Thursday, January 28, 2010

Video of Egg Candling at 7 days

I found this on Youtube. It was taken by HenkMannetje. Thanks, Hank!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day 7 - Countdown to Baby Chicks - Candling Night!

(Photo taken from Univ. Illinois @Champaign-Urbana site "Chickscope"
To give you an idea of how many eggs we found NOT to be fertile and growing chicks, Farmer Jeff asked me in a very plaintive voice: "Can we PLEASE not have all of these chicks in the bathroom"?

We started with 41 eggs in an incubator which holds 42. I guess I thought I would be a little manic if I filled all 42 spots. I guess that is like an alcoholic not thinking they are an alcoholic because they don't drink before 5.

Well, we have 40 eggs that are growing and only one that is not. I guess one of the hens stayed in the hen house that day and was able to evade the 6 roosters. SHE should be the one we breed!

Now it is just a waiting game. OH, a friend and Chicken Mama in her own right advised me to keep the humidity in the incubator at 50-55% until the last 3 days at which time I need to raise it to 65%. WHAT!!! How in the world am I going to do that!!! things to worry about! Where is my Chicken World catalog when I need it!

PS: Farmer Jeff is going to build a brood box that will be set up in the greenhouse! He is excited he gets to build something! Whew!

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day 6 - Countdown to Baby Chicks

The last few days have been blessedly uneventful. I was afraid that the rain and subsequent wind would knock our power out, and that, in turn, would knock out the incubator! I was worried I would end up with eggs under my shirt, but thankfully that didn't happen!

This is my first time as a manipulator of life and I keenly feel the responsibility. I check the incubator temperature every few hours and have had to make minute adjustments. The heating apparatus is not terribly sophisticated. The temperature is controlled with the loosening of a wing-nut and the turning of a little non-specific lever. I am SWISS! I want precision! The other funny part of this is that the little thermometer that sits on top of the eggs migrates to the back of the incubator because the eggs are in constant motion via the auto egg turner.

The first time we let a hen sit on eggs and then hatch them, we tried marking them with a pencil X which quickly disappeared because of the constant rotation the mother instinctively performs for even heating. If I didn't have the auto turner, I would be opening it up and hand turning it many times a day. Not good.

One of the banner days in the incubator is Day 7. That is the day that the eggs will be candled to determine if there is growth taking place in the shell. There are all kinds of warnings about washing your hands before handling the eggs, that the simple naturally occurring oils on our fingers can be sucked into the shell and damage the embryo. Farmer Jeff is going to bring some latex gloves home from work so we can do it and not risk damage.

Farmer Jeff, after I carefully explained what I was going to do on day 7, went to the garage, took an empty steel cut oatmeal can, cut out a hole, and then painted it black to match the lamp over which it will sit. This is the ideal set up for candling, which as you can tell by the word, used to be done with candles.

Banner News!
We put bands on the feet of the 3 little chicks we have been tending to for 3 months. We didn't want to let them out before we traveled because we wouldn't be around to watch them and then we hesitated due to the rains. We took advantage of the break in the rain today to band them and integrate them in with the rest of the flock. I felt so bad...the first thing they did was flap their wings. They haven't had enough room to stretch out and do that in the cage I kept them in. Sorry, Girls!
(I just went outside to make sure they all made it back into the coop and ended up having to pick up the darkest one and slip her into her now open old cage with her sisters.)

Tomorrow night, Day 7, candling! We did a little test and both of the Ameraucana eggs we checked are growing! WooHoo!!!

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Day 2 - Countdown to Baby Chicks

Here is a picture of the incubator all loaded up with eggs. There are 30 Ameraucana eggs (I can tell because the eggs are green), 6 Silver Spangled Hamburgs (that I always call Star Spangled) and then 5 assorted "mystery" eggs. I want more Ameraucanas because that is what catches folks eyes when buying eggs. I bought a breeding trio of the Hamburgs because they are on the list of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy and the breed is actually at risk of becoming endangered.

Because I have very active Roosters, if you catch my drift, I am confident the eggs are all fertile. I will "candle" the eggs on day 7 to see if there are little embryos forming. If not, I toss the egg. *At this point I could replace the eggs with another set of eggs, but I don't think I will this time around.

