Sunday, January 29, 2017

Candleing the eggs

Eggs must be turned when they're in an incubator.  Some incubators have automatic turners.  Mine doesn't so a couple of times a day, I turn them myself.

The eggs are due to hatch on the 9th of February.  On the 6th the eggs go in "lock down".  The humidity is increased and there is no further turning. and this is the lock down part - NO OPENING THE INCUBATOR!

After a week, you have to "candle" the eggs to see how they're getting on in there.  A primitive xray if you will.  Regular chicken eggs are easy to candle. Why don't you try it at home?  You will be suprised how porous an egg shell is.  Shine a torch (flashlight) under an egg and see what you can see!

With fertile and incubating eggs there are things to look for.

This egg didn't develop at all.  Perhaps it wasn't fertile in the first place. Eggs that look like this after 9 days will be removed.

a yolker - not my photo
In the egg incubating world, and egg that looks like this during candling is called a "yolker".

You can also see if they had started and then stopped developing and died, "a quitter". Quite often they have a well defined blood ring.
a quitter - not my photo
 All yolkers and quitters need to be removed from the incubator.

a winner - not my photo
This is a winner!

You can see the little embryo safe inside, a well defined network of veins and a nice air sac at the top.

My eggs have very dark brown shells,  I discovered when trying to candle them on day 9 that detecting development is super difficult, bordering on impossible.

If I can't see what's going on inside, I'll just keep them all in and hope that the rotten ones don't poison the ones that are developing.  

Do you know how tense this is going to be on the 9th?  I'm glad I have to go to work . . . or I will finfd myself staring at the incubator and willing chicks to come out.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

New Beginnings

I am back in my beloved Whitelees.

December 2016 saw the arrival of Avian flu.  This means a clamp down on all domestically kept birds.  We have to keep the chickens away from wild birds. To keep my four hens (and the wild birds) safe, my birds are in the hen house.  They're not allowed out in their run and certainly  not allowed access to the garden.   Boo for restrictions but if it keeps them safe, then alrighty.

My birds are getting old and even though they are hybrid layers, the slackers have not given me many eggs lately.  I was thinking about expanding my flock.  How can I do that if there are all these restrictions going on? Restrictions mean that the movements of live birds is forbidden, but not eggs! If I'm going to hatch some eggs out, I'm going to hatch GOOD ones!

I got some Maran hatching eggs (the dark brown ones) from Greenfield Marans in Lancashire. Look for them on Facebook.

I kept some Maran chickens years ago.  They came at great expense and from over 100 miles away.  They laid beautiful eggs. In the end, a fox got them. The death of those birds meant the end of the free range life for my home flock.  I replaced the chickens but never got the Maran breed again.  Getting other more common breeds was just easier.  Somebody in the village has a commercial flock and I would get birds who have just finished their first laying season from them at a very good price.

As I only have a few hens, I thought that if I was going to invest in some new birds, I'd get ones that make me the happiest.  Those hens that lay the beautiful brown eggs will be just the thing.

The Maran eggs arrived today.

Look at how expertly they have packed those eggs!

As soon as I was home from work, the eggs were popped in an incubator that has been warming up for 24 hours.

In the past, the incubation here at Whitelees was done by an actual hen.  A broody hen does a fantastic job of incubating eggs.  Once, I had a hen hatch out 14 chicks in one go!  I've also used a broody hen to hatch out duck eggs. In the absence of a broody hen, I am using a borrowed incubator.

When placing them in the incubator, I marked them with an X on one side and a O on the other. The incubator that I have does not turn the eggs,  It is supposed to turn eggs, but that part of the incubator broke.
Turning has to be done manually.  Now that they are marked, I can tell which ones have been turned.  Egg turning must be done a couple of times a day. up until the end.
Chicken eggs take 21 days to hatch.  You must stop turning the eggs on day 19.

Now our watch begins