No the sky isn’t falling, thank goodness. In my sleep deprived state I am not sure I would even notice! Why so tired? I went to bed after one am and was up every 2 hours after that checking on baby chicks! Having three healthy, warm, fuzzy chicks today is worth any sleep I lost. Hopefully hubby feels the same since he had to go to work today on about the same amount of sleep. Poor guy, what he puts up with around here!
It all started yesterday evening when we returned home from hubby’s birthday party. I checked the incubator, not expecting much on day 22 of a 21 day hatch cycle. Lo and behold three tiny little holes in three of the six eggs in my borrowed incubator. I waited, slightly impatiently, for a couple hours. I spent the time asking my mom last minute questions and haunting chicken forums for last minute advice. Every time I would check on the eggs there would be vigorous “chirping” but no progress. Chicks are supposed to start with a little hole and then turn around in their egg making more little holes. Unless of course they dry out, which mine did. I came home to an empty water reservoir in my incubator and even though I immediately filled it nothing changed. This is a serious thing, the forums say, and the chicks become exhausted, give up and die. Of course I was panicky and felt I needed to help out.
There are, as with so many things, two schools of thought on this subject. One group says never, never help. They say that a chick that isn’t strong enough to escape it’s shell isn’t worth allowing to live. So a child that must be delivered Cesarean shouldn’t be allowed to live either? Goodness, I am glad my own mother didn’t think so! Ok so I am being a bit dramatic but I do believe if you are going to try to hatch chicks (or any animal actually) in a way that is not natural to them (incubator vs hen) you have to be prepared to help out if conditions aren’t ideal. My conditions weren’t ideal, my humidity was not high enough and I do believe without my intervention I would not have had these three lovely chicks. As you can see, after much debate and hand-wringing I chose the other school of thought. That is, I grabbed a cup of warm water, a washcloth and set to work. I removed half the shell on each and as little of the dried membrane as I could. I really didn’t want to “hatch” the chicks completely as I think a little struggle does make them stronger. I am no expert of course, after all these are my first hatchlings. After five hours and many breaks I had three wet and very ugly heaps in my incubator. I removed all the extra shell and let them hang out to dry and find their feet. Can I just tell you at this point baby chicks are all beak and eyes? Seriously. they have this itty bitty head and massive eyes and they have this look of utter shock. It is rather adorable if you can get past the slime covered alien thing.
I went to bed around one am and was up at three to check the chicks. I’ll be honest I stood in the kitchen doorway for a moment, praying, terrified of what I might see. They seemed ok, breathing anyway, so I went back to bed. At five, when hubby got up for work I checked them again and had three puffy sets of eyes looking at me like hey what’s with the draft in here we were warm! I shut the lid, whispered thanks and again went back to bed. Finally at eight am I got up and moved them one by one to the “brooder box.” Nothing fancy it is a tote with a light above it and the basic chicken ammenities: food, water and bedding. Oh and three other chicks. You see on Saturday we bought three chicks from the feed store, “just in case” and they were already in the tote. They had also been yelling at the incubator all night. I am not sure if it was encouragement or escape information as the older ones have been trying to escape since they were put into the tote. Whatever it was it seemed to foster a relationship because when I put the new chicks in the tote the older ones acted like they were excited for the company. Maybe it takes six chickens to make a good escape plan, I am not sure. They aren’t very gentle with the new ones but they don’t intentionally hurt them either so for now they all get to stay.
So that is my story of hatching chicks the first time. I have added some pictures just for fun!
For those of you curious, these are three of the four eggs my Buff Orpington; Goldie Hawn, laid. They were in the incubator with two from my Silkie; Harriet. Unfortunately I have no idea what kind they are as I have both an Araucana and a Polish rooster. We are really pulling for the Araucana and hubby is threatening the Polish with eviction if his personality transfers to the chicks. He is a lazy, pain in the butt. The Silkies would have been pure Silkies but Gus hadn’t been with us long when I collected eggs for incubation.
(please don’t mind the spelling too much on this one guys spellchecker won’t work and I am too tired to proofread)