From Eggs to Babes

April 12th, I took 25 eggs I had set aside from our hens over the previous few days and put them in our brand-new incubator.

Over the course of the next 14 days, I candled them twice and only removed one, as it was showing no signs of development.

Eggs-citing Adventure

Estimated hatch day was May 3rd, and I was certain this operation would be a complete and total failure. Having never done this before, I assumed I was doing everything wrong, and therefore – it was impossible for it to be successful.

First thing I learned: I might be a little too hard on myself sometimes…

May 2nd came, and there were pips in a few of the eggs. Then, almost quick as a flash, one of them hatched! From the time I noticed the pip until we had a chick in the incubator, it was under three hours.

I was sure we were rolling in hatches from that point on!

….but we were not. That was the only hatch we had on May 2nd, though several of the eggs had pipped.

I woke up at 12:15 am to some incredibly loud cheeping. A second hatch was making it’s entrance song known for all the world to hear.

I marveled in my half-asleep stupor, then put earplugs in and went back to sleep.

At 5:00 am, even the earplugs (in addition to me having a hearing loss) weren’t enough to drown out the noise from the incubator. Four more eggs had hatched overnight, and now there were six chicks!

Eggs-istential Crisis

By the time evening rolled around on May 3rd, 13 eggs had hatched and a few more had pipped.

One egg, which had been hatching for several hours, was struggling. Best I could tell, the lining on the inside of the egg had dried out where it had been exposed, and was cemented to the chick. It was pushing but not making any progress. I let it continue, until I saw foamy bubbles surrounding the beak (and coming out of it) and decided to intervene.

I should have watched some YouTube videos or something, about helping eggs hatch. But I gloved up and dove in, flying blind.

Long story short, I helped the chick hatch. It did nothing but lay down and breathe heavily. It did cheep a few times, but only a few. I thought I would give it a few hours to dry off and see if it garnered any strength.

It was goopy (the chick, that is), and in the process of drying off, the same goop that had cemented it inside its own egg, cemented it to the wall of the incubator. In the morning when I woke up (and found three more chicks had hatched overnight), I expected to find that chick had passed.

It had not! Thought that was when I realized it was stuck to the side of the incubator. I gloved up again, and carefully applied distilled water to rehydrate the goop to get it removed from the incubator wall.

My plan, while not a plan at all, but more of a frantic response, worked. It struggled to walk, but it was walking. If you can call it that. It was also cheeping. I couldn’t believe it.

After a few hours, I realized I was going to have to give it an actual bath.

Chicken spas aren’t a thing, but if they were, I’d make bank. I gave that little chick the best bath it could have hoped for at the time. I got a lot of it cleaned off, and then spot dried, then placed it back in the warm incubator so it could fluff up.

It didn’t fluff up, at all in fact, but it did perk up. Lots of cheeping and a lot more moving around.

By evening time and moving it to the brooder with the rest of the chicks, I had to give it another bath.

Eggs-cellent Progress

This time I didn’t glove up, so I could feel whether or not the goop was gone. I only thought the previous bath had been the best – this last one was amazing, if I do say so myself. I washed all of the hardened goop off, and it fluffed up beautifully. I put it in a separate brooder (a large plastic tote) with two of it’s hatch mates. Its little toes kept curling under and it was struggling to walk, so putting it with a few other small chicks would prevent it from being brutalized in the large brooder. As the night wore on, it was drinking water and eating food and I thought it was going to make it.

This morning I checked the incubator with its six remaining eggs, but see no pipping or progress. I’m sure we’re done, but just in case – I’m giving those eggs a couple more days to prove me wrong.

I walked to our entry, where we’ve got both brooders, and our little special needs chick is flourishing. Even walking so much better!

I can’t believe it. I thought for sure it was a gonner, but now it’s running rank in the brooder with the two other smallest chicks.

Eggs to Babes

Miracle of miracles in my small little world, we hatched 17 of our own chicks from our own flock. It didn’t fail, and I’m in awe. It’s a completely different experience hatching your own eggs versus buying/ordering chicks from the hatchery (or hardware store).

The funniest thing to me, if you’re even still reading at this point, is our little special needs chick appears to be a salmon favorelle chick. This is funny, because her mother is known around our hilltop as HeiHei (as in, that stupid, brainless chicken in Moana). OF COURSE the hatchling that would require as much help as possible to even survive is the offspring of HeiHei.

Will I do it again? Absolutely. But first, I have to figure out what I’m going to do with all these birds. I thought I’d be lucky to get five or six, and that most of those would be roosters. I haven’t sexed these chicks yet – but 17 successful hatches is more than double what I was anticipating!

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