I don't usually start hatching until March. My girls are all on strike right now, so I don't have a ready supply of hatching eggs. Plus our weather is iffy until March or April. I have found if I wait and time my hatch to come out mid-March I can brood the babies in the house for four weeks and then move them safely outside and not have to deal with heat lamps and all that. Smart, no?
Well... this year I am trying something new. An online contact had a great mix of silkie eggs available at the end of December. She has gorgeous buffs and I am wanting to expand my genetic diversity. I decided to take the plunge and do an early hatch. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and I'll be able to easily move them outside when the time comes.
Several folks have asked me about the hatching process. I will try to keep you updated as the next three weeks go by so you can see what happens. Step one is getting the eggs. I ended up splitting this order with a friend. They got here on Thursday and we were able to meet up over lunch to divide them up. I ended up with a dozen buff eggs and another 14 mixed up of black/lavender splits, splash, and blue/black/splash. Basically I can get buff, black, lavender, blue or splash out of this lot. I'm hoping for a couple of really good buff roosters and some lavendar hens. The rest will just be frosting and for fun.
Once I got the eggs home I let them rest until Friday morning. Eggs have a hard time in transit. The post office is not gentle with packages even if you mark them "Fragile". This seller had packed everything really well so we didn't have any that were broken. They can get shaken up though, so the rule of thumb is that you let them sit for 24 hours with the air cell up.
Friday around lunch time I finally got the incubator up and running. I do what is called a dry hatch, meaning that I keep the humidity really low. In the summer I don't add any water at all until the very end. My humidities in the summer tend to be around 30-35% with no help. Winter is a little drier, so I have added a small glass of water to help things out. I never put water in the incubator trays. I can't control things once the water is in there and I have no recourse should things get off. I have found that using a glass of water works both to up the humidity and to act as a heat sink to help stabilize temperatures.
I also line the wire with the cushy shelf liner. It makes for really easy clean up when all is done and it provides a solid footing for the young chicks. It also helps to keep the eggs from rolling around so much.
The eggs went in around lunch time. The seller very neatly wrote colors on the ends of the eggs so I am using that as my direction marker. I had three ameraucana eggs from my pen that I added in as well. I have a new rooster in that pen and I want to see what he is doing. In for a penny, in for a pound I guess.
This is a shot of the incubator doing its thing.
The shot glass looking thing in the top left corner is my water. It's actually a really snazzy measuring cup, but size wise it holds about as much as a shot glass. Humidity is all about surface area. I have a couple of different size glasses that I use to get humidity where I want it. So far this is holding humidities at about 28%.
The grey thing at the bottom is a thermometer/hygrometer unit. These are seldom accurate right off the shelf, so it is a good idea to calibrate them before using them.
So everything is humming along in there. The incubator is a Genesis Hovabator 1588. It has a built in thermostat and holds temperatures really well. All I have to do at this point is turn the eggs. Some say to turn 5 times a day. I pretty much turn them once a day. The hens don't seem to turn them five times a day. Turning them keeps the developing chick from sticking. I tend to leave shipped eggs alone for the first little bit. I'll start turning twice a day after about a week.
So that's it for the next week or so. On day 10 I'll candle to see what is developing. By then I should be able to see veins running around the inside of the egg and a dark spot that is the developing embryo. Fingers crossed!
The only problem at this stage is keeping the cats off the incubator. It is a nice, toasty place to catch a nap!