I Think I Killed the Chickens

readytohatch.jpg

Sigh. This year in science we studied the human body, plants, and animals. SOMEone thought it would be a fantastic idea to hatch chickens as a school project. I haven’t mentioned it yet because, well, I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out. At this point, I’m a bit pessimistic.

We ordered 30 eggs from the hatchery and they sent us 36 (which was exciting and fun). They arrived via FedEx packed in a box of wood shavings.

Our directions were to get them out and warm them to 70 or 80 degrees before putting into the incubator.

We very carefully waited the allotted time, then moved them into the incubator.

36 little lives. Amazing.

From there, the trick was to keep the incubator at 100 degrees. This? Not so easy. I found myself checking on them several times a day and the temperature the first week was often at 101 and even 102. Yikes.

Eventually things stabilized, and we arrived at day 9. That was when we learned how to candle the eggs. It’s really neat! Candling rigs are available to purchase, but we found success with a plain cardboard box and powerful flashlight. Cut a hole the size of a quarter (or a bit smaller) in the box and put the flashlight so it shines through. Set up the box in a completely dark room, then hold the egg up to the light coming through the hole (briefly). If an embryo is inside you can see it floating in the sac, and a well-developed network of arteries will have developed inside the shell.

Out of the 36 eggs, we counted 11 that may not be good. They were marked accordingly and put carefully back into the incubator. I read online that bad eggs can begin to “weep” and then explode, introducing bacteria into the incubator which is harmful to newly hatched chicks.

I watched the eggs even closer.

After about 5 days, we candled the eggs again. 2 bad eggs were upgraded to goods, and 4 goods were downgraded to bad. We’re extremely sure that thirteen eggs did not contain developing chicks so those were removed from the incubator. The temperature held fairly well at that point, and we’ve all been checking the thermometer regularly.

We’re now 3 days from the hatch; there was one final step to get ready for the big event.

Captain Earthquake and The Manager helped me do that at about 7:30 last night. Working as a team, we pulled the eggs out, removed the turner, added water to the tray, and replaced the eggs.

In the process the thermometer dropped to 80 but I wasn’t concerned because I had set it on the table and I believed it would bounce back to 100 pretty quickly. I checked it sometime later and it read about 94. In the whole bedtime process I forgot to check the eggs and it was about 1:00 in the morning when I took a look at the temp. 96 degrees!

What followed was a rather anxious night of checking and increasing the temperature, desperately hoping that it wouldn’t shoot up above 100 when I wasn’t looking. By 4:00 am, it had moved back up to 100, and we were still holding there this morning.

So….we’ll see. I’m not sure they’ve survived the whole night in the cold thing, and I’m not sure I should open the incubator to pull some out and candle them because I don’t want to introduce any cold air into the system.

All we can do is wait.

If you happen to be the praying type and don’t mind praying for 23 chicken eggs, I’d appreciate it.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want their children to excel.

The editor-in-chief of Earnest Parenting, Amy is the mother of two sets of twin boys. Yes, they drive her crazy, but they also make her laugh occasionally. Amy enjoys writing, quilting, reading, and working on her burgeoning cyber empire.

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  • Mary June 10, 2009, 7:35 am

    soooooo the current question is…..ummmm what are you going to do with them when they hatch????

    Reply
  • Doug June 10, 2009, 9:16 am

    I think you still have good chances. Under normal chicken coop environmental circumstances, I would hazard a guess that eggs have sucessfully hatched with greater parental neglect than you have demonstrated.

    I won’t call PETA on you.

    Reply
  • Amy June 10, 2009, 10:46 am

    Lol, Mary we’ll keep them for a while and then they’re moving to a farm that raises chickens. Assuming I haven’t killed them, of course.

    Doug I certainly hope you’re right! And thanks for not siccing the chicken police on me. 🙂

    Reply
  • KY's Commonwealth Eye Surgery June 11, 2009, 7:17 am

    Hey Amy why not bring 3-4 hens and pet them.
    Tell me how’s my idea ?lol

    Reply
  • Color Printing June 11, 2009, 10:55 pm

    Aww… hopefully you didn’t kill the chicks. Does the incubator have to be 100 degrees flat? Just hang in there and hopefully your experiment will turn out fine. 🙂

    Reply
  • Liz June 14, 2009, 10:20 pm

    Hopefully they’ll be just fine. But I’ll say prayers anyway. And don’t feel bad. This year was our garden year. The cucumbers never even bothered to come up out of the ground. 4/6ths of the tomato plants are already dead thanks to my gray thumb… and I’m afraid the strawberries are on the respirator. I would have been a very hungry pioneer. 🙂

    Reply
  • Amy June 16, 2009, 1:02 pm

    Neo, haha that’s a fun idea. But I wanted the boys to see the whole hatching process. Besides, chicks are smaller and cuter than adult hens. The boys are more attracted to a cute little chicky than an adult who may peck. The chicks have pecked me a little but it doesn’t hurt. I’m hoping that they’ll be used to handling soon and won’t peck us too much.

    Color Printing, there’s a little bit of variance allowed with the temperature but not 4 degrees. This was our first time and it’s not an easy thing to do, let me tell you. I have a newfound respect and understanding of the term “Mother Hen”. 5 chicks hatched and one more may yet make it. It’s not the big flock I’d imagined, but decent enough.

    Liz, oy. I have abandoned vegetable gardening altogether. I suppose as a pioneer I would try harder because of the whole hunger thing. 🙂 I can do flowers easily, but food is harder to grow in my opinion. Oh well, someone’s got to support the local farmers, right?

    Reply
  • Rana June 19, 2009, 12:46 am

    I found you on the Carnival, I hope the chicks make it okay. What a great project for you and the kiddos.

    Reply
  • Amy June 22, 2009, 12:27 am

    Rana,

    Thanks for stopping by! We had 6 chicks hatch. One was incredibly late and only lived a few hours. Another one had something seriously wrong with its legs. We fought the good fight, feeding with an eye dropper and trying to find remedies. It was up and walking around, looking better but we couldn’t get it to eat and drink on its own so we lost him. Her. Hard to say. Anyhow we were quite sad.

    Today some friends called and asked us to take a live chick they’d found along with a couple of dozen eggs to try and hatch. A few hours later 2 more chicks and 6 more eggs arrived as they were found loose on the farm. So. We may have a flock after all!

    Reply