by, 06-12-2010 at 10:36 AM (1311 Views)
Last fall, when eggs hit $2.25 a dozen at our local grocery store, I decided that I'd like to get a few chickens so we could have fresh eggs.
I searched through the local swap/trade paper for a good deal on a few adult birds and by spring, I'd decided that I wanted to raise some chicks of my own.
I purchased an incubator, gathered a few eggs from my hens and set about hatching my own chicks. Since I'd never hatched them before, I kept the incubator in the corner of my office,where I could keep a watchful eye on the developing chicks.
Confession- I did it so that they could "hear" the music that I play while I'm working. Shortly before they hatched, they would "cheep cheep" in their shells and I would talk to them and they'd answer back. The kids thought I'd absolutely lost my marbles, talking to these critters, still encased in shells.
However, a few weeks later, when I let them go outside to run around the yard (completely unenclosed in any pen what-so-ever), when I called them, they ALL came running. This greatly amused my kids, who attempted the same trick only to be completely ignored by the birds.
Well, since my first batch of babies were so cute, I decided to hatch a 2nd & 3rd batch. Upon attempting the 2nd batch, I noticed that one of the babies had pipped 2 days earlier, but still hadn't hatched. I read every website I could find about whether or not it was safe to "help a chick" hatch and what I discovered is that eggs have 3 layers, a protective shell, a protective membrane and a membrane rich in blood vessels. If, in your haste to help a chick, you puncture a blood vessel, your chick will bleed to death. So, I very carefully, with tweezers, removed tiny bits of shell and the first layer of membrane in teeny tiny sections. I would remove a couple pieces, wait 20-25 minutes, repeat. It literally took 10 hours to help the chick hatch. She was pretty crippled, unable to stand on her little turned in feet, which were completely Purple. It took several days before she was able to stand, bowlegged and a few weeks before she was able to walk. She's now a couple months old and you'd never know by looking at her that she wasn't normal when she hatched.
Now folks, If you're eating, I'd highly suggest finishing this article later, because here comes the less than delicious details of my 3rd batch of eggs.
Not too long ago I went out of state for a few days. Upon my return home I found more than 70 eggs in the nesting boxes. So, rather than throw them all out, I put them in the incubator. Having not known just how old they each were, or at what stage of development they were in, I had to guess at which eggs needed to be turned daily, which ones needed to be left alone.
3 of the chicks hatched perfectly just a few days ago. One little fellow pipped his shell, but after 2 days, he hadn't progressed. His little "peeps" were getting weaker and weaker and I decided that I'd once again attempt to help a chick hatch. It took about 10 hours, to my knowledge I didn't puncture any of the vessels. He was Huge! He appeared to completely Fill the egg he was in, about twice the size of a normal chick and he was weak.
A few hours later I went in to take a peak at him and see how he was doing and he had Exploded, literally.
I am Not kidding, the bottom of the incubator was covered in a liquid that looked like Bile and the the other side of the incubator was covered in blood. The chick had a hole in his underside and his little chicky innards were hanging OUT.
I was grossed out and in shock. I didn't even know it was possible for a chick to explode.
So, I had to find a way to keep the other eggs warm, while I scrubbed out the incubator. I threw a few clean towels into the dryer for 10 minutes or so, then transferred all the eggs onto the warmed towels, covered them with another warmed towel and hurried to scrub & sanitize the incubator and put the eggs back.
As if that wasn't enough chicken drama, the Air Conditioner in the room died sometime during the night, which caused the temperature in the incubator to rise overnight due to the change in room temperature. In the morning the thermometer with the eggs showed 105F. Normally the eggs have to be kept at 99.5F . So I got the temperature down and waited 24 hours.
However, the next night, the opposite occurred. The air conditioner went into overdrive and by morning the temperature in the incubator was at 95F. So I figured there was no way that the eggs would have survived the fluctuation. This morning, I sent ds outside to dig a hole to bury the remaining eggs. Just as I lifted the incubator up to carry them outdoors I heard "cheep cheep cheep". OMG, are you kidding me??
I've exploded a chick, nearly baked them, nearly frozen them and now there are chickens about to hatch??!!
I thought this process was going to be simple. . .