I'm pretty darn excited tonight. My hatching eggs finally all arrived in the mail today and I started them incubating. Though there won't be any really exciting news for another 21 days
(when they are due to hatch), just getting them going is a milestone!

This is my incubator. After consulting with the owner of the ranch where I got most of the eggs, I decided on this Brinsea Octagon 20 Eco incubator, or bater, as he refers to it. Brinsea makes the best of the best small incubators - this is the bottom of the line for them. At $200 it still didn't come cheap, but if I can get a good hatch out of it, I won't complain.

The picture above is just the bottom part of the incubator and the turning cradle. Like the name implies, it's a octagonal shape, and it's built to hold up to 24 chicken eggs.

You have to turn eggs at least 3 times a day while they're incubating in order to keep the yolks from settling to the bottom and deforming the chicks. This turning cradle does the work for you, rocking the incubator ever so slowly back and forth throughout the day. If a mother hen were incubating these eggs she would instinctively turn them too. I don't trust myself to remember, so I was glad to pay a little extra to get the autoturn cradle.

This tray fits inside the incubator and holds the eggs. The wire dividers can move to allow for all different sizes of eggs. You could hatch everything from reptiles to love birds in this thing, at least that's what the instructions say.

The heating element resides in the bottom of the lid, pictured here. Pretty fancy! Eggs are supposed to stay between 99.3 and 99.6 degrees during incubation, so a heating element is a necessity. It's got a knob on top that allows you to adjust the heat so it's just right. The more expensive Brinsea incubators have nicer, easier to use temperature adjusters and thermometers. This one will work just fine for my purposes.

This gives you a good idea of what it looks like with the lid on, minus the egg tray, which I took to the kitchen to give a good scrub. Cleanliness is a must with this sort of thing, although I wonder how clean it is under a mother hen....... this process is neat, but it seems pretty darn nit-picky compared to the natural process.

Measuring humidity levels is another important aspect of incubation. I bought this digital hygrometer/thermometer at a local grow shop. It's got a probe that can go in the incubator, while the screen that shows the levels sits out on the table.

I attached the probe inside the incubator, just above egg level. I turned the incubator on a few days before the eggs arrived, just to get it steady at the right temperatures......

.....here's the first package! Six Black Austrolorp eggs from Meyer Hatchery in Ohio. They came Priority Mail in this fancy box backed in foam with special egg cutouts. The rest of my eggs weren't due to arrive for a few days, so I stored these six in the basement (where it's cool) and waited.

The second delivery came two days later from Crain's Run Ranch, also in Ohio. The owner, Jeff, has been ever so helpful in getting me these eggs (it's really late in his season) and helping me pick out an incubator. They were supposed to come a week earlier, but the hens were starting to molt, and their egg production was slowing. Luckily, he was able to collect 12 (actually 13, he sent one extra!) last weekend and ship them to me. As you can see, the packaging wasn't quite as fancy as from the hatchery.....

The box was stuffed with shredded paper and each egg was wrapped individually in bubble wrap. It worked - not one was broken! These are Buckeye chicken eggs. I've been pining after Buckeyes for a while now. They're exceptionally cold hardy, sociable toward humans, good egg layers, and they have the distinction of being the only breed of chicken that was entirely developed by a woman. They a very rare breed - I decided to incubate eggs because I couldn't find anyone who had live Buckeye chicks this time of year. Eggs were my only choice. I'm kinda glad it worked out this way. Hatching is exciting, and I feel almost like I'm the mother hen!

Here they are, all ready to go. I stuffed a few old socks in the side to keep them from tipping over. I'm not sure if that was the right thing to do, but it didn't seem right to let them be tipsy inside the bater. The instructions didn't say anything except to make sure the eggs were sitting pointy side down.....

Now before anyone gets upset, yes, I know there is a legal limit of 4 hens in the City of Madison. BUT I've read that a 50% hatch rate is good for mailed eggs, plus at least half could be males. I intended to start with 18, but since Jeff sent one extra, I've got 19. If I end up with a bunch of males or extra females, I'll either sell them or give them away. I'm sure someone will want them to raise for meat.... I hope. I can't keep them, that's clear.

This is what they look like now, and for the next 21 days. The temp is set, the humidity looks good.....now all I have to do is wait. In a week or so I'll take them out and candle them to make sure they're developing. Waiting is hard!
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1 comment:

  1. Very exciting! Let me know when/if I can help set up the brooder! You're a wonderful Urban Farmer, and I'm sure you'll have the happiest chickens in Madison!


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