2012 County Fair Egg Hatching Display (wordy and full of photos)

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by A.T. Hagan, Apr 16, 2012.

  1. A.T. Hagan

    A.T. Hagan Don't Panic

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    As some of you may recall I put on an egg hatching display for my county fair last year.

    2011 Egg Hatching Display

    It was the first time I'd done anything like that and some of you kindly helped me out with advice.

    Last week was the 2012 county fair and another hatching display. With some experience under my belt and somewhat more cooperative weather things came off rather well.

    Early to mid-April in North Florida is a variable time of year. We might get lows into the upper thirties or highs to over ninety. It's often foggy in the late night to early morning hours but it can also be quite hot and dry in the afternoons. Trying to keep a Hovabator incubator stable in an outdoor tent in such conditions can be a struggle. But if you're willing to babysit the thing it can be done.

    This year I decided to serve two purposes with the hatch. The first being the display of course, but also get started on my Production Easter Egger breeding project. It seems like no matter where I order them from the average flock of Easter Eggers are highly variable in their output. For every one that lays a large size or better nicely colored egg with good shell qualities I'll get one that never sizes up to larger than a medium, or the color is poor, or the shell quality isn't good. Since I sell eggs and try to include at least one nicely colored blue or green egg in every dozen of a size large enough not to rattle around in the carton this meant keeping a larger flock of Easter Eggers than I really wanted. What was needed was a more productive, better quality bird. Can't order them so I'll have to see if I can't produce them myself.

    To accomplish this I put a white EE rooster in a layer tractor of ISA Brown red sex-link hens. Another white EE rooster in a different tractor containing White Leghorns. And in my EE tractor I put a White Leghorn rooster. Three tractors, three separate flocks, three different roosters. Selected the best looking eggs over several days and had my starting point.

    Here are the eggs we started with:

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    We set 86 eggs. A lot more than will be needed for the fair, but I want to be sure to have enough viable, about-to-hatch, eggs come fair open along with extras in case something goes wrong at the fairgrounds and I have to rush more over. Ordinarily I try to have my hatches finished in 48 hours from start to finish, but the fair runs over the span of four days and it would be nice to have eggs hatching all the while. To accomplish this we divided the eggs into four groups then set each one twelve hours apart so that they would be more likely to span the four days (thanks rebelcowboysnb!).

    Here they are at the end of the forty eight hour period when they have all been set.

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    And another of them in the incubator. The humidity was still coming up so what you see in the picture is not the range I normally keep it at.

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    Nothing left to do now but wait for the first candling at day ten and build the displays. I've been looking for stuff to use ever since last year so I had a good bit to get ready. Some stuff I could only get as .pdfs so had to have them printed myself while others I could buy ready made, but did not come laminated which is a good idea if you want to use them year after year. Fortunately the copy shop in Gainesville can print color up to thirty six inches wide and can laminate the same. It's not cheap, but it can be done.

    The ten day candle:

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    My oldest daughter does all the candling with me and my youngest has been wanting to learn as well so this year she sat in too. We jovially bicker about what we see and everyone has fun.

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    We set 86 eggs and found 26 "clears" or eggs that were not fertile. All of them were brown or white so it seems like the EE boys I had in with the the ISA Browns and White Leghorns were slow coming off the mark. None of the green/blue eggs were clear so Slick the White Leghorn rooster had been getting his job done. If you've ever had a Leghorn you'll know they are too full of themselves not to take their work seriously!

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    We're still getting the hang of taking candling photos, but considering we had too much light leakage and were only using a phone camera we were happy.

    Ten days in we had sixty developing eggs and there was nothing left to do but allow Mr. Dickey to finish doing the thing he does so well. Back to working on the display until day eighteen. We took no photos of the day eighteen candle as a properly developed egg is only going to show a large dark blob pretty well filling the shell but for the air cell at top. We found only two "quitters" or eggs that had died in development. Fifty eight eggs ready to hatch.

    On to the Fair!
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2012
  2. A.T. Hagan

    A.T. Hagan Don't Panic

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    North/Central Florida
    My County Fair runs over a four day span opening on a Thursday evening and closing the following Sunday evening. Ordinarily I prefer to at least get the incubator, brooder, and main display board set up the Wednesday night before, but this time there was some confusion about what was going on so I had to do it all Thursday morning. I'd already tested the Hovabator at the house so it did not take long for it to come up to temp once I had the power run.

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    The basic set up accomplished it was time to go home for the eggs. We chose eight from each group so took thirty two eggs back to the fair grounds in a pre-warmed cooler. Six eggs of the #1 group were already pipping! No having to fake it until we got a hatch (thanks Gypsy07!) We took them straight to the fairgrounds and set them.

