Thursday, March 24, 2011

Successful First Hatch!

Much to the delight of my anxious kids, our chicks hatched last week!  Out of an initial 22 eggs, 19 hatched.  One of the chicks died after "zipping" (where they peck a long series of holes in the shell).  I'm not sure what happened to him, but he must have gotten stuck.  So, we ended up with 18 chicks!  That's a great success!  Within 24 hours, we had chosen 5 to keep and sold the other 13.  Now, we just sit back and wait to do it all over again in about two weeks!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Waiting for the Hatch!

It's been pretty exciting around her lately... I mean, even more so than usual.  The weather is finally beautiful, the kids can romp around outside, Asa has taken an interest in BMX and now has his very own bike to take to the track as soon as we get him a helmet, and the first clutch of eggs are starting to break through their shells!

When we reached 6 dozen eggs in the fridge, I knew I had to kick things into gear and start selling some eggs.  Last week, I sold 9 dozen.  This week, I decided that we need to sign up weekly deliveries, in order to help me calculate how many I have to sell.  So, starting next week I have four dozen claimed per week.  I have slots for 2 more dozen.  Eggs are collected, cleaned, put into cartons, and taken to the church when I pick Ivey up from school.  So far, so good!  In all the craziness, I even loaded Asa, Ivey, and Olive into the van and headed on a Craigslist run, bringing home 6 more laying hens to help meet the demand.  Now, we are getting a minimum of 12 per day.  Not too shabby.

Indoors, Jeff helped me make a homemade incubator out of a styrfoam cooler, a $10 water heater thermostat, an old computer fan, and ceramic light fixture with a 25watt bulb.  Add some hardware cloth and a thermometer/hydrometer and you're done... or done-ish.  You do have to sit and fiddle with the thermostat, light bulb combo for a good long while before you learn to make it work together.  What you have to realize is that the hot water heater thermostat is made to have a 6 degree swing.  It won't turn off or back on until the temp has changed by 6 degrees.  Well, that doesn't work in egg hatching.  So, after some trials and a bunch of brain power, I placed the thermostat directly above the light bulb... so that it is touching it.  Then, I positioned the fan to blow directly on to the bulb... which does circulate the air throughout the cooler, but also works to quickly cool that hot light bulb down.  The end result was that the light bulb comes on, heats the air in the box to a good temp, but the hot bulb is actually hotter than the air in the box.  So, the therostat registers that it is at the upper end and shuts off.  Then, that hot bulb cools off quickly from the fan, so although the rest of the boys if fluxing between 99.4 and 100.6, the light bulb has a much wider swing.  The thermostat was effectivly tricked, and we have a toasty incubator for $24.

We aren't using this one as a full blown incubator right now, it does not have an automatic egg turner. But during the last 3 days of the setting, the eggs are in "lock down".  They aren't turned at all, and they need a slightly higher humidity than before.  So, my homemade bator is now our hatching bator.  I just move over the eggs that are ready to go into lock down, clearing up the other bator for another set of eggs.  One day, I will most likely build a homemade bator that is big enough to hold a $30-$40  turner.  For now, I have my hands full.  We still have a brooder to make (I think I've figured this out... we'll see...) and we have to get our heads around who we sell and who we keep.  This sounds like work, but this is the fun stuff!

Jeff did make me a fabulous mobile chicken coop.  My "chick mobile" has roosts and a good door to hold them in at night.  Nesting boxes that open from the outside so no one has to actually go inside the thing unless you are the one laying the egg.  I need to paint it, but it already looks great to me!  As of now, we have 3 buff orpingtons, 2 barred rocks, 3 white leghorns, 4 Rhode Island Reds,  and 9 red stars.  We also have a lone Aracauna rooster and a Buff Orpington rooster.  In the next few weeks, I will be trying to get a setting together of straight buff orpingtons and straight white leghorns (assuming my white leghorn delivery comes through!).  Yes, I'm addicted.  It's just so fun!

Day 18 was on Friday, and I moved each egg from one incubator to our homemade hatching box.  The temp is still looking very steady, and tonight, we already have 5 little chick-a-dees cracking through!  It's so weird to hear peeping coming from inside an egg.  Everyone is totally excited to see what strides are made over night. 

In other non-chicken related news...

Asa is interested in BMX, so we found him a bike today!  It needs new tires and tubes, but it's in pretty good shape!  Hopefully, I can get him out there to practice this week... assuming I can get him a helmet... hmm... I need an assistant!

 Olive is walking a lot more now.  It's still not her primary mode of transportation, but she is trying to on her own more and more.  Whenever Ivey comes near her, Olive goes ahead and drops to her knees.  The poor girl knows she's about to get knocked over.  Those two are going to be quite the pair.  I see daily boxing matching in my future.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Egg Candling

Jeff is finishing up my new chicken coop, and I will post pictures soon!  I absolutely love it, and I love the 14 new hens that we have pecking around the yard!  On my birthday, I decided that the weather was just too fabulous to do our school work indoors.  So, we headed for the yard, with all of our books and a white board.  We did spelling lessons with sidewalk chalk, read out loud to each other in the grass, and enjoyed the preview of Spring!

We now have one barred rock, some buff orpingtons, white leghorns, and red stars.  We have one Americauna rooster and I just brought home a buff orpington rooster in hopes that we can make some little buff orpington chicks in the next hatch!  When the new rooster came here, our Americauna rooster kicked his little butt all across the yard.  It was an honest to goodness cock fight.  In the end, the new guy ran into the woods.  We couldn't find him that night and we were sure he was a goner.  The next day, we looked to no avail.  We went to run our errands and when we were driving home, we saw him!  He was pecking around the church next door.  I let the boys out and they corralled him back home.  After a night or two in a separate pen, the two roosters now live together pretty well!

Today was my first attempt at egg candling.  We are 4 days into our incubation, and I believe I can see the tell tale blood vessels in a few of the eggs.  Most of our eggs are brown, so I am having a hard time seeing through the shell.  We do have a light egg that I could actually see the little dark spot which is the developing embryo!  I'm not sure how many of these eggs are actually gestating, but I do know that at least one or two are!

Asa is completely excited about our first hatch, and he counts down to March 21st each day!  I'm hoping that my candling abilities will improve, and I hope that I can find a way to see more clearly through these brown shells!