Tuesday, November 20, 2012

They're here! Incubating Eggs Day 1

Samuel Little, Bantam Salmon Faverolle Cockerel
Incubating & Hatching Chicken Eggs
We ordered hatching eggs last week to continue working on our winter hatching program.  We'd already picked up our adorable Paint Silkies to start that project.  With this batch of eggs we're continuing with Porcelain, Patridge, Lavender, Buff, and White Silkies as well as some Bantam Salmon Faverolles (Poor Samuel Little needs some ladies to keep him company), and we're helping a young friend out by trying to hatch some of he and his Mom's first Japanese Bantam eggs. 

Since we just finished a hatch of Silkie eggs about 7 days ago, I need to first clean and disinfect our incubator.  We're using the Hovabator 1588 for this clutch.  I disinfect with a Clorox and warm/hot water mix (4 parts water/ 1 part Clorox) then rinse and dry.  Always, always clean and disinfect your incubator after hatches and I also like to clean and disinfect it one more time before putting new eggs in.  I'm a bit of a nut for biosecurity. 
Once I have the housework of it done, I set it up at a Temperature of 99.5 and humidity level of 50-55% for 24-48 hours BEFORE setting the eggs.  This ensures our eggs go into proper conditions.  I took this photo when I first set up the incubator, about 20 minutes into it being set.  As you can see, the temperature is still too low and the humidity was too high.  This gave me a chance to make adjustments PRIOR to jeopardizing the chicks' development.  If I already have the eggs, we keep them at room temperature and just ensure we rotate them (or be lazy and put them in the egg turner OUTSIDE of the bator like this time) until it's time to put them in.   That's what leads us to today! 
Hatching eggs should arrived packaged very securely if you're purchasing from another breeder.  If you're hatching your own eggs, you won't have to concern yourself with this part.  As you can see, this breeder does a thorough job of protecting the eggs from the jarring and tossing that happens to boxes during the mailing process. 
She also takes special care of the eggs inside of these bubble wrapped and filler surrounded (I've already removed the newspaper filler that kept the egg cartons from shifting around.  THIS type of care and concern is what I've grown to expect and love from my favorite breeders.  It's not only professional but it shows great pride in the chickens they raise and I know they want us to have a successful hatch almost as much as we do!  
Of course, next we carefully unwrap the eggs, notate the date and which eggs are there (breed, type, variety, condition, etc.) and I  mark each of the eggs with the breeder's initials if I'm incubating more than one breeder's eggs. This helps me keep track of which colors and chicks I hatch from each breeder for future use. I also use this information to track things like hatchability and any defects. All of this plays an important role in breeding if you're trying to improve the quality of your birds and not just breeding to do it.
I use an egg turner in my incubator, it makes the job of hatching easier because you won't have to turn them yourself.  We put our eggs gently in with the small (pointed end) down into the turner.  If you don't have an egg turner, you'll also need to mark an X and an O on opposite sides of your eggs.  You'll need to gently turn the eggs three times a day up until Day 18.  When you place the eggs in your incubator without a turner, you'll want to lay them on thier side and all of the eggs with either X or O facing up.  This helps you remember which eggs you've already turned during those three times a day. 
 I then place my egg turner into my incubator and secure it properly.  I usually check on the eggs about every 30 minutes the first few hours.  Adding the eggs to the incubator and holding it open while you add them changes your temperature and humidity so you'll want to keep a close eye on that.  If the glass begins to accumulate drops of water on the underside of it (if you're using an incubator with a viewing area) then your humidity is TOO high.  Open some of the plugs found on it for ventilation.  I keep two thermometers and a hydrogmeter in our incubator to ensure I am accurately tracking my conditions.  If the humidity is too low or the temperature is too low, close those holes and/or add water.  This is why it's so important to have your settings correct before you start.  You'll have a better feel for your incubator and much more control over your new chicks' environment.  I never have any trouble checking the incubator this often- most of the time my kids are checcking even more often!  The big rule is, however, look all you want but LET IT BE!  If your conditions are right where they need to be- LEAVE IT ALONE! :)  It's hard for me so I realize it's tough for the kids but it's so important. 
Now that you're monitoring your clutch carefully- you are all set until Day 7 if you'd like to candle them!  Enjoy the anticipation!  The closer hatch day comes - 21 days from your first day of incubation- the more it feels like Christmas around here!  We'll be back around Day 7-9 to discuss candling!  

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