First hatch! Mystery eggs!

onfurtherreview

In the Brooder
6 Years
May 2, 2013
56
2
33
I've been keeping chickens for a while now, but I always bought live birds or else was lucky enough to have a broody hen when I needed to add to my flock. I always felt like incubating was too much trouble and expense, but after reading so many great posts about people's hatching experience, and reading up on how to make an incubator, I've finally caved in.

Yesterday morning, I headed into town and bought a digital thermometer with humidity display, a lamp socket and extension cord, a bag of black aquarium gravel, and a cheap 5"x7" picture frame. I already had one of those thick-walled Omaha Steaks shipping coolers, a plastic tub some Thai noodles came in, a sports drink bottle, sponges, aluminum foil, duct tape, light bulbs and Elmer's Glue-All. I spent a total of $16 on my 24-egg incubator, and it took about half an hour to build.




The tricky part was getting the temperature right by drilling vent holes in the sides and top of the cooler. With a 60-watt bulb, the temp was too high with dozens of 3/4" vent holes, and all of that airflow was making it unstable, so I switched to a 40-watt bulb and had to cover up almost all of the holes. I had settled in on three small holes low in the front side and eight or nine in the lid, which had the temperature holding steady between 99 and 100 degrees and the humidity between 30-40%, which was what I was aiming for.

After several hours with stable temperature and humidity, I got impatient and loaded in two dozen eggs, with the big ends up at a slight angle, nestled into the gravel in the bottom (there are only 23 in the picture, but I'll get to that).



The dozen on the left are from my little flock, and honestly I have no idea what hen laid what egg. Both my roos are Dominique, and for hens I have a dozen Barred Rocks, four RIRs, three Red Comets, two black Jersey Giants, and a buff Orpington; also, all of these hens have been exposed to different roosters within the last three weeks - the RIRs and Comets were with a RIR roo, the Barred Rocks were with a Barred Rock roo, and the Giants and Orp were with whatever roo the guy I bought them from had - I didn't ask.
The eleven (originally 12) on the right were given to my stepdad by some guy he met at a sawmill. Seriously. I have no idea what these are, and at first I didn't even know if the guy had a rooster in with his hens - all I knew was that they hadn't been washed or refrigerated - but I couldn't resist the chance to find out.

The reason there are only 23 eggs now instead of 24? I'm a klutz. I wanted to reset the thermometer's memory, so I raised the lid a little, reached in, grabbed the thermometer, and dropped it, corner first, on the brown egg which had been occupying the little blank spot in the corner.



On the bright side, I now know for certain that the guy who gave my stepdad the eggs had a rooster - there was a light patch of developing cells on the side of the yolk when I opened it.

I hope to be able to post updates on how my hatch is going over the next few weeks.

Starting time: 7:30 PM CDT, May 1 2013
Starting egg count: 24
Current egg count: 23
Days to lockdown: 17
 

onfurtherreview

In the Brooder
6 Years
May 2, 2013
56
2
33
I was gone about 8 hours, just got home and the temp had gone up to 102 degrees, but hadn't gotten above that, so I took the top off until it was down around 99, then opened a few more of the vent holes in the top. I'll be checking every half-hour or so, fiddling around with it until it starts acting right, but at least I know how many vents to have open to keep it from reaching the dreaded 103.

I've got a LOT of thermal mass (five pounds of aquarium gravel plus a 1-liter bottle of water and a humidity bowl that holds over a pint), so the temperature comes back up pretty quickly after I put the top back on, but right now I'm thinking that may make it harder to tell if the ventilation issue is straightened out.

Starting time: 7:30 PM CDT, May 1 2013
Starting egg count: 24
Current egg count: 23
Days to lockdown: 17
 

onfurtherreview

In the Brooder
6 Years
May 2, 2013
56
2
33
I had an overheat today. I left home around noon, and when I got back four hours later, the temp had climbed to 104. I don't know how long it was that hot, and I have no real way of knowing whether or not it killed them all until they've had a few more days to develop (or not), so I guess I'll just have to wait and see. If it ruined this clutch, I figure I'll know by Wednesday (one week after starting), and if I have to I'll put in a fresh batch of eggs. I'm pretty discouraged right now. I just hope the eggs didn't have time to soak up enough heat to get past 102 inside.

To keep this from happening again, I've added a dimmer for the bulb and closed almost all of the vent holes. That should help keep the temperature more stable and make the whole thing less susceptible to drafts. I'll spend the rest of tonight checking every 20 minutes and adjusting the dimmer and the vents until I'm at a stable 99-100 degrees and 35-40% humidity. I'll post again when I have some news.

Has anyone had experience with an overheat and then had any eggs survive? If you have, I'd appreciate an encouraging word.

Starting time: 7:30 PM CDT, May 1 2013
Starting egg count: 24
Current egg count: 23
Days to lockdown: 15
Prognosis: right near hopeless.
 

lghrnlvr

In the Brooder
6 Years
Apr 7, 2013
69
4
33
orangeburg sc
I had a hard time with keeping my temps right in my homemade incubator right after i put the eggs in. One time i checked and my temp was 104. I freaked out.
everything turned out well. i am watching my 3 eggs hatch as i write this.
 

onfurtherreview

In the Brooder
6 Years
May 2, 2013
56
2
33
I had a hard time with keeping my temps right in my homemade incubator right after i put the eggs in. One time i checked and my temp was 104. I freaked out.
everything turned out well. i am watching my 3 eggs hatch as i write this.



