My First Official Incubation: Fayoumis crosses and Leghorn crosses

Discussion in 'Hatch-A-Longs' started by davemonkey, Oct 8, 2013.

  1. davemonkey

    davemonkey Chillin' With My Peeps

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    This thread is a follow-along for my children (and anyone else) who are joining me in an effort to have fun, raise chickens, and hopefully come up with a good egg layer that is also adapted to our nasty climate. I'm making this as educational as possible so that the kids can use it as a Science Lesson. [And, yes, I know I could just get a flock of White Leghorn and be done with it...but then what fun would I have in the breeding?! [​IMG] ]

    Today is "Day 1" of the 21 day process. Photos of the candling process, air spaces, embryo development, etc...will be posted periodically.

    We have 32 eggs, and all but 3 are mix breeds.

    GOAL: to hatch a flock of birds that meet 2 basic traits: 1) good egg layers 2) able to live in mosquito-infested swamp-humid Liberty County.

    METHOD: choosing Roosters that are more "wild-type" Mediterranean Breeds (for our climate) and crossing them with hens that are known to be excellent egg producers, or that are also wild-type birds who can benefit from being crossed with these Roosters (and a few just for fun). We will use a still-air Styrofoam incubator set at 99.5 F, and eggs will be turned at least 3 times per day (to prevent embryo from sticking to shell) and humidity will be monitored via air-space development. Fertility rate will be determined at Day 7 via candling and survivability will be expected to be normal (see below)*.

    Breeds include (numbers given where known):

    -White Leghorn (3)

    -White Leghorn Roo crossed with:
    x Old English Game Fowl (Bantam, 2)**
    x Brahma (Bantam, 1)**
    x Easter Egger (1)
    x Barred Rock (1+?)
    x Australorp
    x Production Hen**

    -Egyptian Fayoumis Roo crossed with:
    x Easter Egger (8)
    x Australorp
    x Barred Rock (3+?)

    For those keeping up with numbers, that means there are 13 that are not 100% ID'd as to the breed of the mother hen. That's because we didn't witness all the egg-laying, and all the brown eggs look REALLY similar.

    **For another curve to throw in, some of the "White Leghorn" crosses might actually have a Rhode Island Red "dad" instead of a Leghorn...but that's something that can be determined at hatch.

    Day 1 is October 8. Hatch Day will be Tuesday, Oct 29, give or take a day.
    *Anticipated hatch-rate is 70%, yielding in an expected 22 chicks. Of these, it is expected that half will be male, and half female.
     
  2. Veer67

    Veer67 Chillin' With My Peeps

    It's a bit of a long wait. Good luck! [​IMG]
     
  3. davemonkey

    davemonkey Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The top 2 rows of eggs came from my brother's flock. His Roo is "Foghorn" (White Leghorn). I hope he'll send me a picture of him to post, because this Rooster has the largest comb and waddle (in proportion to body size) I have ever seen in my life...including the cartoons. The tiny eggs are the Bantam OEGH eggs...and I really look forward to seeing what pops out of those. I'm hoping for them to be normal OEG size and better egg-layers, being mixed with the Leghorn.

    The rest of the eggs are from "Chuck", my Fayoumis (who I also received by happy coincidence from the aforementioned brother, along with every bird that is laying eggs for me right now). If you are counting, yes, there are fewer eggs in the picture than in my OP. Right after we closed the incubator, we found 3 more eggs in our nests and decided we may as well toss them in...and so we did.

    My eldest daughter, who is my official Hatch-Boss for this project, numbered the eggs, and we recorded the breed that laid them (for the ones we know) and who their Roo was. We figured that would make it easier at candling and documenting if certain eggs are duds. "Egg #14 was infertile" sounds better than "one of the EE's didn't make it". [​IMG]

    I have not decided if I will separate them at lockdown (the different crosses and varieties)...but there is a good chance I will at least attempt to.


    [​IMG]
     
  4. davemonkey

    davemonkey Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks! Yes, after we were forced by nature to finish the hatch for the one chick, we've decided this will be a fun Science Project for the kids. Plus, I really do need to replace the BR's and Australorps. They are simply miserable out here with all the mosquitos. I need birds that can tolerate these conditions. So...from necessity comes a fun project.
     
