Thursday, December 29, 2011

Day 12

So I'm sure this won't come as a surprise, but I candled 3 of the eggs today (5, 6, and 7).  All three were coming along nicely. I was surprised at how much they've changed since I last checked them. They're growing bigger all the time!

I'm starting to feel cautiously excited that I'm actually going to have a successful hatch this time!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Day 10

Well, I candled the eggs in the Brower incubator, and I'm still 99% sure none of them are still alive. I'm more or less just letting them go because they don't stink and it doesn't hurt anything.

I candled two of the eggs (#3 and #4) in the Brinsea, and they are both alive and moving. I'm surprised at how much of a difference just a day or so makes. Already they are much darker in the shell, and it's a lot harder to see anything. Since the first two were so much harder to see, I left the rest alone. I am going to attempt to not mess with them any more as far as candling goes until day 18. I figure that each time I take them out, I run the risk of either breaking one, or introducing bacteria.

I am still extremely worried about the air cell issue. It would be heartbreaking to lose these chickens that close to the end due to careless post office handling.  I guess there's not much I can do, other than to keep my fingers crossed.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Day 7

It's actually day 8 now, but it's early in the day.

I candled last night, when it was still day 7. I saw movement in eggs 1-7, with the exception of egg #4. There was veining in 4, but I didn't see movement.

Temps in the Brower had been really low all day (like mid 90s) and I couldn't bring them up. I only candled cracked egg, and it didn't look good.

I tried to crank the temp a little higher, and this morning, temps were around 104, so I'm pretty sure all of the eggs in the Brower are dead.  I'll let them go a couple more days, just to be sure, but I'm pretty sure I'll end up tossing everything in there by Wednesday. I don't know how anything could survive the erratic temps of that incubator.

I did take a picture of egg #6 last night. I wanted to show how odd the air cells in these eggs are.

Same egg, but from a different angle. As you can see, the air cell
is more on the side than on the bottom.

I also took video of this same egg, and if you watch carefully, you can actually see the embryo moving around.

So this is a day 7 embryo. Kind of neat, huh?

Friday, December 23, 2011

6 days

All right, I *almost* made it to my 7 day goal.  I was going along, nice and strong.

Then, my boss came over today, and expressed a lot of interest in my incubating eggs. I ended up candling one, just to show her what could possibly be seen. I showed her egg #3, and we saw lots of veining, and a little wiggling shadow.

I thought that would be enough to hold me until tomorrow morning, but I just couldn't hold off. So, I just got done candling. My 10 eggs are 12 hours away from 7 days along, neighbor eggs are exactly 7 days along.

Of mine, eggs 1-7 are in the Brinsea, and they all showed veining AND movement. Eggs 8-10 are in the Brower, and they were less defined. I couldn't see veining, but the shells seemed to be darker, and I couldn't see them as clearly. Eggs A,B, C are my neighbor's.  Cracked egg has a wiggling little guy in it. Couldn't see anything in the other two, and I'm about ready to call them duds.

Eggs 7 and 8 have gone back and forth. I put the eggs I thought had the best chance of survival in the Brinsea. Egg #7 started out in the Brinsea, but on Tuesday, I realized the air cell was goofy, so I switched it with #8. Tonight though, I felt #7, so I switched them back.

I am cautiously excited. I am worried though, as almost all of them seem to have really goofy air cells, more on the side than the top/fat end. I'm not sure how to adjust the angle given the incubator I have.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Famous Last Words

DH's McGyver move on the incubator has worked beautifully. In fact, I think it's actually much better than the original heating element. The temperature has been much, much steadier, which makes me very happy. It won't work once chicks hatch, but I figure we have a couple weeks before we have to worry about that.

You'd think I'd learn by now to NOT say, "I won't candle until XXX". I've never stuck to that. Ever. Ever ever. I totally lack any kind of self control. It makes it worse that I've had these issues with the Brower incubator- it makes me more anxious to candle those eggs to see if they have a prayer of surviving. The seven eggs in my brinsea haven't been as big of a temptation.

So, this evening I candled. I am pretty sure I saw veining in egg #7, which is in the Brower.  Neighbor egg that was dropped seems like it's developed a little more, but frankly, I don't hold out much hope for it. It's such a shame, because I saw definite veining in it yesterday, and it seems to be the only fertile egg my neighbor gave me. Her other two eggs don't seem to have anything in them, but we're only day 3 or 4. I'm a little confused on that. How about, it's been about 90 hours since the neighbor eggs have been in? It's winter, and her rooster is only about 5 weeks out from a fairly severe injury, and he's blind in one eye as a result of the injury. It wouldn't surprise me if his fertility is gone.

