Updates are always on the top. To read from the beginning, start at the bottom and read up. :)
February 1, 2009: Forgive me for the long silence! The chicks hatched on their due date, January 23. I wound up with nine Sussex, five Polish and one Sultan. The Sultan didn't make it past 72 hours, which made us sad because it was a beautiful little thing. We lost one Sussex the next day due to pasting which I sadly did not know how to care for. We got the brooder environment corrected so we've had no more pasting problems.
Of the Polish, we have two white-crested black, one white-crested blue, one self black, and one mystery color. At first I thought it might be a splash, but the baby wings are coming in with a lacing pattern. We'll see; whatever it turns out to be I'm sure it will be gorgeous.
The older chicks are BIG and still in the house. I have them split into two brooders, but they're rapidly outgrowing the brooder setup. Progress on the coop has been slow but steady, but it really needs to kick into high gear at this point. The chicks are feathered enough that they'd do fine outside with a heat lamp on them.
January 10, 2009: Candled again, tossed out two quitters. I suspect a few more of being clear but I'm going to leave them in there a bit longer. There are definite veins in most of the rest, and I can see actual embryos in some of the Polish eggs.
The first batch of chicks is doing great. We haven't lost a one. They're growing fast and starting to feather out already.
January 7, 2009: I did a quick candling last night and saw what looks like a little veining on the Polish eggs, so maybe the incident with the high heat didn't kill them all. Fingers crossed.
January 4, 2009: Long-overdue update! We got out first chick at about ten o'clock the morning of New Years' Eve, the day after I posted the last update.

In the next 48 hours all but two of the eggs hatched. A much higher success rate than I ever imagined. We almost killed the last one. It had zipped its shell but I didn't notice as I transferred the chicks to their brooder. My husband and I did an emergency intervention using tweezers, a syringe and a couple of wet washcloths and managed to save it.
Here are some photos of the chicks taken this morning:



Last night I set more eggs: some Polish, a couple of Sultans, and a lot of Speckled Sussex. But overnight there was a mishap with the thermostat on the incubator, and the temperature got really high (at least 107F) for an undetermined length of time. Because of that, I have no idea whether any of these eggs will develop. I'm kind of sick because I got these eggs from breeders and paid a good bit of money. If they don't hatch I guess I will resort to ordering from a hatchery to get the Polish and Sussex that I want. We'll see.
December 30, 2008: I did a final candling and took out the turner last night. I removed two more of the EE eggs because they seemed clear compared to the others. Of the 23 eggs that are left, most have good air cells, and on nearly all the Australorps I could see movement inside the egg. The EE eggs are still a cipher for the most part. Some of the air cells seemed a little jagged and a couple were wobbly, and I don't think I saw movement in any of them, so I have no idea if any of them will hatch at all.
I also woke up this morning to find that temps in the 'bator had dipped into the low 90's. But I have been reassured on the board that it probably won't hurt the hatch too much at this point and that the worst thing that could happen is that the hatch will be a bit delayed. I also keep telling myself that this is a learning experience and that when I set the Polish and Speckleds I will have a much better idea of what to expect.
December 30, 2008, part 2: by late this afternoon I was hearing peeping. A little while ago I noticed the first pip (one of the pink EEs) and now one of the Australorps is rocking back and forth. We've got the brooder ready to go! Maybe we'll have New Year's Eve babies!
December 28, 2008: I just got some Polish hatching eggs to set with the Speckleds.
It works out great; that was the other breed I have really been wanting, but I was going to put them off till later. Now, it seems I will have all the breeds I have been interested in from the star. But that will HAVE to be it for a while! Since we expanded our coop plans (and I really need to update that page) I now have an upper limit of about 21 birds, but I didn't want to immediately hit that upper limit.
December 26, 2008: Removed another egg with a blood ring, one of the Australorps. I also think the one I first saw an embryo in has died but I cannot be sure, so I'm leaving it alone for now. I cannot see into most of the EE eggs at all except for the air cells, but the other Australorps show veining. On Monday night I will take out the turner and do the final candling before hatch day.
I also hope to have a batch of Speckled Sussex eggs to be able to set after this hatch is finished. Assuming that both hatches yield a serviceable number of chicks, that will be it for me for a while. Before setting the Speckleds I will definitely get a better thermo/hygro setup. I have no idea of the accuracy of the gadget I've got now.
December 20, 2008: After candling I have removed four eggs; three that showed clear and one with a blood ring. Of the ones that are left, there are only two where I can definitely see an embryo. The rest show air cells and ambiguous shadowy shapes, so they stay in the 'bator until I see something definite or till hatch time, whichever comes first. Next weekend I'll be getting the brooder set up and hopefully, on or around New Year's Day there will be at least a few chicks to put in it!
December 13, 2008: I put in an automatic turner, and now I feel a lot better. The temperature is holding fairly steady in the 100F - 102F range and the humidity is in the 40's. I'm happy. I candled one Australorp egg out of curiousity last night and I could clearly see the air cell. I didn't expect to see much else and I wasn't surprised or disappointed. I'm dying to candle every night, but I know I need to cool it until the middle of next week at the earliest! I'm also starting to panic about what I am going to do with all these chickens if I wind up with a high hatch rate. Oh well, we haven't built the coop yet so I guess it's not to late to make it bigger! ;)
December 11, 2008: I just set 15 Easter Egger eggs, 15 Australorp eggs and three mystery eggs from a carton advertised as coming from free range chickens (what the hey, why not?) That is considerably more birds than I need to wind up with! So I am counting on at least some of them not making it all the way.
December 8, 2008: I have two sets of hatching eggs coming my way, hopefully here on Wednesday. One is a batch of 12 Easter Eggers. The lady selling the eggs on eBay says they are Ameraucanas, but thanks to all the knowledge to be found here I was able to identify them from her photos as EE's, which is fine. I think EEs are beautiful birds and I wanted some, whether someone wants to call them Ameraucanas doesn't bother me unless she's trying to charge more for them, and this lady wasn't. The other batch is 10 Australorps, or possibly more. The Australorp is another breed I have been interested in from the start because of their reputation as sweet-tempered chickens that lay well. Later on I want some Speckled Sussex as well; no one seems to have eggs for those at the moment so I will probably try to hatch some of them after this hatch is finished, depending on how many chicks I wind up with.
So, I've been gobbling down all the info I can find on incubation, and I think I am pretty well set. I have an egg turner and a thermometer/hygrometer combo coming in mid-week too (hopefully). I hope to get the eggs set by Thursday at latest. If the turner isn't here I will go ahead and set them anyway and just add the turner when it arrives. I'll be less inclined to set them without the hygrometer to measure the humidity.
The incubator is a Hovabator 1602n - the still-air cheapie kind. As I said above, I ordered a turner for it. I will most likely by following the instructions for dry incubation that are posted elsewhere on this site and discussed in the forum. The incubator is set up in our bedroom.