I started this chicken obsession with wanting to raise heritage Rhode Island Reds. As some of you may know, you can't just go down to the local Tractor Supply Company store and get heritage birds, or even get them from a hatchery.
Seeing how this website is partially responsible for my obsession, well mostly responsible. I figured I would seek help from it's members in finding good specimens of this breed. I was pleasantly pleased to find this task easy to do as most members in the Heritage Rhode Island Red forum were more than happy to help. http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/407294/the-heritage-rhode-island-red-site
I was able to find a great breeder of these Reds within a few hours driving distance. I purchased 2 breeding pairs. I had also found a breeder willing to ship fertile eggs from her champion stock. Luckily both sources share the same bloodlines so it should not complicate things too much if the lines are bred to one another.
I purchased a dozen eggs from the breeder in Florida, http://www.hilltop-farm.info/store. She shipped extra eggs to help cover any losses. And that was a good thing with how things turned out with the U.S postal service.
I guess the words fragile and this end up translates to smash and store sideways in postal language.
Despite the damage to the box and having it stuffed sideways in the mailbox, none of the eggs were broken thanks to the way they were packed.
After carefully removing the eggs, I candled them to check for loose air sacks . 9 of the 20 eggs had loose air sacs and 7 of those were saddled at my day 7 candling.
With all my time lurking the forums I had found the information I needed to deal with this common situation when dealing with shipped eggs. http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/hatching-eggs-101 is a great article in the learning center
I was using a Hova-Bator 1588 with digital readout and 2 other thermometers to track temperature. The Hova-Bator claims to to be calibrated at the factory and does not need adjustment. The 2 other thermometers showed a 2-3 degree difference. Not wanting to cook my eggs I dropped the temp in the Bator 2 degrees and hoped for the best.
Day 19, 2 days early I get my first pip. I read that 1 deg difference can affect hatch times by 24 hours. on day 20 the rest hatch.
After I cleaned out and sterilized the incubator I tested the temperature with the 2 thermometers again, this time it matched the reading on the digital readout of the incubator.
And that's when it hit me, "the turning tray makes the eggs sit 2 inches higher than the screen floor of the incubator" If the incubator was calibrated to provide 99 deg temp at floor level then at 2 inches higher it would put the eggs closer to the heating element making it hotter.
Now I can start my next hatch with the correct temp instead of running high the first 5 days.
Despite all the issues I had with my very first hatch, the damaged shipping box, the overheating, I still ended up hatching 14 of the 20 eggs I received.
I was shocked, from what I read about the reliability of shipped eggs and all the problems that can occur, loose air sacks, scrambled, cracks I was hoping to get at least 5 to hatch.
I wont take the credit for almost 75% hatch rate, the credit goes to the great eggs and packing from the breeder and all the great folks willing to share in their knowledge on how to successfully breed chickens and deal with the complications.
And now for some pictures.....