The winning chicken breeds are as follows: (mostly bought for egg colour)
- White Chantacler - Canadian breed, winter hardy, our only white chickens.
- Black Copper Marans - Good breed from Europe, super dark brown/red eggs.
- Amaracauna - Couple different colourings of this breed, but all lay blue eggs.
- Malines - Suppose to be a great tasting bird, bought mostly on a whim.
- Euskal Oiloa - Super friendly bird, there for the kids and wife to play with.
- Mystery Green and Blue Egg layers (aka Easter Eggers)- lays blue or green eggs.
- Olive Layers - Lays dark green egg.
- It's a good move to set up presales unless you are getting there at 4am like a lunatic. Frankly I don't know what I may have missed due to people selling out early and high tailing out of there.
- Look closely at what you buy and ensure freshness.
- Many of the people at these swaps shouldn't be breeding with each other never mind eggs. Buyer beware, go with your gut.
- The swaps happen both in spring and fall, but if nothing else you can set up connections to get eggs off the swap circuit.
- Park far away for a quick exit. Some looked like they got boxed in until 3 people moved their trucks.
- Bring llama treats.
|Egg army ready for world domination|
Step 3: Time to turn up the heat...
A couple days prior to the swap I fired up the incubator to get it set to the right temp to hit the ground running. I'm glad I did because it took a couple days to get things just right. 99 deg is what the goal temp is with a humidity of about 60-65 percent. An impossible calculation if you don't have the right instruments.
We set it up in the office on the floor where the temperature stays stable and there are no breezes. Ultimately I should have put it on a desk but paranoia initially started it on the floor and it stayed there. As soon as I got home, I put the eggs into the office for a couple hours to settle at room temp and started to decide which eggs won't make the cut. 48 eggs and 41 spaces, really the turner holds 42 but one of the spots looked a little dangerously close to turner motor so we left it at 41. The choice was decided based on cost of eggs, colour of eggs and purity of the breed. We ended up posting an ad on craigslist to give away the others to a nice hippie woman. If she was wearing a tank there'd be armpit hair for sure, but none the less she was nice and promised to slip us a couple chicks in the future if we want it. I didnt have the heart to just toss them. I'm a softy like that...
So the winning eggs are in their spots, turner is plugged in and the temps are all right. There's no going back now, and with a total investment of 200$ we're in good shape. For the next 18 days tho, it's a case of hurry up and wait. Over the next 2 and a half weeks it was uneventful except for a power outage which happened while I was an hour away. D's mother called me up all frantic about the power knowing what it meant to the chicks. I was too far and had to call a buddy to swing by the house to make sure it wasn't a breaker and to possibly transport the chicks to an electrical source. If the temperature goes too far above or below 99 deg for too long, you can kiss your eggs goodbye. After all that work it would have been a bad scene if we lost them. Luckily it was short lived and the heat wasn't off for very long.
On the 18th day it time to get the eggs into lock down for the next 3 days. At day 18 you:
- Remove eggs from turner and remove turner from incubator
- Replace eggs on their sides with small end pointing kinda downward.
- Raise humidity to 75% by filling most or all of the water traps the incubator has.
- Try to make eggs not touch one another, which was hard with 41 eggs.
- Replace lid to incubator and don't touch it for 3 days. I ended up having to add water once or twice but I found a way with a straw to feed water through a vent hole.
I must admit I spent more time than I'm proud of bent over the incubator talking to the eggs encouragingly and tapping the outside. Midway through that day we had 10 chicks and by dinner time we had 15. This is where things started getting tricky and there are 2 schools of thought here regarding the lockdown period. Some say you can't open it no matter what for 3 days, after that period there may be more over the next day or two but most likely your set. Others say it's ok to open the lid quickly to do what you need to and get out. It's tricky because at 15 chicks hatched the incubator started getting a little crowded. Some at this point are now dry, which takes a few hours. Some are still wet and meandering around drunkenly and some are in partway through hatching in varying degrees. Chicks can stay in an incubator for 48 hrs+ feeding off an internal yoke sack so they don't have to be rushed out. The hatched ones are bumping around and knocking not only each other but the eggs around them and causing what I deem to be 'problems'.
I went with the school of get in and get out, but make sure the temp and humidity get back up quickly. A couple times I popped open the lid and grabbed out the dry chicks. In retrospect it may have not been a good move, but the number of chicks I had in there warranted it. It's not unlike when you know your dryer can fit 10 towels but when there's 7 it does a better job. The hatching chicks are fighting the shell, but more importantly, the membrane holding them in, and when that dries out, they're in trouble. There were a couple cases of chicks stuck in their shells, some made it, some didn't. There is a tang of guilt as to whether better planning would have avoided that.
|Our new watchdogs: Thor and Whitey|
In the end, we had 28 of 41 eggs hatch, 2 had passed away midway through coming out, and the rest stayed as coloured eggs silently yearning to chase bugs. We lost one a couple days later which was one I ended up trying to help finish hatching but obviously shouldn't have. Mother nature has a way to pick the ones that should make it, but did my messing with the lid cause this or any others to not hatch?
What I'd do next time:
- Start with less eggs. 41 made it too crowded, maybe at 25-30 there'd me more room for patience.
- Not open the lid til the eggs were basically done hatching.
- If you do feel it necessary to intervene, just have a little sugar water there to feed the little beaks for a burst of energy.
- Prepare not only for a little heartache but the unusual smell as well... wish the office had a little more circulation.
- Once the lockdown starts, don't block any vent holes trying to conserve humidity.
- Make sure you have backup plans for a power outage situation.
Now all that's left is figuring out which is which. They mixed together as they hatched and not only do I not know male from female but the game to figure out the breeds is on now too. I'm going to post some picks on the chicken sites and hope they can help, they always do...
Life Lesson # 922 - Don't count your eggs before they are hatched. This is true literally and figuratively...