  5. davemonkey

    davemonkey Chillin' With My Peeps

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    By the way, if you notice a penny in the bottom of the water channel in the incubator, that's for copper leaching. The idea is that, since copper kills bacteria, the copper from the penny will help keep that water "clean-ish". Supposedly pennies from pre-1982 have higher copper content, so I am using really old pennies in there (1 per channel). Not all the channels have water right now. I will wait until day 7 to determine if I need to increase or decrease humidity.
     
  6. davemonkey

    davemonkey Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Day 4: Candling to see if we can find any embryo development. Of 32 eggs, 16 were easy to see, and 5 of those had VERY distinct embryos. The other 16 were either too dark to see through, or the eggs were too mottled to be able to see clearly inside. Here are 5 of the eggs we looked at today that had clear development, and 1 that didn't:

    (NOTE: All colors are natural, as-is. Difference in light will be due to different colors and densities of the shells (white, blue/green, brown, etc...)

    This first one is rather blurry, but just in the very center of the dark circle (the yolk) is a dark spot which is the embryo. Note the uniform density of the shell. This chicken has been fed a diet rich in calcium, which has a great affect on egg shell density. This is egg #4, an Easter Egger crossed with a Leghorn.
    [​IMG]


    Here's one of the Leghorn eggs (#10) These are GREAT for candling because the shells are white and easy to see through. Within the larger dark area (again, the yolk) you will see an inner ring. This is the "blood island". Within this area are the blood vessels feeding the embryo. At the very center of this is a kidney-bean shaped area which is the embryo itself. When my kids and I can "see the spider", we know we have a live chick. (The body of the "spider" is the embryo, and the "legs" are the blood vessels.)
    [​IMG]


    This is the same egg as above, but zoomed in a bit and I drew dark lines around the embryo in the center, and some of the vessels.
    [​IMG]


    This photo shows very clearly the "spider" in the center...very red. The not-so-great thing about this egg is that the shell is a bit porous (note the mottling). The chick we just hatched a week ago had a more porous egg than this, so we aren't worried, but normally these types of eggs are not recommended for hatching.
    [​IMG]


    See if you can "see the spider" in the next two.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]



    Finally, here is an example of an egg that might not make it. It's difficult too see the embryo developing due to the spots all over the egg. I could see it, but Rita (my oldest) could not. I don't see it here in the photo. But it's still early so no worries there. What has us worried is how thin the top of the egg shell is, compared to the bottom half, which is very porous. Once air spaces start developing, this one will be difficult to manage since all 32 eggs are in the same incubator. The proper humidity for those eggs will be too low for this one, I fear. But, time will tell. This is egg #32, a late addition (not pictured in the first photos) just before the incubator had hit 99.5 on Day 1.
    [​IMG]


    Okay, so I specifically mentioned eggs #4, 10, and 32. So, next time we candle (Day 7 or 8) I'll try to remember to specifically photograph those eggs.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2013
  7. davemonkey

    davemonkey Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I want to introduce the Roos involved in this experiment. Once we get to hatch day, I'll split the eggs into Roo categories: Chuck's in 1 area, and Foghorn's in another. We'll see if there are any notable differences between their chicks. The hens they bred with are largely the same with a couple exceptions.

    First is Chuck. He's an Egyptian Fayoumi(s) and is the Roo for eggs #13-32. [I don't really know if the "s" is necessary at the end, or if it is only for plural. I have seen it both ways and I usually use the "s" at the end regardless.] This breed goes back to ancient Egypt and, while smaller in stature than most other breeds, are excellent foragers and able to evade predators. For a "free-range" set-up where egg size is of no concern, these birds are perfect. This breed meets our desires for this project as far as climate tolerance, independence, and egg production. However, Fayoumis eggs are generally small...so if we were looking for large eggs, this breed would have to go. By crossing him with larger egg layers, I'm hoping to get a climate tolerant bird that lays medium sized eggs and can still serve as dinner when fully mature. Chuck was fairly young in this photo. He is a few months older now and a bit larger...but this picture shows him well enough.

