Lessons in Incubation

Posted on May 17th, 2011 by Tonia 1 Comment

{Alternate title: The Chicks That Weren’t}

I teased you a couple weeks ago with the promise of an exciting event: baby chicks hatching right here in our living room. Sadly…that much-anticipated event never took place. Here’s the story:

Currently there are three chickens living at our house. They belong to the awesome folks renting the cottage on our property. They {the folks} let us collect eight eggs from the two hens to try and hatch some chicks! We were hoping to hatch about three chicks from this number of eggs {we set the bar low, being that this was our first time attempting to hatch eggs, so we were not very confident that they’d all survive…and although he, um, practices a lot, we were not totally sure that the rooster was getting the job done every time…ahem…so in other words, we figured that not all eight of the eggs were fertilized.}

Meet the gals:

Sylvia is a white and black Araucana, lays large blue/green eggs.

Emmaline is a Barred Rock “checkered” hen, lays brown eggs.

Meet the man of the coop:

Chris is an Araucana rooster, lays no eggs.

A note from their “mother” {AKA Sarah who lives in our cottage}: Chris used to be Christabel until he started crowing and well, promptly became just Chris. They are named after the Pankhurst suffragists, mother Emmaline, daughters Sylvia and Christabel. I found naming laying hens that just happen to live in a pink coop after suffragists deliciously ironic. :)

These three have a very interesting polygamous relationship going on…Sylvia is glued to Chris’s side at all times, is very easily flustered, and is always nagging him about something or other. Emmaline is very laid back and independent, sometimes wandering off alone to scratch and peck in peace. It’s so much fun to watch them, and I sometimes a lot of times snap out of it and realize I’ve been staring at them and making up chicken-conversations in my mind for whole minutes whole hours at a time, and I really should go do something productive…

Anyway, we made an incubator out of a plastic bucket, a light bulb, some wire mesh, a fan, and a thermometer. We researched online about incubating, and talked to a few experienced chicken-people about the process. We thought we had it all under control, and we were very hopeful and excited.

We waited….and we waited….and we waited the full 21 days it takes to grow a chicken. We gently turned the eggs every 8 hours. We obsessively monitored their temp and humidity. We lovingly sang them songs. At 21 days, there was a buzz of excitement around the house as we got ready for the babies to enter the world……..and slowly that excitement dwindled and gave way to grumpy shuffling around the house. It became clear by the 25th day that there would be no baby chicks hatching from these eggs.

Mike warily cracked them open over our compost heap, and examined the yolks for blood {the sign that they had been fertilized}. Only a few of them had been, and none of them had developed past a tiny, slimy gray blob in the center of the yolk.

It was a sad moment as we stared at the eggs we had cared for for 25 days laying cracked and lifeless among moldy pieces of bread and rotting squash. Life is a miracle not to be taken for granted, and death is a part of life- a big part of life on a farm.

Did we wait too long before putting them in the incubator? Was our temp too variable? We just don’t really know, but we intend to find out and give it another go. Stay tuned.

One Comment

  1. […] there are chickens around, eggs happen. And when eggs are happening, eating them needs to happen regularly, too, […]

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