On a more stalkerish note, I hatched some eggs in August from my flock. I gave the four chicks to my brother in law and sister in law. They can't have roosters, so when two of the chicks turned out to be roosters, they rehomed them. They're pretty sure the prettier rooster is just down the road from me, with a family that sells eggs out of their house. I've been contemplating buying eggs from them, and I'm seriously considering buying some, and trying to find out if they do have my "grandchick".

Monday, December 19, 2011

Incubator Failure?!

Seriously, I'm beginning to think I'm star crossed.

I went down to turn the eggs in the Brower incubator before I went to bed and discovered the temperature was in the mid 70s. Turns out the heating element has failed. My mechanical engineer husband found some corrosion and with some fancy tool he has, found that there's some kind of short in the heating element, which is this circular coil thing.

I stuck the 6 remaining eggs in the oven, and hopefully turned the oven to about 100.  Meanwhile, he rigged up a light bulb that attaches to the thermostat.

Unfortunately, I dropped one of my neighbor's eggs during all of this mad transporting. There's a bit of a crack in it. I sealed it up with wax. I candled it, because I'm a sucker. There's definite veining. Of course. I candled the other two of my neighbor's, since they went in Friday night, and the broken one is the only one I saw anything in. I know it's really, really really early, like not even 72 hours on them.  But, it seems like I've just had a really tough time with this incubator, and I wonder if this hatch is doomed too.

I still have 7 eggs in the brinsea.  I am not going to candle them until at least day 4-5.

Down to 10

I'm not surprised. I had two eggs that I wasn't at all confident about from the very beginning. They both had totally detached air cells, and the one was really porous.  I kept them upright.

I figure I'm about 48 hours in, so I thought I'd check on them to see if the air cell had reattached. Not only had they not reattached, but they were both weeping. This is very bad news for incubating eggs. So, I've taken them out of the incubator and am tossing them.  I thought I'd show you what they looked like when being candled.
porous egg. It also had a detached air cell, but it is really tough to see in this photo
egg with detached air cell

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Post Office made me go Crazy Chicken Lady

Stupid mail carrier.  My normal guy is (evidently) on vacation.

I waited patiently all day Friday for mail- delivery confirmation said that my box would be arriving Friday and it was "out for delivery".  As I was leaving to pick my son up from school at 3pm, I saw him a few houses down.

When I got home, I discovered there was only a couple letters in my box, no package.  I called the post office, who said it wasn't there at the post office, so it must be on the truck, and to be patient.

At 4:30, I tried calling again, and no answer. So I actually drove in and waited in line. The person at the front desk looked all over and couldn't find it. She told me the driver had come in, but then gone back out, so she figured that it was on the truck.

So I was waiting patiently, and then at 5:45, my status suddenly shows they attempted to deliver at 11:26. LIARS!!!!!!  I was here, not 3' from my front door and there was no postal truck outside.

I called customer service and complained. They said they'd put a hold on the box if I wanted and would hold it at the post office so I could pick it up.

When I got to the post office at 8:20 the next morning, the line was already out the door. I patiently waited in line. When I got to the front, I had a different cashier than the one who helped me yesterday, but helper was next to mine. I explained the situation, and yesterday's cashier overheard and looked over and said, "Oh, you haven't gotten it yet?" Then she turned to today's cashier and said, "That was Don's route from yesterday" and they exchanged a look.  

They eventually found the box, and I took it home. The eggs were very well wrapped and I got TWELVE!  Not a single one was broken. There was one with a detached air cell.  I've heard that if you have one of those, often times they will still hatch, but I shouldn't turn it at all, and just keep it upright with the air cell  (fat side) up.  We'll see what happens.

I set them yesterday, but set them all upright with air cell side up, and haven't turned them at all. Actually- that isn't quite true- seven of the eggs are in the brinsea, so they're on their sides.  J brought home a super fancy calibrated three lead thermometer. From that, we learned we needed to calibrate the brinsea- it was a half degree hot.  The Brower incubator has so far been really difficult to get to the proper temperature and keep it there.

This is my set up this time around. On the left, you see my little brinsea advance. In the middle, there's the fancy thermometer and my candling flashlight. On the right is the Brower Incubator.

I am going to rig up a turning type thing for the eggs in the Brower. Once I get it made and put in there, I'll take a picture of the inside and show my thing to make turning easier and cleaner.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Won an Auction!

I have great news! My incubator is on its' way back home. I had Brinsea call once they received the incubator. Apparently it wasn't just the turning motor that was broken. It was something really huge, like the main circuitboard or something else scary and expensive sounding.  It was still under warranty, technically, but since I didn't have any proof of purchase, they weren't obligated to cover it at all.  I paid to ship it to them, then paid $50 for the replacement part. They paid labor and shipping back. Awesome!

