Sunday, 27 April 2008

Egg candling

This is a photograph I took last night of one of about 30 eggs I have in our big incubator. The egg is being held blunt end to a powerful light source, so that I can see what is happening inside.

It's not a particularly good photo, being taken with my mobile phone, but it is possible to make out blood vessels around the shell, and a dark area towards the top right, which is the heart.

I'll try and get more photos as the incubation progresses, to show how the chick embryo develops in the egg.

Lola's eggs haven't hatched yet. She's been on the nest for 31 days now. They should hatch after 28 days, so I'm not hopeful, but I'll leave her there for a little while yet, just in case.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Miracle birds

As planned, I put 40 Leghorn eggs in our big incubator in early March. All went well. After 10 days we candled them (held a bright light to the blunt end in a darkened room). In 30 of them, a system of veins and a small heart could be seen, indicating that they were fertile.

The 10 infertile eggs were discarded, and incubation continued.

Then we had severe gales, and a 3 hour power cut. We moved the incubator onto the Aga to try and maintain temperature, but that is far from ideal.

After 18 days incubation (3 days before the due hatch date), we candled them again. The results were very varied. Some eggs had hardly moved on at all, and in a large number there were large dark areas inside, showing that the chicks had developed, but not as much as we would have expected, One of them was almost entirely dark, but our fear was that the power cut had completely scuppered the incubation.

The due hatch date came and went without any chicks, and we were sure that our fears were correct. Then, the following morning, when I went to check, there was a little damp newly hatched chick.

Normally, we move chicks to a brooding pen under a heat lamp, but just one? It was upset enough on its own in a supermarket basket in our airing cupboard - putting it in an outhouse would have been like torture. So, our bed & breakfast guests had trier breakfasts to the accompaniment of assorted cheeps and chirrups from the airing cupboard.

That wasn't going to continue forever, however, and we were not looking forward to the time we would have to move it out to the brooder on it's own. Then two days later, when I went out to turn off the incubator, lo and behold, there was a second chick! It is very hard work for these little creatures to break free from their shells, and it can take some time, but this was 72 hours after the due hatch date!

It is now 1 ½ weeks since the first chick hatched, and I moved them to the brooder yesterday (the eldest had managed to jump out of its basket - fortunately Mo spotted it). I am hopeful that both will develop into productive birds. If either (or both) turn out to be cockerels, we will try and find new homes for it, rather than cull it. After hatching out against the odds, they deserve all the life they can have.