Chickie Babies

My Incubation Adventures
By Laodicia · Jan 3, 2018 ·
  1. Laodicia
    My first attempt at incubating was in a 30 year old plywood box that had a double paned aquarium wall as a lid, that I got from my parents. They had tried to hatch eggs in it when I was 8 with no success. It was a still air and had one incandescent light at one end. I spent weeks adjusting everything I could think of to get a steady temperature. The distance from the light, height from the floor, how big of a gap between the edge of the glass lid and the wall of the box. I did a humidity test run, it all seemed to be working out. I spent every waking moment researching incubation online. I was super excited that my land lord had given me permission to get chickens, he even said I could use one of his buildings.

    After having stable temps in my incubator for 3 days I decided it was time to put in a few eggs. I only put in 3 because the perfect temperature seemed to be a very narrow band mid way to the light. After putting in the eggs the temperature fluctuated. I expected it to go down, from everything I had read online that was normal, don't touch it will right it self. So i went to bed. The next morning the temperature had gone up to 104. I wasn't expecting that. I tried not to panic and and adjust the lid open by about 1/2 an inch. The temperature didn't go down. I couldn't figure out what was going on. even with light adjustments and leaving it to level out. I couldn't get stable temperatures with the eggs in there. I ended up staying awake for almost 3 weeks straight getting at most 3 hours of sleep at a time, averaging maybe 5 hours a week. I was constantly adjusting. at one point after a few hours of sleep I woke up to the temperature being 114! I was incubating mid-winter in February the house temperature was stable. I couldn't understand what was going on and no sleep wasn't helping. By day 18 I was a wreck, but relieved that it was almost over. I set up the water tray under the eggs and waited for the humidity to go up.... It didn't. I had tested it. It should have worked. I hung hand towels off of all of the walls and put the bottom edges into the water tray hoping it would wick up like everyone said would happen. It didn't work. Though it did have the effect of leveling off the temperature thankfully. I spent 3 days with no sleep dumping water down the walls over the towels to keep the humidity up. I was flooding the house because the water was leaking out of the floor of the incubator, but it didn't matter, these chicks were going to live! I had my first pip on day 20, I was so relieved, but stressed that the chick must have died when it stopped peeping.

    feb 2016 pipping still air.jpg
    It seemed to take forever but the ISA brown/Dorking finally hatched.
    Sunny almost dry feb 2016.jpg
    Followed by the two Dorkings
    feb 2016.jpg
    They were quickly named. The yellow ISA cross was named Sunny, and the other 2 were named Twilight and Moon or Luna if it was a girl. They all ended up being Roos though. I was so excited to have been able to hatch my own chickens!
    feb 2016 first hatch.jpg

    Twilight was quite curious but Sunny was a super sleepy chick he stumbled around with his eyes closed for more than a day. You can see Sunny sleeping in the background of this picture.
    twilight feb 2016.jpg
    I found someone who was selling Barred Rock chicks a week later and bought 2. They were named midnight and Star I was convinced that Star must have been a boy. They took to roosting very quickly. Midnight is next to Sunny in this picture and Moon is the Doofus in the middle, he kept falling off.
    march 2016 roosting.jpg

    at a month old I felt that they were too big for their brooder box and even though it was supposed to be big enough to last them to 2 months. So I had my dad make me a 20 sq ft coop and moved them outside. Twilight and moon went to my sisters house because my landlord had changed his mind about me having chickens, and said I could only keep the 3 that I had. He didn't realize I now had 5.

    sunny twilight moon, and the girls march 2016.jpg

    Sunny grew crazy fast. He was huge compared to his hatch mates by 6 weeks and was definitely a boy. sunny 6 weeks.jpg

    By 12 weeks he had out grown his fathers size, I still wasn't sure about Stars gender. The other barred rock still had no color in it's comb and wattles so I was quite sure Star was a boy. This the the last picture I have of Sunny, the next week he started attacking people and his father was a human aggressive roo, so I decided that even though he was beautiful and was the very first chick I ever hatched I couldn't keep him around. I had a 1 and a half year old who loved the chickens and he was trying to get her. So Sunny became supper.
    Sunny 12 weeks.jpg

    My oldest sister asked if I would be willing to hatch her some chicks because she wanted a specific breed and had a source for eggs. So I went to work building an incubator that I thought would work. I also picked up a 7 egg incubator just in case mine didn't work. But I couldn't get the store bought one to hold an even temperature. I built a pretty decent sized box about 1.5' x 2' and 1.5' high. plastered silicone over the floor sealed the cracks in the corners so it wouldn't leak. painted it white and made it so I could reuse the heavy duty aquarium glass for half of the lid.
    I didn't know what to do for a fan so I thought that still air would work fine. got a couple of dimmer switches set up to 2 incandescent bulbs and started testing it out.
    After 3 months I thought that what I had made would work well enough and told my sister to get some eggs for me. She sent up some of her own, and a few buff Orpington eggs. I got 8 eggs from her. I thought that since I had managed to hatch all 3 eggs in the horrible next to useless incubator that I would have no problem with the one I made. It had dimmer switches! It had to be easier!
    may 2016 BO and Langshan temp problems.jpg

    I had to make a ton of adjustments while incubating which is not optimal. Nothing seemed to be working right I hadn't realized that you need something to block the direct light of the bulbs and so I tried cardboard to block it as you can see in this picture. That ended up being too solid and I was worried about fire. It was super hot on the light bulb side. Moved them to the store bought incubator, one had already died by that point from a hot spot. I tried setting them up inside of a cooler at one point too. By lock down I had only 3 left.

    june 2016 BO pipping.jpg

    one had pipped the wrong end right in the point of the egg, and after 48 hours I assisted. That chick didn't make it. After a few days the 2 remaining chicks went to my sisters. 1 of them died the next day due to a kid tripping over the brooder box and my sister found a couple of chicks to keep her very last Buff Orpington company.

    june 2016 BO.jpg

    After this incubation I was quite upset. I wasn't sure if I wanted to hatch chicks ever again. I went to work trying to figure out where I went wrong, surely the new incubator was better than the first one I had used.