    [​IMG]

    This is NOT* one of the Roos for this project. So, why show him? [​IMG] Because "Little Red" MIGHT have been the papa Roo for the Bantam Brahma and a couple young pullets whose eggs we are incubating. Also, his comb and waddle are the same size as Chuck's are today. So put this comb and waddle on Chuck's picture and you know what Chuck looks like. ALSO, this bird outweighs Chuck and Foghorn by at least a pound or two...or three. He's taller, broader, and longer. This is a normal size Roo. He's a young Rhode Island Red, hatchery version (which means he won't meet "breed standards" for those who like to show Roos). Okay...enough about him. Let's get to the star of the show.
    [​IMG]


    Foghorn: He's a White Leghorn (whose brother I ate some time ago...sorry, but that guy wasn't as gentle as Foghorn seems to be). This is the Roo (except for the "possible" eggs fathered by Little Red) for the first dozen eggs in the project. The photos do him no justice at all. I've seen him in person, in hand, and his comb is nearly the size of my hand. He's not much larger than the Fayoumis, but he is bulkier. But that comb and waddle are3- 4 times what Chuck's are. He is a Mediterranean breed that is excellent for southern Texas weather, AND leghorns are known to be excellent layers of large white eggs. If you get white eggs from a grocery store, you are likely getting leghorn eggs from the female version of Foghorn here. Foghorn's breed has all the traits we are looking for in this project: climate tolerance and potential for egg production. His showiness is a plus in my book, and his temperament is a quality that we should look for in Roosters. There are WAY too many Roosters in the world to tolerate a mean Roo.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  8. davemonkey

    davemonkey Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Day 7 Candling! There were about 5 or so that were still hard to make out, but the shells were difficult to see through, so we'll give them the benefit of the doubt for now and re-candle between Days 10-14. We saw veins in them, but we weren't sure if we could see the embryo or not.

    There were 2 for sure that ended up being non-fertile. Eggs #1 and #2 were from a Bantam Old English Game Hen. The White Leghorn was with her and we definitely witnessed his attempts to fertilize, but evidently she is too short even for him. Below is one of them. This is pretty much what a sterile egg from the grocery store looks like. We cracked it open and sure enough, infertile egg. Notice how there has been no air cell development. Compare that to the other eggs pictured and how the air cells (spaces) have grown. For proper hatching, the eggs need to lose a certain portion of water weight and develop a good air space, otherwise the chicks could drown when they "pip" the internal membrane at hatch time (more on that later).

    [​IMG]


    Here's Egg#4 from a couple posts up. The photo is fuzzy again (hard to hold the camera motionless when taking dark-room shots), but you should be able to make out veins and the baby chick at the bottom left. Not only could we see the eye really well, we actually saw it moving around in there. NEAT!!
    [​IMG]


    Here's Egg#10 again. The very dark spot in the middle is the eye. The body of the embryo is shaped like a bean at this point, and you can see the veins radiating from it, bringing in nutrients from the yolk. I took the liberty again of drawing the outline of the embryo and shading in the eye (picture immediately below). The beak and comb and feathers (in white) aren't really there...but you can get an idea of the chick's orientation in the egg at this point.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]



    And here's Egg #32. Much to my surprise, we not only see veins in this one, but a healthy embryo (just about the middle of this photo, but it's eyes were not facing us) AND the air space is about the same as the others'. We'll continue to keep an eye on it, but I think it will be easier to manage than we thought.
    [​IMG]

    Okay, so in summary, we candled 32 eggs. Of these, 2 were infertile. That means that 30 of them ARE fertile. That's 98% fertility...which is pretty darn good. Of the rest, there are 5 or so that may or may not still be alive. But since we "don't count our chickens before they hatch", we'll worry about that in the end.

    Something else I forgot to mention. In a still-air incubator, the warmer air (which naturally rises) is at the top of the eggs, while cooler air is at the bottom. So, we have increased the temperature to 100.5 - 101 F. We did this on Day 3 and it's obviously been working. [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2013
  9. davemonkey

    davemonkey Chillin' With My Peeps

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    A few clearer pictures, and a study lesson + homework assignment for the students following along. [​IMG]

    First, the study lesson. The following 2 links are great for egg anatomy and how the chick develops inside the egg. Focus on "outer shell membrane" and "inner shell membrane". The air space at the larger end of the egg is in between these two membranes. When a chick hatches, it's first breath of fresh air will be taken when it "pips" a hole into the inner membrane and pokes its beak into that air space inside the egg. (This is called "internal pip", and this is when you can hear chirping inside an egg that has not yet hatched.)