Thank you so much. I've spent the last two hours pacing next to the 'bator, checking the temp every 30 seconds and taking Tums! I added an alcohol thermometer and an analog dial thermometer/hygrometer combo, and they're all holding steady around 99-100 now. I think closing the vents and adding the dimmer really helped. I'll candle every night, but I'm not tossing anything without a red ring until at least day 10.

Starting time: 7:30 PM CDT, May 1 2013
Starting egg count: 24
Current egg count: 23
Days to lockdown: 15
 

onfurtherreview

In the Brooder
6 Years
May 2, 2013
56
2
33
I candled all of the eggs tonight, and if that temperature spike this afternoon didn't ruin them, I think I'll be in good shape. I saw definite early veining in 11 eggs, and the other 12 were too dark-shelled to make anything out. The mystery eggs that stranger gave my stepdad seem to be doing better than those from my own flock, or at least they're easier to see through. I saw veins in 8 of the 11 mystery eggs, whereas I could only see through 3 of the 12 from my flock well enough to tell anything. Best of all, there were no obvious bad eggs, so I'll hold out hope for the others until day 10.

Is it normal for the yolks to be so dark that they make it hard to see anything, or am I just using a light that's too weak?

Starting time: 7:30 PM CDT, May 1 2013
Starting egg count: 24
Current egg count: 23
Visibly developing: 11
Days to lockdown: 15
 

onfurtherreview

In the Brooder
6 Years
May 2, 2013
56
2
33
Well, I candled again tonight, and I lost two eggs to red ring. I did a plastic bag eggtopsy on both and there was no visible development in either. I had mistaken the beginnings of the red ring for veining last time, but tonight it was much easier to tell what I'm looking for since I have a little practice. On the bright side, I saw a few beating hearts! I was able to see definite veining in all but four of the remaining 21 eggs, and those four have very dark shells so I may not be able to tell anything for a while yet. Here are some pictures from tonight's candling, followed by eggtopsy photos:




This one's heart was visibly beating!



So was this one, even if it's a horrible picture; the others didn't even turn out this well.


I don't think anything's going on in there, but I'll wait and see. The shell is pretty dark.


Here's another one that's developing, although this one's shell is too opaque to make out much detail.


This one I think is just fantastic.


Red ring is clearly defined (top right, encircling almost the entire visible part of the egg), even if it's hard to see in the picture.


The other red ring.


Eggtopsy: red ring, no visible signs of development, yolk burst almost immediately.


Here, on the second bad egg, the red ring is visible through the air space.​


Neither of the bad eggs were from my hens, and both were dirtier than I would have picked to hatch if I'd had a choice, so maybe I won't have as many problems going forward. All but one of the eggs from my own flock are making definite progress, and the other one's shell is too dark to tell anything; I still have nine of the mystery eggs (including all of the white eggs), six of which I can see inside, and in three of which I saw a definite heartbeat.

Starting time: 7:30 PM CDT, May 1 2013
Starting egg count: 24
Current egg count: 21
Visibly developing: 17
Days to lockdown: 14
 
Last edited:

onfurtherreview

In the Brooder
6 Years
May 2, 2013
56
2
33
I just candled and turned the eggs again, and I saw definite veining in 18 eggs, leaving only three maybes with shells too dark to make out. One of the maybes has something in there, but I can't tell if it's veining or a red ring yet. I'll keep a close eye on that one for sure, but I'll try to give the other two until Saturday night before I give up on them. Best of all, I saw beating hearts in 11 eggs! The ones I couldn't see the heartbeat in were all thicker-shelled and hard to make out, but I could see unmistakable veins in all of those too. I gave up on my homemade CFL candler, and am now using a 5-LED flashlight, which seems to work better and doesn't heat up as much. I'll keep updating every night, even if I'm the only one reading them, since this is a handy place to keep a record of everything.

Starting time: 7:30 PM CDT, May 1 2013
Starting egg count: 24
Current egg count: 21
Visibly developing: 18
Days to lockdown: 13
 

onfurtherreview

In the Brooder
6 Years
May 2, 2013
56
2
33
Tonight I saw at least veins in 20 of 21 eggs (including the on I thought might just be red ring), and was able to see the eyeballs in 16 of them. Progress! That last egg, which I'm beginning to think is going to turn out clear, is one of the mystery eggs, a big white one with pores more defined than I would like. All twelve eggs from my own flock are progressing nicely, and eight of the twelve I started with from the mystery donor. Both red rings and the broken one were mystery eggs, as well as the clear one. Good job by my roosters there, I guess. I was worried that 11 hens each would impact fertility, but they sure showed me!

Starting time: 7:30 PM CDT, May 1 2013
Starting egg count: 24
Current egg count: 21
Visibly developing: 20
Days to lockdown: 12
 

onfurtherreview

In the Brooder
6 Years
May 2, 2013
56
2
33
Well, last night I candled ONLY the one I thought might be clear, and still didn't see anything, so I got rid of it. When I opened it, there were no signs (that I could tell) that it had ever been fertile. Oh well.

Starting time: 7:30 PM CDT, May 1 2013
Starting egg count: 24
Current egg count: 20
Visibly developing: 20
Days to lockdown: 8
 

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