As part of our preparations to moving to WV, we are working on expanding our flock of chickens from three to about 30. On Christmas Eve we set a dozen eggs in an incubator. I was told to only expect about a 50% hatch rate since the eggs were shipped. We ordered 9 Cream Legbars and 3 English Buff Orpingtons.
We set the incubator up on the buffet in our dining room, with a plant next to them for fresh oxygen and we made a paper chain for little Peter to visualize how long it would take the eggs to hatch. He has really enjoyed removing a link every morning when he wakes up.
I had tested the incubator for 24 hours to confirm the temperature and humidity would be right for incubating, but I didn’t think about testing the size of chicken eggs in it. I was disappointed to realize our incubator only fit 9 eggs in the automatic turner, and even that was a stretch. I kept 3 eggs off to the side, started turning them manually and placed an order for another incubator.
While we waited for the second incubator to arrive, I opened the top 5 times each day to rotate the eggs manually and moved them around occasionally, in an attempt to mimic mama hen moving the outer eggs to the middle.
I was so disappointed when I realized I had put the rotating arm inside of the egg turner (see the metal bar in the top right of the photo below?) and it cracked two Legbar eggs. It was too early for me to see if they would have grown or not. I removed one divider from the turner and moved the eggs around, only needing to leave one outside of the automatic turner.
When the second incubator arrived we candled the eggs and saw some beginning to develop; blood vessels looking like spider legs, stretching from a dark spot near the center. Some were very clear and others not, the Cream Legear eggs were much easier to see through than the Orpingtons. We moved the three eggs that didn’t seem to be growing to the second incubator once it was warmed up. What a relief to be able to take advantage of the automatic turner for all the eggs!
I have been trying to maintain a constant humidity, and finding it a bit challenging. I think it was partly due to opening it to turn the eggs (our house is at about 30% humidity right now). I figured out that I needed to add less water more frequently (usually 3-4 times per day) to keep it more consistent and now that I am able to use the automatic turner, I’m just cracking open the top a tiny bit to add the water.
One of our cats discovered a warm place to nap. I was really worried when I saw her on top of one of the incubators, covering up the air exchange hole in the lid. Fortunately the temperature only went up to 100.2, not enough to do damage. After that, I started covering the incubator with an upside down wooden crate. Now she can enjoy her warm spot and the eggs are safe, with plenty of air space around the incubator.
We checked the eggs in the second incubator with the candle again and we could not see any development (we cracked them open and confirmed). We’re down to 7 eggs and back to one incubator.
Day 16 (Today)
We checked them with the candle again. I keep forgetting to take a photo when we candle our eggs, but tonight was really exciting because I was surprised to clearly see the silhouette of feathers (or fuzz?) on one of the eggs!
It was so amazing to see how big they are getting. We did have one Buff Orpington that stopped growing. We opened the egg shell to get a closer look (after checking, rechecking and comparing it to the others with the egg candle to be sure). It looked (to my novice eye) that it was about 5 days along when it stopped growing. I think it may have had a blood ring, indicating bacteria got inside the egg.
So, we are just a couple of days away from lockdown and we have one Buff Orpington and 5 Cream Legbars that appear to be growing beautifully. We’re excitedly awaiting hatch day and hoping for a successful hatch! They should hatch on Saturday.