Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Dirty Dozen

Do you ever have those moments where you just amaze yourself with your own stupidity? I do, and a little too often. Just yesterday, it dawned on me that I violated the wisdom of the age-old warning: Don't count your chickens before they hatch.

Yes, I had literally counted on the twelve eggs that I put in my incubator, resulting in twelve chicks. Is that reckless optimism or hard-core idiocy?

This all began with two of my hens laying their eggs on the sly in an improvised nest under a pampas grass plant. When I tried to retrieve said eggs, I was scolded by the would-be mama, which I interpreted as her saying "These are my babies, back the hell off." Okey dokey then! Clearly these girls were ready to sit on a clutch, or so I thought.

So, I turned to good ol' Craig's List for a little help. Being that my ladies are without the services of a rooster, I had to seek out an "egg donor". I was able to find a guy who'd sell me a dozen fertile eggs for $5. Score! The only wrinkle in my plan was that by the time I had finally picked the eggs up from the dude, the hennies were no longer acting broody. So we sprung for an incubator and set our eggs to growing.

Here we are at day 6 of our journey, as you can tell by the scrawlings of my slightly enthusiastic daughters -

As I often do, I got caught up in the girls' excitement about baby chicks and dove into this endeavor head first. Therefore, I have been playing a lot of catch-up these past 6 days, reading everything under the sun about proper incubation temperatures, humidity, egg position, etc., etc. Being that this is day 6, I tried candling the eggs to see what I could see.

I had to monkey with the contrast on this photo a bit, but can you see the blood vessels, though?!? There's a wee baby chickie in there! :)

Based upon my completely inexpert candling skills, and the wattage of a mini-maglite, I was able to see signs of life in 7 of the 12 eggs. According to what I've been reading, a 50ish percent hatch rate is actually not too bad. I worry, though, that the day that we may need to discard the "duds", should there be any (I pray not) will be very hard on the girls. They're young enough to not understand very well the complexity and fragility of life, and pure of heart enough to fall in love deeply and unconditionally at first sight, even if that sight happens to be a poop-dappled chicken egg.

So our fingers are crossed, and our hearts set on hearing the sound of peeping soon. We have 15 days left to go, if these babies are prompt. Keep a good thought for my girls and their "babies" if you don't mind, and we'll keep you posted on our hatching adventure as it unfolds. ;)


  1. LOL you sound so much like me its not even funny!! We want chickens. Ok I want chickens :) but I realize that I don't have the set up. Yet. And I have a dog that I don't trust with poultry. But I digress. We went to a new ranch store here & they had chicks. I had to literally walk away from the area when my daughter started asking my husband "Can we get one Daddy? We can put it in a cage. I want one, I love them" etc, etc.

    Running head first into the fertilized eggs is something I totally would have done too :) Lots of hatch vibes being sent your way. Can't wait to see these cuties :)

  2. Good Luck. Can't wait to see pictures. I would be the same way if chicks were on the horizon. The Husband wants chickens so bad But we move a lot, military blah blah, So eventually.

    Have fun watching and waiting.

  3. LOL. I do the same - and quite often! Jessie had two friends spend the night this past winter - and each girl wanted to take home an egg - so I let them. The one girl kept it in her room for almost 4 weeks thinking it would actually hatch. I'm just so glad it didn't break on her! Good luck with this project.

  4. Well, I always said my hens have to raise them or I'm not dealing with 'em, but since we bought chicks and they weren't that hard, maybe I'll end up trying my hand at incubation. I expect you to continue to post what not to do! Thanks! ;)