This month, we collected eggs from our very own chickens, and got them set up in our incubator to hatch in early March!
I had kind of given up on incubators because I find them difficult to work with, but a Christmas gift got me back to using them and it's fun! Charlotte gave me an order for a dozen Deathlayer chicken eggs. I am super excited about this gift! These are gorgeous chickens, and they truly have the most awesome name. Deathlayer hens, it is said, will lay an egg faithfully every day until they die. My kinda hen. Of course, we first need to hatch the eggs. But how?
In 2020, Charlotte and I used an incubator. Chicken eggs need to have the temperature and the humidity level just-so. Which makes sense, because underneath a broody hen the environment is predictable and optimized, so that’s what the eggs have evolved to. Under the hen, it is naturally around 99.5 degrees and 40-50 percent relative humidity. Humans make incubators to replace the hen and control the whole process. We have those incubators in rooms which are around 65-70 degrees and much less humid, which means that we now have to add all kinds of gizmos and gadgets to the darn things to get those temps and humidity levels just right. I had anxiety attacks doing this, which you would understand, if you know my general preference for doing things the simple way. I got a little traumatized.
So in 2021, we put twenty five eggs under four broody hens, the no-gadget, natural way, the way I like to do things. Well, it was simple, and it was very cute having the moms raise the chicks, so we may do a few again this year. But it was not a great success. The hens were mediocre on the brooding front. Once or twice they just left the clutch and let the eggs get cold. In the last days when the chicks were hatching, some of the hens got on and off their clutches. This is a big no-no. The hatching process is even more sensitive to moisture levels and temperature than the brooding and the ready-to-hatch chicks can get stuck, zipped in the egg, and die. Very sad. In the end, thirteen of the eggs hatched. I did an autopsy (Yep. I did) of the unhatched eggs and found that about half of the dead chicks had gotten stuck in that very last critical time.
That means we are not going to leave our very expensive and very desirable Deathlayer eggs to our not-so dependable hens! But we also don’t want anxiety attacks. To manage this, I am doing a practice incubator run, using the Madhaven Farm method which I got from my farmer-friend Mariko (a former student of Mark’s). Mariko is amazing at everything she does, and the Madhaven Farm method is very meticulous. I prepped the incubator for three days to get the temperature and moisture settings calibrated. I will candle the eggs on days 10 and 18. We have a good observation set up. We know how to add moisture without disturbing the eggs. We collected eggs the past four days that we know are from the Easter Egger hens so we hope their babies will lay multi-colored eggs as well.
So here we are (see photo below), replacing the hen with something that looks like it's from the NICU ward in a hospital! Well, all in good fun, and hopefully we will hatch some lovely chicks in three weeks.
Big Foot (she/her)