When I awoke this morning the temperature in the incubator was up to 105 degrees, which is 5 degrees too hot. I have played with the little, somewhat inaccurate, temperature gauge to lower it but will need to check again in an hour.

Stay tuned!

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Countdown to Baby Chicks Begins...NOW!

On February 11th we are due to have baby chicks breaking out of their shells! Yep, the incubator is loaded (41 eggs) and they are due to hatch out that day ...or the next.

This is the first time I have used the incubator. I did research on whether or not you should wash the eggs first. The shells are very porous and absorb bacteria quite easily. There is also a coating that is all part of the egg laying process called a cuticle. Many countries residents believe that eggs will spoil once that cuticle has been washed off, which is why you might see eggs in other lands that still have a bit of chicken poop on them. I decided to follow the advice of the University of Mississippi Agriculture department and NOT wash them. We shall see!

The goal is to raise chickens that:
-are resistant to Marek's disease
-lay green or blue colored eggs (I have both the male and female of the colored egg laying breed, Ameraucana)
-we don't have to buy!

It has been a long day and I need to go to bed and dream of chicks. I will keep y'all informed!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Kids

For someone that doesn't have children, I sure have a lot of kids! We have the 3 indoor cats, the 3 dogs, the 2 outdoor feral cats and the ** number of chickens! (and that number is growing!) The little kids of the household, the 3 chicks that were hatched by a neighbor while we were on vacation, (who then lived in the bathroom, and then the greenhouse) have finally been moved out to the main coop but are protected from the others by being contained in their cage.

It takes at least 1 week of caged/protected introduction before you can let the newcomers out into the general population. Because we are getting ready to leave for 5 days and my mother-in-law is going to be watching the fort, we are going to leave them in a little longer for a total of 9 days. If they are mixed into the flock too early, the bigger girls could cause harm and even kill the newcomers. Yes, pecking order is the rule of the roost!

As you can see, the other members of the flock are quite curious about these newcomers. The newcomers, for the most part, are talking up a storm and are a little nervous. This protected intro will ultimately save their lives.

What are the other kids up to?
Callebaut, our chocolate lab, aka "the Elder Statesman", "Brown", "Grandpa", "Cranky Butt", has received some preferential treatment for the last month. He just turned 10 years old and has been showered with gifts! As you can see above, he takes the original gift, in this case a stuffed faux sheep-skin goose, and transforms it fluff!

In this next photo, you can see he is quite pleased to be on his brand new "big boy" bed...and India is SOL.

On the other hand, Tasso, our Hurricane Katrina survivor, has figured out how to make the best of a situation and instead of sulking over Callebaut's new bed, has found the perfect place! On Mom and Dad's bed right in the middle of the laundry and packing area. Nice!

Parents of human children practice the art of unconditional love and we do the same, as much as is possible when they tear up your favorite robe, pee on your leg (Tasso has issues) or steal your butter. After all, they are just animals!

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

More Peepers, Coming Right Up!

How many people can honestly say they got EXACTLY what they wanted for Christmas? I CAN!!! My Honey gave me an incubator! Now I can raise my very own chicks! (Can you tell I am excited?) I have been doing some research on breeding chickens and have discovered I need to have 4 separate breeding groups which has one rooster and at least 8 if not 10 hens.

(This is Martha. She is a Blue Wheaten Ameraucana)
Why do I want to breed them, you might be asking. I am in love with the Ameraucana breed. They are docile, good layers, have great personalities and lay green or blue eggs. By breeding my own I will have a "closed" breeding system.

There is a terrible disease, Marek's, that kills the females just as they are about to begin laying at 6 months of age. There is a vaccine, but it is available in doses of 1,000 and is only good for 24 hours. My incubator holds 43 eggs. You can see that the doses are just not worth it. I would like my babies to be resistant to the disease. We shall see. I may change my mind 8 months down the line!

Before I can get any more invested in the breeding plans, I need to expand the chicken housing for the breeding families. Thankfully Farmer Jeff likes to build things!

Happy New Year! May all of your wishes come true!

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