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    This year the day time temperature was a little more moderate so I filled both water channels as per the usual directions. No go. Humidity went to saturation by three in the afternoon. I was half expecting it so I removed the eggs and dried one channel up completely. That helped but by the time the first egg had fully hatched it was back to saturation again just like last year. I waited until the remaining pips appeared to be resting and while it was still quite warm, removed all the eggs again and dried up all of the water completely. Put the eggs back and waited. It took an hour or so for the residual water in the Styrofoam pores to evaporate then the humidity fell to high normal. It spiked again as more eggs hatched, but simply taking the top off to allow it to escape every once in a while kept it from becoming a critical problem. Only once for the rest of the fair did I need to sprinkle a few drops of water in the bottom. Usually the eggs would release enough (often too much) humidity when the next chick hatched out.

    The first to hatch:

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    The first chicks in the brooder:

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    As we were waiting on the hatcher to stabilize and the first chicks to hatch I hung the display materials. Never did get it all put up, but most was.

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    Murray McMurray proved to be a good resource for this. They (and a number of other hatcheries as well) had the APA Breeds & Varieties poster but also the "One Hundred Chickens & a Worm" posterwhich proved to be a big hit with the kids, especially the little ones.

    The chicken, pheasant, and Bobwhite quail egg development posters:

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    Were provided courtesy of Auburn University. If you're not in Alabama you have to print them out yourselves. Fortunately the local copy shop could do that for me.

    And of course I had to get a word in for BYC!

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    The entire display:

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    There were egg anatomy diagrams, local upcoming poultry swaps, poultry related documents available from Florida Extension, 4-H poultry related project areas and pretty much anything else I could think to stick in there to fill up the available space. Night time visibility wasn't as good as I'd hoped for (it WILL be better next year!), but during the day it really drew the people in. Especially when the other livestock events were going on.

    I set the poster such that the mystery worm was right about the eye height of little kids. Most of the time they'd find it before the grown-ups did! I swore everyone to secrecy NOT to tell anyone else where it was. They had to find it for themselves! I did allow one clue though: "Where would you naturally expect to find a worm in a flock of chickens?"

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    All in all I am pleased with the way it came out. I learned things this year as I did last year. Next time I don't believe I'll put any water at all in the hatcher to start with other than mist the eggs lightly when I first set them. This will save a lot of aggravation and stress with struggling to keep the humidity under control. I'm also going to look for another way to put up displays other than using cardboard and foam board. Between the humidity of late night and early morning and the heat of the afternoons it wrinkles, warps, and sags. Maybe I'll use thin paneling or something.

    Last: The Aftermath.
     
  3. A.T. Hagan

    A.T. Hagan Don't Panic

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    Aug 13, 2007
    North/Central Florida
    So how did it all end? How many of the eggs hatched?

    I am happy to say that of the thirty two eggs that were set at the fairgrounds twenty eight of them hatched!

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    These are the Fair Chicks after we returned just before I put them in the big brooder with their brethren who had stayed home.

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    And all of them together:

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    Of the twenty six eggs that I kept in the Dickey at the house twenty four of twenty six hatched. One pipped at the bottom so did not make it out and the last never pipped. Plus the two "quitters" from the eighteen day candle. So I am quite pleased all things considered.

    This one is the hatching display at night after I'd shut it down. Overnight lows were in the high forties to fifties so I wrapped the incubator in a blanket and draped a beach towel over about half the brooder. Seems to have worked well.

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    And finally my helpers and the reason for doing all this: My daughters.

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    I hope everyone enjoyed the posts.

    In another year I may be ready to do it again!
     
  4. mbleily

    mbleily Chillin' With My Peeps

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    What great fun!! I love fair days!!
     
  5. DirtCreature

    DirtCreature Chillin' With My Peeps

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    [​IMG]

    awesome! that is too cool! love the little BYC plug too. LOL. that is a pretty good hatch rate... no?
     
  6. A.T. Hagan

    A.T. Hagan Don't Panic

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    Aug 13, 2007
    North/Central Florida
    Given the circumstances, yes, it is a good hatch rate.

    Last year I only managed 24 out of 36. It was hotter then so humidity was very hard to control.
     
  7. Sphinx

    Sphinx Chillin' With My Peeps

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    That is great! So informative!
     
  8. isis

    isis Out Of The Brooder

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    Wow that's great! I bet the kids loved it!
     
  9. A.T. Hagan

    A.T. Hagan Don't Panic

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    Aug 13, 2007
    North/Central Florida
    Yes, they did. I love explaining things to little kids. They ask such inventive questions!
     

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