Last night Dustin and I had an egg candling date. We'd been trying to get out together for a couple nights. I was still up when he got home from work at eleven and the kids were both sound asleep so we snuck up to the chicken coop. All the chickens were asleep except for Honey, because I'd forgot to turn her light off - oops. We decided to continue with the mission despite the odds, and would abort if the participant became uncooperative. We turned off her light and our headlamps and under the cover of dark snuck eleven eggs out from under a protective soon to be mother hen. We had waited until day eleven of their incubation so it was pretty obvious which eggs had growing chicks in them and which didn't. The eggs that were fertile were heavy and solid. When we held up the flashlight behind the eggs the fertile ones were dark, whereas the unfertile eggs lit up and we could see right into them (when we turned them the yolk would move to the top).
Unfortunately half the eggs were duds, and all of them were Brahma eggs. So we stuck the remaining six good eggs back under a disgruntled Honey and chucked the duds into the woods. There are a number of reasons why the eggs may not have developing chicks inside. We may have put more eggs under her than she could cover. A couple of the bad eggs were on the edge and didn't feel as warm. The number a hen can hatch is eight to twelve depending on her size. I think a big factor was egg storage. The Brahmas were not laying frequently enough so we stored some of the Brahma eggs too long while waiting for more. I didn't know anything about collecting eggs for hatching before this experience. I learned that you are not suppose to use eggs older than about ten days. Storage conditions are suppose to be around sixty degrees if I remember correctly. The eggs are suppose to be rotated daily. If we didn't have two roosters for seven hens I'd think that the eggs hadn't been fertile to begin with but given the youthful vigor of the roosters I doubt this is the case. I'm guessing the lack of developing eggs is human error. The Americana eggs and Sexlink eggs that we put under Honey were eggs we had collected the day we put the eggs under her just because we didn't have as many Brahma eggs as we wanted and we figured if she was sitting on six eggs she might as well sit on eleven.
If you read a hatching manual that comes with an incubator you'd wonder how a mother hen does it. The eggs are suppose to be kept at a constant exact temperature with precise humidity and rotated multiple times daily. Supposedly a good broody hen knows to lift herself off the eggs when they begin hatching so as not to suffocate the hatching eggs. Well given the small number of chicks due to hatch I think we will try and graft some more chicks onto Honey. We will do this by purchasing a half dozen day old chicks from the feed store and again working under the cover of night sneak them under Honey the night she is due to hatch the eggs. Eggs usually take twenty-one days to hatch but I've heard mother hens often hatch their eggs up to twenty-four hours earlier. So on day twenty I'll start looking for signs of eggs hatching and if it works out she'll take on a few extras.
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