Its hatch day! Oh Sommer, I am so excited by this batch. I started with 24 project eggs + 2 purebred NH eggs. As my incubator only holds 18 in a layer, the other 8 sat on top and I hand-turned them all. Then a hen went broody so I gave her the 8 eggs that were double stacked, in order to turn on the auto-turner. The broody hen is a pure NH who broke into my hoop coop (which houses 4 bantams) in order to go broody. The three cochins in that pen joined her and the four of them have shared those 8 eggs for the past two weeks. Any time I checked, there were different numbers of eggs under different hens! When one got up to take her broody break, the others would quickly scoop the eggs under them so they never had a chance to get cold.
I had to discard one egg from the incubator that quit midway through so went into hatch with 17 of the 18 eggs in the incubator. I never candled those under the broody hens.
They were due yesterday and started hatching the evening before. The hatch went on all day yesterday and this morning I awoke to a couple of new chicks. Another hatched early morning and I thought I was done with 4 eggs unhatched. However when I picked up one of the eggs, I found it had a dime sized hole on the bottom where I hadn't been able to see it, and that chick hatched an hour later. So, I discarded one and 3 didn't hatch (though are fully developed). Both the NHs hatched, which means 12 project chicks that all hatched unassisted (no curled toes or legs as far as I can tell this time). Plus, I went down to check on the broody hens and I believe all have hatched down there as well. I saw at least 4 - each mama hen had at least one under her - but in feeling around under them, I didn't find any unhatched eggs - only empty shells - so I am hopeful we have another 8 project chicks down there.
The really interesting thing. The chicks that hatched in the incubator are all black/white, brown/white or blond. However all 4 of the chicks I saw under the broodies are reddish with brown patches. How odd! There was nothing different about those eggs - same parents and the only reason they were selected is they were the 8 sitting on top. Yet how odd that the 4 I've seen all look about the same - and nothing like any of those in the brooder!
Here are a few pics of the chicks and their 4 mamas. As I watched, a chick would come out from under one, poke around for a minute and then when it got cold, crawl under a different mama. I've had hens co-parent before and the chicks treat each of them like a mama, and when cold will simply crawl under the nearest hen. It is so funny to stick my head in that dog house and hear four different voices all doing the mama cluck-cluck-cluck at the same time