Mahonri sponsored the second annual BYC New Years Day Hatch. Nifty was kind enough to throw in some prizes (like GFMs!) for certain participants (best hatch rate, best overall participation, etc). With over 100 participants, we set eggs on 12.11.10 at noon, our time. We had participants from all over the United States, and a few from other countries (as you might notice, I took some liberties with geography so as to not exclude our Aussie brethren):
There was widespread diversity in who was hatching: many were serial hatch-a-holics and many (including myself) were still very new to chicken owning and were first time hatchers. Regardless of experience level, the excitement for this hatch was spectacular: there were over 1500 posts even before we set eggs! One thing was certain - the feeling of comraderie between the participants. There was a lot of good natured joking around, mini-contests (with great prizes) to keep everyone energized and even some discussion about hatching!
What's a mini-contest, you ask? It's a separate contest within the New Years Hatch. Some examples are:
Calendar Picture Contest:
Funniest Picture Contest:
Cutest Hatched Chick Contest:
Rooster Crowing Contest (although I'm still partial to the Rooster Crowing Stew):
In between all the joking around and mini-contests we managed to set our eggs on Saturday 12.11.10 at noon, our time. I know most of you have heard of chicken math, but how about hatching egg math? Now, don't hurt yourself here, but which came first?
I for one, planned on having 6 chicks from this hatch. Ok, maybe 8. I have no idea what happened, really, but one minute I was a calm, normal(ish) person, then around 11:00 on Set Day I turned into this crazy nest-box stalking individual. I even threw an egg in from the fridge because I had an empty spot in the incubator. So, here's what my new Brinsea looked like on Set Day:
After setting there were the important discussions about humidity and the turning of eggs. Some of the discussions were hilarious, especially the (serious) discussions on the utility of maxi pads as humidity improvers. Then someone brought up candling the eggs. There were a few voices of reason on the thread trying to keep newbies hands out of the incubator. I managed to keep my hands out until day 4. I candled... and was thoroughly disappointed. I had no idea what I was looking at. I came back to candling around day 7, and, now armed with a fabulous web guide (found at https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=261876), I candled again. I didn't trust myself enough to throw anything out, though. I definately squeeled in excitement the first time I saw something in an egg move!
Lockdown was on day 18: Wednesday 12.29.10. We candled prior to lockdown and removed dud eggs. I carefully removed 8 eggs, which I was fairly certain didn't contain chicks. Just in case, I cracked them open, and thankfully, they were just yolk (and I was doubly thankful that they were odorless). I put a few back in that I wasn't sure about and thanks to the experienced hatchers, knew to keep my eyes and nose peeled for smells and leaks.
Here's what I looked like at lockdown:
Everyone was anxiously awaiting the hatch. The thread was becoming a monster - if you even went a few hours without checking it there were hundreds of new posts and discussions. Early in the thread we were teased with the thought of our wonderful sponsor, Mahonri, turning a little more cuckoo with each day closer to hatch. Fortunately (or unfortunately, for us sickos), he appeared to (mostly) keep his cool.
On Friday 12.31.10, the early hatching started. Those of us new to hatching (and even some not so new) were sitting with noses plastered to incubator windows. I woke up on Friday around 6 AM and checked the incubator before going out to feed the big girls. I noticed I had a few pips! I ran outside, let the chickens out, threw some scratch on the ground, then came back inside. I was greeted with the pip getting bigger then starting to zip. I sat and watched in amazement as this little creature emerged from its shell:
This was absolutely incredible to watch. And all over the nation other chicks were emerging in just the same way with equally fascinated audiences.
Within a few hours this cutie was all fluffed up, but had no friends:
Soon enough, though. About 12 hours later more chicks started to emerge. This first chick would peep encouragement to them, and would even help the other chicks by pecking at their zips. And thankfully, no one lost an eye from all the "encouragement."
The hatching thread was almost on fire when the chicks started to come out of their shells. Everyone wanted to share their experiences and to show off their cute chicks.
Hatching started to slow down after 01.01.11, but then the anxiety and the heartaches began. Many had pips or zips that were not progressing, and some even still had chicks in shells, unpipped. A few poor souls didn't have any chicks, yet. But there was always someone available on the thread to give advice or lend an ear to those struggling.
I had quite a few chicks unpipped or not progressing. Apparently my humidity had plummeted, despite the fact that my gauge was reading that my humidity was up. My late chicks had become what is referred to as "shrink wrapped" where their membranes dry out and it's hard for them to break out. Some managed to break out on their own. One of these is a BLRW I've named PigPen. PigPen was covered in pieces of shell, and in fact still has 2 shell fragments glued tight under his wing. This photo was taken 01.04.11.
The inevitable discussions on whether to help chicks hatch or not started, including which chicks to help. Regardless of each participants decision, there was a lot of support and absolutely no judgement from the other participants. I'll spare you the moral discussion but know that I did opt to help a total of 4 chicks out of their shells. I let them pip and struggle for a bit and then when they started to get weak after many hours of not progressing, I stepped in. I first turned on the shower in my bathroom (overhead fan off) and let it get nice and hot and steamy in there. I then took the shelled chick into the bathroom in a warm wet washcloth. In the steam and using some warm water I gradually peeled the shell off, leaving the membrane. I then tore the membrane more up by the chicks head where it had pipped. If I saw a lot of blood I left the chick alone and placed it back in the incubator for a few hours covered in a damp washcloth (allowing the beak to be exposed). If there was only minimal blood I cut the membrane more, allowing the chick to escape. By the end of Saturday 01.01.11 all my eggs had hatched, except for 2 eggs that had not pipped. I candled them, and knew one was not much more than yolk. However, when I picked up the other one the egg chirped. I placed it gently back in the incubator and waited. On January 2nd, the last viable egg pipped. It, too, was shrink wrapped, despite having 2 wet washcloths and a maxi pad in the incubator. This one was very weak and very hard to get un-shrinkwrapped. It brought tears to my eyes to watch her finally slide out of her membrane and into my hand. I named her Shelley. I wasn't sure she was going to make it but I carefully placed her in back in the incubator to fluff up and get a nap before being introduced to her (almost psychotic with energy) broodermates.
These kind of issues were happening all across the United States. Despite being wrapped up in our own hatches (both the amazing and heartbreaking portions) the hatch thread was a place of tremendous support and patience. The experienced hatchers were there every step of the way to answer silly or even easily researched questions for us newbies. There are no words that can properly thank those members. Many continue to wait on late eggs, hope decreasing with every hour. Every other participant also feels heartache for these chicks and their watchful humans. For those, such as myself, who had decent hatches, we feel almost guilty.
Now that I've gone and brought you down, here's something uplifting... Shelley made it!
Another great part of the hatch was experiencing genetics with my mutt-crosses. I have many different types of hens and a turken rooster. Some of the highlights :
Brahma x Turken:
A feather footed banty mutt x large fowl turken (yeah it was as awkward as it sounds):
An easter egger x turken:
And not everyone was naked necked (although they were the cutest). Here's another EE x Turken:
Now that the hatch is over, and there's another group of certified hatch-a-holics created, what now? Well some of the *ahem* more certifiable hatch-a-holics happened to notice that CHINESE New Year is right around the corner and will be hatching for that. And if you've missed Chinese New Year, there's always St Patricks Day, Easter, Mothers Day...
I would like to thank EVERYONE associated with this hatch. You're a great group of individuals. Despite the miles between us, I truly felt like you were a friend right next door all throughout this hatch. I was honored to participate and I'll see y'all for the Easter Hatch. With some Trader Joe's eggs in the mix (I think there might have been someone who hatched TJ eggs for new years?)!