Thursday, April 11, 2013

It's just not that easy

Incubating chickens is not a 'fix it and forget it' sort of thing. You must keep a watch and make sure things are going according to plan. 

A chicken is made for this, sitting on a nest, moving her eggs around, keeping them at the correct temperature, etc. Broody hens (that's what a chicken who sits on the nest is called) often lose the feathers on their lower breasts so that their bodies can be closer to the eggs they are trying to warm and incubate. It is called a "brood patch". Well, incubators don't have a brood patch. 
Last two days of incubation. Turner disc removed and eggs sitting on paper towels. Thanks Sue!
I am grateful that my incubator has a fan (to circulate the air), a little area for water (for humidity) and an automatic turner (so I don't manually have to go in two to three times a day and turn the eggs). This will help to increase our hatch rate and hopefully hatch healthy chicks.

Here are some statistics: 80% of our eggs should hatch. 50% will be hens, the other 50% will be roosters. We only want the hens, so the roosters will find their way to the kitchen table at about 12 weeks of age. Sad, but true.

One thing I do to help the eggs hatch is weigh them every few days. The eggs are supposed to decrease in weight by 13% over the course of their incubation period (which is 21 days). I weighed them at the beginning, determined what the weight decrease should be over the course of 21 days, created a graph and then weighed the eggs over the course of the weeks. We are now in the last days of incubation. Let's see if it worked!

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