Saturday, February 14, 2009

But I didn't know it was loaded.

Any one who knows our daughter Emma quickly realizes that her mind is finely focused on one thing and one thing only...chickens. She is frequently called "the Chicken Girl". She loves her chickens.

But what started as her pets has escalated into a new obsession for mom. We started with a few chickens a couple years ago. Then I started collecting chickens like some women collect shoes. I don't know what got into me but I just was captivated by these birds. They were pretty, funny and came in such a variety of breeds and colors...I wanted to collect them all!

Then last summer one of our Australorp hens, "Pickety" decided to go broody. We had her sit on nine eggs and eight of them hatched. We were so excited. Then it dawned on me "Why can't we make our own chickens?!? Just think of all of the eggs and meat we could produce!" But to become a poultry alchemist one could not just wait on her hen to get in the mood to hatch eggs now and then. No, we would need an incubator! So, early this year I ordered the Hovabator 1588 with an auto turner.

My incubator arrived and I couldn't wait to use it. I knew I wanted to order some hatching eggs of breeds we didn't have like Cuckoo Marans and Speckled Sussex. But the folks at the Backyard Chicken Forum all recommended to practice on a batch of eggs that were either cheap or better yet, free. Well, with 11 hens and 2 roosters, I assumed the eggs from my own chickens would work. But this being the middle of winter I also assumed that they probably were not the most fertile eggs. It seemed the hens rarely ventured off their perches long enough to get "fertilized"...if you know what I mean!

So, I decided if I was to experience at least some luck this first time around, I would start off with 12 eggs. I candled the eggs after 7 days in the incubator and saw embryos in all of them! Candled the eggs at 10 days and could see that one had stopped developing and culled that egg. At day 18 I candled the eggs one last time and the remaining 11 all had little moving embryos.

But still with all of this development going on I kept telling myself there is no way this is going to work the first time I do this. Is it? I kept reading all of heartbreaking posts on the chicken forum of how folks have lost chicks on the day of the hatch due to the humidity not being right or some other factor. You do have to watch the humidity inside the incubator like a hawk. But I make a pretty good hawk!

Emma was so excited about the possibility of having chicks but I kept warning her not to get her hopes up too high. After all this was just an experiment to see if the manufacturer's setting on the incubator were correct. Well, to make a long story not much longer, all of the 11 eggs hatched beautifully with absolutely no problems. I was in shock! I didn't know the eggs were that fertile and I didn't know that we would do such a competent job incubating them. Just like so many shooting accidents where the person holding the gun says "I didn't know it was loaded", my sentiments exactly! I guess you shouldn't put eggs in the incubator unless you intend to hatch everyone of them. Especially if you are using a Hovabator 1588. Any incubator that sounds like a movie that Arnold could star in is surely going to get the job done.

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