Baby Chicks, Part One

Oh, the excitement!! Please forgive the crappy pictures: I don't want to open the incubator if I don't have to, and photographs through clear plastic just don't turn out too well.....you'll get the point at least.

Sunday was day 18 of the 21 day incubation. On Saturday night I candled them all for the last time. Disappointingly, 10 of the 12 Buckeye eggs were showing absolutely no development. It's pretty easy to tell at this point as eggs with chicks inside are completely opaque under light and the undeveloped ones let lots of light through. I cracked some of them open to make sure they weren't developed and sure enough, no baby chicks inside. That brought me down from 18 eggs to 8: 6 Black Austrolorp and 2 Buckeyes.

On Sunday morning I woke up to another of the Buckeye eggs (the one in the front and right of this picture) that had somehow sprung a leak and oozed out some liquid from inside. Initially I assumed it was bad and took it out of the incubator. After thinking about it for a few minutes, I decided maybe it had accidentally punctured a hole in it's shell a little early and perhaps it had sealed itself enough to survive. Either taking it out of the incubator for a few minutes killed it, or more likely, it was already dead. I left it in for a few days then candled it again and decided it was a goner. This only leaves me with 1 (hopefully) viable Buckeye egg out of 12 - not good! I'm guessing that's because it was a bad time for the flock, either that or the eggs got damaged in shipping. The Austrolorps from Meyer Hatchery all developed without problem.

Anyway, on Sunday morning I took the dividers out of the incubator and cranked up the humidity by adding water to the troughs underneath the egg tray. On Monday morning, day 19, two of the eggs had pipped.

Here's egg number one....

Egg number two.....

It took them forever to make their holes bigger. Here they are last night before I went to bed. When I woke up they hadn't made a whole lot more progress, and when I got home from work this afternoon they still weren't out, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Many people will tell you not to help chicks out of their shell, but these guys had been pipping for over 24 hours, and it seemed like it was time to intervene. I had a feeling, which proved to be correct, that it wasn't humid enough in the incubator. The digital hygrometer was reading 75 percent, which wasn't much higher than it had been throughout their incubation, despite the water in the troughs. On Monday morning I added a bit more humidity by running my humidifier in the room. That was after these guys started to pip, however......

So, after deciding it was time to help the little buggers out, I went for it and very carefully peeled the shell away from the little birds. I didn't see any blood, so I kept going till they were almost out. I was right about the humidity: the inner membrane was dry and tough. It was stuck to the babies pretty badly. I had to get it wet in order to get it all off the chicks so they could move their wings and legs....in the end thankfully I was successful.

It was truly incredible to help these little chicks out of their shells. They were so tightly packed into the shells..... to see them transform from eggs to chicks in my hand was amazing.

Here's one of the chicks pretty fresh out of the egg. They were pretty wobbly and awkward at first.

Soon enough they were walking around, peering at me through the glass, and clearly wanting to get out and explore the world. They'll have to wait a while though - they need to stay in the incubator at least 12 hours before they move to the brooder.

There's one more egg that's got a good pip going, they two newly hatched chicks have been rolling it around, as if they are trying to help it hatch. There's four eggs beyond that, with no signs yet of hatching. It's only day 20, there's still lots of time! We'll see how it goes.....
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