First Incubation and Brooding

I love a spring project to shake off the winter. This spring, a friend of mine gave us an assortment of hatching eggs and loaned us two incubators to start our flock. So we dove in and I read up on how to do things just a step ahead of doing them.

Chickens have been a long time coming, and I thought H might die if we didn’t finally get them this year. She’s been saving (and begging, and reading, and planning) for years now.

The Brinsea incubators we used are very nice and take a lot of the worry off, because they have controls for temperature and easy setup for humidity as well as automatic turning devices. You just have to refill the water and then at lockdown time increase the water and stop the turning devices. We kept up with the humidity and temperature checks multiple times per day, taking the opportunity to sit and stare and will something to happen. It was SO hard to wait.

Then one day we had this power outage, which put them in real danger because our drafty old house is freezing right now. Like, puttering around wearing your whole wardrobe kind of cold. I had to drive them to the nearest friend’s house to borrow electricity. Living out in the middle of nowhere, that’s half an hour away. So I bundled them up, cranked up the heat in the car, and took them for a drive, then googled everything I could about what what sort of horrible fate I could expect for my half baked birds. According to Brinsea, they’d spent some time in the Zone of Mutation and would be less likely to develop – or worse – might have serious defects. I wallowed in misery a little, I’ll admit, because meeting creatures from the Zone of Mutation sounds like nothing to look forward to.

I tried to ignore this and kept going with the hatch. We got nervous about keeping up humidity during the lockdown period and there wasn’t really anything we could do about it in the little incubator (Brinsea Advanced) because it didn’t have a hole for ventilation. But the Octagon Eco did, and we used some aquarium tubing and a little funnel to add extra water to the reservoirs without opening the lid.

We did have chicks hatch in the end – 13 to be exact – but not on “Day 21, hatch day.” They hatched over the course of 5 days. We ended up not having any Olive Eggers hatch, but those eggs were so big I think they must have been less developed at the time of the outage. So we have 5 Chanteclers, 4 British Cream Legbars, 3 Black Copper Marans, and 1 Lavender Ameraucana. None of these, I’m happy to say, had suffered from their time in the ZoM.

I did end up helping the Ameraucana out of the shell though, a controversial choice among chicken people. And when I say helped, I don’t just mean picked a little shell away like most people do. A day and a half after pipping, when there was no progress and the hole was a little bigger than most pips, I pulled the egg out to hear frantic and exhausted chirping. So… I picked away at the shell in tiny chips with tweezers and a wet paper towel until she was out and left her in the incubator to warm up. I can’t count the number of times since then that I’ve said, Man, that bird is gonna die. She had a piece of shell stuck to her head like a jaunty helmet. Her down was glue-dried to her body, her belly looked sort of distended, it was gross really. And sad. And I just knew she was a goner. So of course you know that the end of this story is that she is still not dead. A little runty, but thriving and beautiful at two weeks with big eyes and silvery feathers.

2 days old
two and a half weeks old
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