Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Brr... the First Chick Arrived

Are you sure it's spring?

Winter's long fingers reached out once more covering the ground in white and it hasn't stopped snowing yet. Oh joy, I just traveled 70 miles a third of it on slick roads with a horse trailer and three little ones strapped in behind me. I dropped them off with their dad and picked up a few things then headed home where all of the 70 miles home was under terrible conditions. 30 miles an hour most of the time was my top speed except when I got a little run at the hills. Wonder if the caravan of cars behind me knew it was a woman driver in the lead? You know what they say about women drivers? Maybe it's just my dad that says bad things about them but then my step-mom's nickname is Crash. What the drivers behind me were thinking I don't know but I wouldn't have been following a horse trailer all that way since my chances were far greater than the cars to slide backwards down a steep hill toward them, then into a ditch. With icy roads and three to four inches of snow on the highway. I was never so glad to pull up in front of the house.
Before I left our littlest granddaughter, 1 years old, had to crack her own eggs for breakfast. She's very competitive and what she sees her sisters do she insists on doing also. She's been practicing with plastic Easter eggs for two days. She leans over when you have her in your arms and she raps her plastic egg on the kitchen counter, then tries to open it. What a cute little bug! With the real eggs this morning she wrapped them repeatedly on the counter then skipped trying to open them and just wanted to put each one in the cup.
Amazingly she was very gentle with her two eggs and had a pancake, eggs, and pears for breakfast.
When I arrived home my arms felt so empty and lost but as I entered the house I heard peep peep and remembered that the chicks were due to start hatching today. Poor things, I don't even have anything set up for them. When I finish with this post I'll have to go transplant seedlings and set something up for the chicks in our unfinished basement crowded to the limits with shifted items. But oh how the kids will love the sight of the chick when they come home tomorrow. I keep listening but I haven't heard another sound out of any of the eggs. I always feel a bit sorry for the first one to hatch as it peeps and peeps but no one answers. If two hatch close together they hurry to each other's side and snuggle gaining comfort in one another. The lone chick just snuggles up against the eggs and waits. Hopefully this one won't have long. How many eggs are developing, I don't know for I never did get to candle them. It will be a surprise!

What a blessing it is that I bought an automatic egg turner last year for remembering to turn the eggs four times a day would have been a bit much in the mist of all this emotional and physical upheaval. Hopefully, many of the eggs are developing as I did collect the eggs from the most hatchable period which is the later part of a hen's first year. They also are very fertile in their second laying year. After this time the hatchability decreases for more of the embryos will die in the first short period of development and fewer will break out of their shells though seemingly fully developed.

If the hen is too young her yolk is too small. The best ratio is 2 parts white to 1 part yolk. Also when the hens are laying well is the time to collect eggs since they will be the most fertile. Usually that is in the spring for me and the eggs shells are nice and thick making hatchability greater than with a weak shell. I've found when the heat rises in to the 90's to the 100's the eggs shells thin which is also decreases the likely hood they will hatch.
You are suppose to gather eggs four times a day and not allow them to become chilled over night if the temperature is cold but mine well. I gathered mid day when most all the eggs would be laid and called it good. As for holding them at 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit while collecting enough to put in the incubator, I don't. I write 1 for the first day and 2 for the second day in which I put the eggs in. Too many in at a time and the temperature drops in the incubator retarding development of the ones already warm. I don't have that big an incubator and not too many eggs laid per day.

As for roosters, they need to be six months old before they are set loose on the hens for production. Rapid comb development usually means earlier sexual maturity. Good to know since different breeds mature at different rates.

Also males are more fertile in the spring versus the fall and their semen count drops way down in warm weather. They need at least 12 hours of light for optimal semen production so winter is out without a light bulb. If their comb is frozen in the winter then they will become sterile until it heals.

You really don't need many males to cover your females as they recommend 6 or 7 for 100 females.

Before I bought a new incubator having used my old one for many years turned the eggs first thing in the morning, at lunch time, late afternoon, and just before bedtime which is four times. Three is the minimum. In order to remember which way was which, I placed an X on one side and a O on the other with a pencil and lay them on their sides with lots of air able to circulate around them. Don't put eggs with the large end down in an automatic turner as this will disturb the air cells. This flipping of the eggs increases hatchability and a hen will do it on average 96 times in 24 hours. Good for her but I've other things demanding my time besides they'd get cold opening and shutting the incubator all the time. Kind of reminds me of bottle feeding which I do four times a day at first to my calves, and goat kids, and then three times a day. That's how I can also remember to turn the eggs but I've no other little barn babies this year. Good thing because I have three grand babies to feed at least five times a day.

If I by chance put eggs in over a few days, as I did this year, then I number the eggs 1 for the first day and 2 for the second and so on and so forth. I know you should put them in all on one day but you have to store them at 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit and I just don't have a spot to do that.

So the mystery is whether or not any of Gertie's eggs will hatch anything. There is the neighbors rooster running around but I've never seen him have anything to do with her. Poor ugly chicken. I did learn why she doesn't have any tail feathers. Auracanas are a cross and one of those in the mix is from South America and didn't have tail feathers. She has a little of that breed in her and is a throw back for sure. Just a really homely throw back made worse by our son's bird dog that rolled her hard a couple weeks ago. She now has only one eye that works.

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