Ok, where to start.
So I received a Brinsea Octagon Eco 20 for Christmas 2013. I was "scared" to use it, I guess mainly because I was scared to be in charge of all those little lives.
But in March 2015, I became a BYC member. With access to all the poultry help I could ever need, I toughened up and got the Brinsea out. In its original packaging, covered in dust and having only been taken out once (the day I got it), it was finally about to be put to use.
The instructions were simple enough. "Plug it in; let sit 24 hours to stabilize temp; how to store the eggs prior to putting in incubator; keep humidity up; etc." So I gathered eggs till I had 12 Pekin duck eggs total. Filled one channel. Put eggs in. Fixed metal bars so eggs were comfy. Factory-set temperature was correct, so I tampered with it. Closed lid (and crossed my fingers.)
Unfortunately, I couldn't keep the humidity past 30%. So, I pulled out the computer and and logged into BYC. @scflock was a great help during my very trying humidity-won't-stay-stable times. After putting a humidifier in the small office with the incubator, keeping doors closed 24/7, filling both channels, placing felt under egg tray, I came to the dumb conclusion that the lid was not placed properly on the yellow bator. Silly me.
A week later: I candled the eggs. All 12 showed signs of life. (Yay!) Wanting to experiment with hatching different kinds of fowl together, I stuck 8 chicken eggs—5 LF and 3 silkie—in the middle aisle of the tray.
The next week: I candled all the chicken eggs and a couple duck. The duck eggs were still alive and well, and so were all but one of the chicken eggs. The one was a silkie egg that was slightly longer than the others. Oh well. I left it in there because some BYCers didn't discard anything till lockdown.
During this week I also moved the incubator to a bigger and more convenient room.
The third week for the ducks and the second week for the chickens I candled a few again. Life signs? Check. Mr. Long Egg showed no life signs, so I, not wanting a rotten egg explosion during my very first artificial incubation discarded it.
So far my humidity had been staying relatively stable at/around 50%, but I still kept the felt in and a humidifier plugged in nearby "in case". I was comforted only by the fact that Brinseas are "dummy-proof".
Lockdown. Oooo scary.(Does that word not send chills down your spine?) Candled the eggs the night before. Everything showed great signs of life, no need for a panic attack yet. I took out the bars, filled both channels to the tippity-top, closed the incubator, and sighed. Then I went and cleaned something to distract myself. (And came back a gazillion times during the day to sing to the eggs [I'm sure they hated that] and baby talk them. I also played parakeet sounds on my iPod so the parakeet would squawk to them.)
9 o'clock of lockdown night: Brushed my teeth, went to the kitchen, came back to look at the eggs (for like the hundredth time that day.) *screams and calls everybody to come look* Voila! one of the two silkie eggs has pipped!!! We all watched mesmerized. After no more than 45 minutes of watching and franticly messaging @chickoninc on BYC, out pops a little chick. "Awwwwww".
Then everyone left. I watched the chick for another minute as it crawls all over the other eggs, then I got in bed, set an alarm for 3:30am, and went to sleep.
3:30am: "Do-do-do-da-da-da" goes the alarm. I check on the eggs while half asleep, then set my alarm for 6:30am, get back in bed and go back to dreaming of rabbits hatching chicks.
5:38am: I wake excited to see if anything's hatched. And what do you know? there are now two chicks and one duckling total!! So I stay awake for an hour watching another duckling and chick zip and hatch. All the while furiously posting on "Help! First time hatching" thread.
8:30am: I wake up again. There is now a third duckling. I was thinking, "Awwww! They're so cute! Look at them crawling all over each other!" And my nose was thinking, "Ewwww they smell awful!"
Unfortunately I had to go somewhere from 10am till 6pm. During that time six more ducklings and a chick hatched. As soon as I got home I moved them to the brooder which already contained the first six creatures that had hatched. (In case you're wondering [and even if you aren't] I had paper grocery bags and paper towels as bedding.)
8:30am of day 28/21: I wake up to the sound of chicks chirping and a parakeet squawking in response. Ugh. And it's Saturday. Ugh again.
During the next hour another duckling hatches. The eleventh duck egg zipped the night before, and had been chirping all morning. It was stuck. So I got on BYC.com and posted on too many threads my dilemma. Nobody answered within 10 minutes, so I took the matter into my own hands (which you should never do without guided help). Gently pushing back the shell and peeling back the membrane, the yolk-covered duckling was free. Yay! But the poor little thing had a neck cramp, causing it trouble keeping its head up. So then I took it out of the bator and wrapped it in a rag and held its head up, only to discover that it had a bloody umbilical cord. So then we out a drop of colloidal silver aloe vera gel on it. Later that day it fell off, and it's now doing quite well.
Well four eggs out of 20 left in the incubator: a duck egg, an EE egg, a silkie egg, and a SS egg. Patience, self. Leave them alone. Patience paid off. In 10 minutes out came a little chick. It was adorable. But aren't they always?
Later that day I moved it into the brooder with its pals. I gave them some alfalfa-oatstraw tea which we had made for ourselves earlier that day. Soon after, I put a clump of violets with the dirt and roots attached in with them. Seeing that the greedy little things were satisfied, I went to mix up an immune-building concoction (@mymilliefleur's idea) of garlic and apple cider vinegar. They loved it.
Okay, picture this. 11 Pekin ducklings (oh, what sweet little dears), 4 LF chicks (looking like SS), and a silkie mix chick (its beard is the most adorable thing ever). Their bedding is paper bags laid flat, topped with paper towels so they don't slip and get splayed legs. They have their (disgusting) immune-boosting potion in a glass jar with the cute little red waterer attachment attached on one end of the brooder, and Dumor chick feed ($6.99 at TSC; yes!) in a cut-off red Dixie cup, and a clump of violets on the other end. All in a plastic tub under a heat lamp. In my bathroom. You may be thinking, "How sweet! I bet they're precious". But I'm thinking, "I need an outdoor brooder. My bathroom smells like garlicky-apple-cider-vinegar-coated duck poo and my toilet seat is warm!"
ASAP I take them out to the garden for "play time". I water the beans, they sit in the sand and play in the water dripping off the hose. And yes, they includes the chicks as well. I move down to water the tomatoes. They follow me (their adorable-ness has made me forget the awful smells in my bathroom) and sit among the garlic plants.
Upon finishing the watering, I fly into the house to get my camera faster than a fly flying to—oh never mind. I rush into the house and rush back before anything bad can happen to the little puffs of cuteness sitting in the garden. After a 30 minute photo-shoot in the 85° sun the babies take a nap in a bucket. Meanwhile, I clean their brooder and incubator. (Oh the smells!) This time I fill it with grass, violets, weeds, and clover. It looks so pretty.
Cleaning the incubator was relatively easy. After hosing down the bottom and tray, I stuck them in the dishwasher. Then I unscrewed the top and washed the thin clear plastic thing with vinegar/water mix. I used the vinegar/water mix as well to disinfect the thermometer and screws.Using Q-tips and paper towels, I finally managed to get all the duck fluff out of the motor and fan area.
The brooder didn't stay pretty very long. How can it with 11 ducklings? Right now they are all happily playing in their water dish—which needs to be downsized after the silkie nearly drowned in it.
And that is how I (surprisingly) hatched 11 ducklings and 5 chicks with a Brinsea and the help of many BYCers. I would like to especially thanks @WVduckchick, @scflock, @mymilliefleur, @lacrystol, @chickoninc, @TiaRC, and @Annjee. And thanks to everybody else who chimed in to help me during this long (and very stressful) time!
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