    I bought some small desktop fans and over the summer, fall, and winter tested out different setups. Drilled holes in my box, changed how many lights I had changed the wattage, made a hardware cloth drop in wall to separate the eggs from the lights put in a tin foil layer to block the light from the eggs.

    I also made a huge incubator that I couldn't get to work properly I later used it for a brooder this is it set on it's side as a brooder before any chicks were put in.

    20170520_202522.jpg 20170520_202532.jpg

    Finally by the next spring I felt I was ready to try again. I got some eggs from my sisters hens and popped them in to my white incubator. Which my 2 year old loved.
    Incubator july 2017.jpg

    I again had a hard time keeping humidity for lock down. I had moved the whole thing to the bathroom and put a towel on the floor of the incubator. That worked, but the straws to keep the eggs off of the soggy towel didn't.

    May 2017 pipping.jpg
    I was happily surprised to have all of them hatch. I had to take them out of the incubator and put them into the fancy new brooder box I had made before they were dry though because the incubator was too wet for them they were shivering.
    may 2017 langshan.jpg

    May 2017 8 langshan chicks.jpg
    My kitties loved the entertainment.
    Kitty.jpg Cat.jpg Cat and brooder.jpg

    While incubating these chicks I realized that dimmer switches just weren't going to cut it if I was going to keep incubating. So I ordered a couple of thermostats and set them up in my incubator as soon as these guys were out. And I got my husband to pick up a small sheet of insulating board( the purple stuff on the bottom) to hold in some humidity. These alterations were done just in time because my sister wanted more. She ordered more Buff Orpington eggs and gathered up some of her own eggs for hatching. A month later I had my incubator full to capacity. I was given 36 eggs, my 2 year old felt it was taking too long to get things going and tried to set them herself breaking one on the floor, so I only had 35. Shortly after this picture was taken the fans were moved back behind the hardware cloth wall so I had enough room to turn the eggs. I was turning them by hand and it took about an hour every day to turn them 5 times.
    By day 10 there were 4 that were clear and were removed. I had several malpositions with this hatch I believe it was because I was getting tired of turning them so much and went down to only 3 times a day. My sister came up for this hatch she hadn't expected as many to hatch as did, and decided to sell a lot of them. I'm not sure how many actually hatched. There were 6 kids in the house and people coming and going buying chicks. We assisted a few, only one chick died after being assisted, it was 3 days late, and was just very weak.
    june 2017 first 14 hatched.jpg June 2017 hatch.jpg
    I think at least 30 hatched. She took 16 home.
    After this hatch I was exhausted. And was ready to be done hatching for the year. I got to work trying to set up my incubator for an easier turning system, something that I could use to turn them all at the same time. I drilled a 1" hole in either side of the incubator to fit a dowel through, and then before it was finished my sister called me up and said she had found some Buff Brahma eggs for sale. They aren't easy to find here and we were interested in checking out the breed, so I stopped messing with the turner and got my incubator ready for another go.

    My sister sent me 3 eggs of her own Blue splash Cochin/Langshan. She really wanted some Blue. And then I waited for the Brahma eggs to come.

    My impatient now almost 3 year old decided there was no good reason to wait and set the cochin cross eggs 2 days before the Brahma eggs arrived she dropped one on the floor I figured it wouldn't matter that much, and left them in. I just didn't turn them for 2 days at the end when I was turning the Brahma eggs. The person who I bought the Brahma eggs from gave me extra, her kid had "helped" her gather eggs so there were some Brahma/dark Cornish crosses mixed in. She gave me the eggs for free and offered to take the crosses back. But my sister said it wouldn't matter and kept them all.

    After having chirping chicks in and out of my house for 2 months I decided it was time to try the mother heating pad in the brooder. These new chicks were going to be at my place for almost 2 weeks.

    All eggs hatched, and they were stronger than any of my previous hatches. I think the new holes were letting in some much needed fresh air.
    The first chick was a male cochin cross who was super lovey with a several hours of being the only chick to get all the attention.
    Male cochin x july 2017.jpg
    and he was followed by a female cochin a few hours later.
    Fem cochin x july 2017.jpg

    The babies all loved the MHP.

    Brahmas july 2017 MHP.jpg
    As soon as they could they were climbing on top to stretch out.

    July 2017 Brahmas MHP.jpg
    Of course the Cat's were busy testing the security of the brooder for me.

    july 2017 brahmas.jpg

    I couldn't believe how quiet they were without a light all night. They hated it when the upstairs light was turned out for the night but got over it when I started turning the light's out around sunset. They feathered out rather quickly, and I moved them to the bigger brooder, the huge incubator box I had made. I used the MHP in there for a few days but since it was summer they really didn't need any extra heat by 1 week. It was about 30C upstairs in my house so they were fine.

    Now I am waiting as patiently as I can for next years hatching season. Although I don't think I want to do 3 batches in a row again that was a bit too much.

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