    That's why it is so important to have good air cell development. If the air cell is too small, it means the chick might be "pipping" into a sac full of water. If that happens, it's first breath of "air" will be a lung full of water, and it will drown.

    Homework: the 2nd link gives a very good day-to-day development guide. If yesterday's post was "Day 7 Candling", then what is beginning to develop TODAY (as of the date of this post)? Make a chart (any kind you like) showing what parts of the chick will develop on each day of growth. For extra credit, draw a diagram of an egg with a baby chick inside at any stage you want. Make sure you include that air cell!!

    http://imaginationstationtoledo.org/content/2011/04/the-anatomy-of-a-chicken-egg/

    http://msucares.com/poultry/reproductions/poultry_chicks_embryo.html

    And here are some more pictures I took this morning of eggs #8 and #12. #12 was pretty cooperative. If you divide the "x" into 4 sections; North, East, South, and West (bet you never thought you'd need geography tools in a science class!) , you can clearly see the chicks head in the West, and its body in the South. Lots of blood circulation going on all around it. Here's #12:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    Egg #8 was either really excited to visit with me this morning, or really upset that I woke it up. If I didn't know better, I'd have thought there was a fish inside here because it was moving around so much. You can see the chick at the bottom-right (South East) of the "x". It started out pressed against to shell so that I could see it VERY clearly, but then started dancing away from me. Here are 3 attempts at a good photo of #8:
    [​IMG]

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    Last edited: Oct 15, 2013
  10. davemonkey

    davemonkey Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Nov 25, 2012
    Liberty, TX
    Update time!! Monday was Day 14 and we candled again. There were some losses, and they appear to have died very early on, between Days 5 and 9.

    Let's crunch the numbers first: We started with 32 eggs. Eggs #1 and 2 were never fertile to begin with, so they are gone. Egg #16 died before embryo development was visible, so we tossed that one. We also discovered that Eggs#5, 6, and 31 died.

    That comes to 6 losses so far. So, (get your pencils ready), if we started with 32, and lost 6, how many chicks can we now expect to hatch if we expect 80% of the remaining eggs to hatch (round to the nearest number)? [Hint for the younger ones following: first find the number that is left, and ask your parents/teacher if you need help with percentages.] How does that number compare to our original hatch-rate of 70% when we started? [Hint for the younger ones: 70% of 32 = 32 x 0.7.]

    Okay, so let's look at some photos and see what there is to see.

    Here's Egg #4 again. The egg has become so dark, that it was nearly impossible to get a clear photo. The camera shutter stayed open for a full 5 seconds to let in enough light to get where you see here...and my hands are not very steady. But, you should be able to see some REALLY thick blood veins in there near the large portion of the egg.
    [​IMG]


    Here is Egg#5, one that didn't make it. Notice how well you can see through the entire egg. The embryo is less than half the size (just looking through the egg shell) of what we saw in the other eggs. Egg#6 look pretty much the same.
    [​IMG]


    This is the embryo from Egg#5. It looks like it was well-developed, but stopped for some reason between Days 9-10, or something close to that. If you look closely, you can see the shape of the beak, which is still soft, and even the "arm" and knee curled up. The eye looks like it makes up a third of the entire head.
    [​IMG]


    This is the embryo from Egg#6. This chick was barely developed when it died. You can see the eye spot, the head, and the central nervous system where some appendages might be starting to form. I'm going to guess that this was around Day 5-7. The links I posted last week (in Post #9 might give us some really good clues as to the age of this embryo...I'll be honest and admit that I have not looked yet. ;) ).
    [​IMG]


    Egg#10 is coming along beautifully. This baby kept jumping around, but we were able to get a decent photo that shows the body fairly well. The head is pointed toward the right, and downward.
    [​IMG]


    And here is Egg#32. The picture doesn't show as well as #10, but this chick was jumping around like it was on a trampoline. I wish I had video capabilities...it was really fun to watch this one! Take a look down at the bottom where the air cell is and you should be able to make out the faint pencil markings where the air cell was, and is. It grew significantly between Day 7 and 14, and I decided to add a bit of water to the incubator to slow down evaporation. In just 2 days from today, these will go on lockdown and I'll add a bit more water to keep humidity up for hatch day.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2013

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