Tonight I won an auction for some Golden Laced Wyandotte eggs.  They'll be coming here from TN and ship tomorrow.

I plan to borrow my neighbor's incubator because the auction is for 9+ eggs (so it's a min of 9, but probably won't be much more than that. I'll admit I'm hoping she sends me several extra in a different breed; she has some really amazing looking birds) and my incubator only holds 7.  My neighbor's incubator holds several dozen. I offered to also incubate some of her hens' eggs so that she can work to rebuild her flock as well.

I am so, so excited to try hatching again.

I'm a little scared because they ARE being shipped. And not only will they be shipped, but at the busiest time of year, in cold weather and from almost 2000 miles away. Not good odds.

Keep your fingers crossed that I get a couple pullets from the deal.

Here's one of her chickens.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tour of the Chicken Coop and Run

(I actually wrote this blog post in Oct. 2010, but I thought it would be fun to put it up here. When I posted this, I was quite annoyed that only two of the seven chickens were laying, but within days of posting this, the others all started laying.)

I've had a couple people ask to see pictures of my chicken coop, so I am going to give you a grand tour. My husband designed the setup himself after looking at a lot of peoples' designs.

Here's the back of the coop with our brand new roof. I put that roof on myself, using the leftover shingles from our house roof project. How many chicken coops do you see with 50 year architectural shingles?Across the back, you'll notice some doors, which latch shut for safety, but open up for easy access to the nesting boxes, where the chickens would hypothetically lay.
Here's the inside of one side of the nesting boxes. We have a total of 6, though only one is used. You can see that Clover has laid an egg for me here. I am using a fairly fine hardware cloth to keep the bedding in the boxes when I open the door to collect eggs. The chickens really kick the shavings around, and sometimes that leaves the bare wood exposed, which, as you can imagine, does bad things to the falling egg. To prevent cracking in the eggs, I cut pieces of berber carpeting out and put them in the bottom of each nesting box, then put shavings over the top. They're not attached permanently, so I can remove them and hose them off if needs be.This is the back side of the coop, the side the chickens have access to. You'll see that there's a large door so that I can access the inside, as well as provide good ventilation during the summer months. There's a smaller hole for me to stick a light in so that as the weather cools off, I can supplement their light so that they continue (START?!) to lay all winter. I close the door at night and latch it shut. This coop is not really designed to keep out a determined predator, but I figure latching that door shut will help protect the chickens from large dogs, which would be the most likely culprit.This is the access for the chickens to access the coop.

Here is the back side of the coop with the enclosed run. There's chicken wire on top and all sides. It's held in place by boards. A determined critter could burrow beneath the boards, so the coop isn't particularly ideal if you have skunks, raccoons, dogs, wolves, coyotes around. We generally don't, so I haven't worried about it too much.

Now we have the inside of the coop. You can see the nest boxes below. Paula is in the popular box, showing us what it would look like if she were to ever lay an egg. The chickens generally either roost on top of the boxes or on the branches I've put in place. The floor also has hardware cloth. In the summer, we leave it exposed, but as it's gotten colder, we put OSB board in, and covered it with shavings. I've also bought some 1/2" styrofoam insulation that I've cut to fit the back and side walls of the chicken coop. However, I put it out there, and the next morning found they'd been pecking at it. I'm going to have J cut some very thin boards to the same shape and sandwich the insulation between the boards so the chickens will leave it alone.

Why the golf balls, you ask? Supposedly, they show the chickens that it's acceptable to lay eggs in nesting boxes other than the popular one. Clover is the only one laying, and thus far, she's only laid in that second box in.
This is how we shut the door to the run (as an aside, we've swapped out this plastic-y wire stuff with metal).

Here's a close up of our chicken feeder. It's nice to be able to put a large amount of food out at a time so that if we go out overnight, we don't have to worry about feeding and watering our flock. The water is set up the same, except that we had to seal the lid on, and cut a small hole in the top and plug with a drain plug to create a suction situation.
The chickens do get to go foraging around outside of the run/coop, but I only let them do that when they can be supervised, so it's usually only for an hour or so at a time.


Summer of 2011, we extended our run quite a bit. We have the run curve around the back of our shed, giving the birds an extra 25'x 4' area to run around. We put fencing over the top of the whole thing, save for an 18" spot at the one end (we ran out of daylight and fencing, and put a board over the top, just for the night. Then we forgot to come back and finish the job). I figure that's where the animal got in and killed all of my chickens. We've since repaired it, so it should be fairly secure now.  Here's a picture of the new run area.