ready to use as I don’t think it was actually washed after being hauled out of the back of the barn.

We started the day with egg collection and brought the keets in to the centre so everyone could get a good look. After that it was salt dough (we need around 750 of them in the next couple of months) and musical accompaniment selected by Emma (I believe it was some popular modern female singer called Jess Glynne). I have, of course, never heard of her. As a middle-aged man I am freeing up large amounts of brain space by refusing to learn the names of modern singers, or listen to their music.

This afternoon we planted a variety of stuff out and set some late seeds. Also swore at the slugs who ate their way through the lettuces in one of the planters.

Let’s see, what else? Well, we found Edie running round with a lead on, and had to find the farmer to check we weren’t missing a dog-walker. It’s apparently part of her training programme to be left to “stay” as the farmer walks away. But she didn’t. I think this part of the training might need a bit more work.

I seem to have spent a fair amount of time making an ID badge for one of the group. (That means it took me longer than I was expecting and longer than I would like Julia to know.) Shame it relates to another group. Same goes for the rubber bands she’s been cadging off me all afternoon – seems she can’t garden but she can sort plant labels for another project and use my bands to bundle them up. I’m all for cooperation but I’m definitely having second thoughts about this. 😉

Alasdair and I have just filled the bird feeders again. The peanut feeder at the front had been knocked off again and the elastic band had slipped so most of the peanuts were gone.

I’m beginning to wonder if the jackdaws have an answer for everything.

Nearly got a good picture of a mint moth – they are flying when nothing else seems to be about – but can’t quite master the macro capability of the new camera.

Quick nature note from yesterday – Julia spotted goldfinches eating seeds from the bergenias (Elephant Ears). I always think of them as being dull plants for municipal planting (they were actually donated by a local park). However they are tough as old boots (which we need for our wind-blasted clay soil) and if they feed goldfinches I’m not going to hear a word against them.

That’s about it for the day – just some paperwork and a phone call to do. And a cup of tea.