The Road Home

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Firing Up The Incubator

Hello, Frank here.

Thought I would give you a brief update with our chicken hatching project. I've been saving eggs now for a couple of days.
Dating the eggs with a pencil

Today I got out my incubator and egg turner. I want to make sure the equipment works okay. So that's where we are right now.

We have a variety of thermometers we have collected along the way.

Saturday morning I will start the eggs in the incubator for their 21 day hatch cycle. But, you have to do prep work ahead of time. A quick review here. My plan is to gather eggs for five days before starting the incubator. I started yesterday on the 11th. I will gather eggs the 12th, 13th and 14th, which is Tuesday through Friday. I know earlier I said five days, but in this case I have a friend that is also saving eggs, so I should have more than enough. Come Saturday morning, I will choose the newest and best looking eggs for the incubator. So, what do I do with the old eggs I don't use? I cook them up for my dog and cats.

At this stage, my incubator thermostat is not cooperating. I've done everything like I'm supposed to do, which is, fill up the water troughs. By the way it's real hard to see water in those little troughs. So I mark the bottom of mine with a magic marker so I can at least know where the trough is.
Along the way I will show you pictures of what I am talking about, because when you have the turner and it's filled with eggs, depending on what brand of incubator you have, it can be a little difficult to get the water in the trough. I also set my incubator on something I can afford to get a little wet in case I spill some water and it drains out of the holes in the bottom of the incubator. Food for thought.

Then put the automatic turner in the incubator, because it's motor produces heat.....But I can't get the temperature down below 109 degrees. I've unplugged it and restarted it, and it's still running way too hot. I'll do some checking and tinkering, but if this continues, I will replace the incubator with my other back up incubator. So, we'll see how that works out. 

But right now, I'm saving eggs and I've turned them half a dozen times today. Which in this case means I have tilted up one end or the other of an egg carton. This is a highly technical procedure, and only those highly trained and certified should use this technique. By the way, I have been sick for a while, and I can tell I'm feeling better, because my humor is returning.

Okay, back to chicken stuff. I'm starting this incubator Saturday, February 15th. 21 days later, March 8th, or actually March 7th, which is a Friday and a Saturday, the baby chicks will hatch. These days are the same days that the baby chickens I ordered from a hatchery will also be hatched. And the baby chickens, or as I will call them, day old chicks, will arrive at the post office about Monday, March 10th. This way, the store bought babies and the homegrown babies will be the same age. 

The friend I mentioned earlier that I'm also getting eggs from, she has my last generation hens, which is a mixture of Barred Rock, Buff Orpington, Partridge Rock, Speckled Sussex and maybe some that slipped my memory right now. But most of them were Barred Rock. Those are the hens. The rooster she has is an Easter Egg or Araucanas, a beautiful red rooster.

All of my eggs are from Easter Egg hens with one rooster. And with the introduction of the store bought chicks which are Black Australorps, this should offer a very interesting blend of chickens. So that's how we're going to do it this time. After I hatch these birds, they will be my replacement birds for the ones I have now. Shortly after my birds hatch, I will start another batch of my friend's eggs and mine for her to use as she sees fit.

So, with this hatch and the store bought ones, we are probably going to have 50 to 60 day old chicks. That will give me about 25 hens and 25 roosters. I'll keep about 20 hens and one rooster which leaves me with 24 roosters that I can put in the freezer or can. We have just started canning meat the last year or two, and I find tremendous satisfaction eating high quality meat, and knowing where it came from and what it was fed.

So, along the way, I'll keep you up to date with what I do with the incubator, which isn't a whole lot, but it's very important. It's important to keep the temperature correct and the humidity adequate. And along the way I will start preparing a home for my new day old chicks, which is a separate experience in itself. If you have any questions, let me know. Chickens are easy to raise, easy to butcher, great eating, they're my favorite livestock. Most people agree that they taste better than armadillo. 

We'll talk more later. Frank 

P.S. Keep the box that your incubator came in. And when you're finished, clean up your incubator and put it back in the same box. Now listen here very closely. Read the instructions that came with the incubator, and then read them again. And when you box up your incubator at the end of incubating season, put your instructions back in the same box. This is important. Keep the box. Read the instructions. Keep the instructions. Then next year, do the same thing again.


  1. Do you know if most incubators can be used for turkey eggs, too?

    1. Approximate egg capacity without turner: 200 Quail, 90 Pheasant or Chukar, 70 Chicken, 40 Turkey or Duck. From Murray McMurray Hatchery.

      I could not find information about turner racks for turkey eggs. And I really don't know how big a turkey egg is. I have never dealt with turkeys, except at Thanksgiving.

      Thanks for the question.


  2. I have never kept chickens, only eaten the ones from the store! When you say you are "saving eggs for the incubator", I am assuming they are fertilized and you have been collecting them over time. My questions are: Shouldn't they be put in the incubator right away? Wouldn't they need to be kept warm as soon as they are fertilized? Aren't the babies growing as soon as they are fertilized? How can you "save them" and put them in the incubator willy nilly? What am I missing here? Thanks!

    1. Hi Brenda. Frank here.

      Very interesting questions. I will attempt to address each one of your questions.

      Yes, Brenda, the eggs are fertilized. And, yes, I have been collecting them over a few days. The rooster provides the fertilization and collecting eggs for a few days is standard procedure.

      My incubator holds 41 eggs and I get about 12 eggs a day, so therefore, I save eggs for a few days, or should I say gather or collect. No, they do not need to be kept warm after they are fertilized, or laid. Room temperature is more than adequate.

      Yes, the babies are growing after they're fertilized, but they are growing at a very slow rate, and room temperature storage slows down this process. Actually, the eggs are fertilized inside the hen weeks before they are laid.

      Another thought to consider is when a hen hatches birds in nature, she will lay about 10 eggs, one per day, over a 10 to 12 day period. These numbers may vary, of course. Then she actively starts sitting on the eggs and 21 days later, they all hatch within a day or two of each other.

      You ask, "What am I missing here?" Brenda, I believe what you are missing is experience and experience is the best teacher.

      Your question, "How can you "save them"....I'm not trying to save them, I'm trying to hatch them. And as far as willy and nilly, I name my baby chickens lunch and dinner. Remember, humor is the essence of survival.

      If I lived in a perfect world, I would do things different, but I don't. So I do the best I can with what God has given me.