Friday, June 11, 2010

hatching chicks

On a recent trip to visit the farm, the girls all scurried out of the van immediately upon our arrival and ran with their friends to the barn to collect eggs. It's their favorite job on the farm and they came back with a huge bucket of eggs. They put them in cartons and put them in the fridge. A bit later, I caught up with Rosie and her pockets were bulging and she was cradling something in the front of her shirt. She backed away from me defensively when I approached her and I saw that she had half a dozen eggs. I said, "Rosie we need to put those in the refridgerator, they are going to get broken." She looked at me with wide eyes and exclaimed, "But Mommy, these ones are not food!!!" I didn't really know how to respond, but I convinced her to at least put them in a carton and we set them aside and brainstormed how to handle the delicate situation. Jenna suggested we bring home the incubator and hatch them. The chickens on the farm free range with a couple of roosters so they were fertile eggs. Being the brave Momma that I am, I figured we'd give it a try. It'd be a good educational experience, right?

So we brought 15 eggs home. The first thing we learned was that the eggs don't start to develope until they have the right temperature of 102 degrees. So in the meantime they can be stored at room temperature on their sides. We did a little research and made up this calendar with the guidelines of how incubate the eggs, to hang by the incubator.

The incubation period was 21 days and since we didn't have the luxury of a self turning incubator, we (mom) had to turn the eggs a half turn, 3 times per day. We marked one side with an * and the other side with a number, 1-15 so we could keep track of the turning.

Exactly 21 days later, the hatching began! we just saw a little piping on most of the eggs (I guess that's what you call the little cracks they make with their egg tooth) I had started spraying the eggs with water a few days earlier to keep the shells moist, and when I sprayed them that morning, I jumped with surprise when I heard them peep in response from inside their shells! I called the girls downstairs and they sat next to the incubator in silence listening for the tiny little peeps! It was Memorial Day, so it was perfect, nobody had to go to school or work and we had no plans, so we just hung out and watched the eggs all day!

Lily made a book and sat at the kitchen table taking notes and documenting the whole process. She recorded which chicks hatched, what number they were and what color egg they came out of.

She awarded the first little chick to make his way out of it's egg with a blue ribbon:

It was so amazing to watch how hard they had to work to get out. They were so weak when they first hatched, it was hard to believe they would make it.

But they fluffed up in no time and began pecking around.

Thanks to Rosie the egg collector (as she signed her name on a gift carton of food eggs for grandma) these eggs were not food, they are little chicks and she got to be a part of the whole process!

There were 5 eggs that didn't ever begin to hatch. One of which was a full grown chick. One chick made significant progress pecking thru the shell and died sometime during the process. There was one poor little chick with deformed legs who didn't make it and another that never seemed to grow and died within a few days. The girls handled it very well. We had tried to prepare them for this reality from the beginning, another very hard, but valuable life lesson. I think we would have done much better if we had a self turning incubator and could have kept the temperature more constant. It seemed to fluctuate a lot and that can cause a lot of problems as the embryos develop.

In the end we have 7 healthy chicks who are growing sooo fast! We'll ship the roosters back to farmer Brian. If all goes well, we hope to keep a few hens in the backyard. The motion to change the city ordinance to allow chickens goes before the city this month and we're hoping and praying it gets approved.

1 comment:

Messy Moma said...

This makes me soo happy! We tried three different times to hatch eggs at our house and we weren't ever successful. "Uncle Joe" insisted the eggs were fertile but I dont think they were. Thanks for sharing your egg-venture!