Thursday, May 29, 2008

Things I would have done differently

OK, I know I said the last entry would be my last one about chicks, but I wanted to set this apart for anyone who is doing this type of project and would like to know ahead of time, what I wish we had done differently.

  1. I would have ordered 12 eggs instead of 36. We had never done this before and I was just thinking that a full dozen for each child would be fun. Because I turned them most of the time and they got so crammed in the Brooding Box, a dozen would have been fine. We had no idea what to expect and wanted to improve our chances of a good hatch rate. Now we know that 12 eggs is enough for us.
  2. When the eggs are numbered and placed in the incubator, I would have weighed each one and recorded the weight for a baseline measurement.
  3. I would have candled over 2 or 3 days so I could candle all of them – and done this both times we candled.
  4. At the second candling session, I would have weighed each egg, and weigh again the day we prepare the incubator for hatching.
  5. When removing hatched chicks from the incubator, I would check the level of humidity (either with a device or just by adding water) in order to avoid a chick drying inside the shell, like Flopper.
  6. I would try to predict, based on the weight and candling, which eggs would hatch.
  7. I would open the un-hatched eggs 24 hours after the last chick hatched and record the level of development found inside the egg.

That’s it, those are my recommendations. If you are getting ready to do this – HAVE FUN! We loved it and plan to do it again. If you are squeamish or don’t like to wash your hands frequently, this may not be the project for you. Even if you don’t help any chicks hatch, you will have to clean the incubator after, which will have all the broken shells and pieces of membrane strewn about. Also, keep in mind that if you don’t help one hatch who needs help, you will have to listen to it peep until it dies. Helping it is no guarantee either, you may open the shell to find blood inside, meaning it wasn’t really ready to hatch and it will die anyway. You may even find that it hadn’t absorbed the yoke and now you have a chick that isn’t fully developed and it will die, too. It doesn’t always go as smoothly as ours did. Be ready for anything.

Our Last Chick Entry

This will probably be our last entry about the chicks… not necessarily the last entry ever, because we are now observing butterflies emerging from their chrysalis and I’m sure we will have other projects after that. However, I will try to get everything in here about the chicks.

We delivered the remaining 14 chicks to their farm on Sunday. It’s a dairy farm and they will be free range chickens once they are old enough to roam the farm. They were almost 3 weeks old, so they still have some more time under the warming lights and then they’ll roam in the barn until they are old enough to roam the farm.

One had really started to develop rooster-ness. He was the biggest, puffed out his chest, and had developed the most full-grown characteristics. On that same note, I’m thinking that Flopper may be a she. Either that or just slower to develop.

Here is a picture of Flopper the night before (s)he went to live on the farm.

It was a sad day for everyone. “A” cried and had a hard time saying good-bye. We have pictures, but won’t post them because it was a sensitive time. “C” still asks about the “chickies” every day. It’s hard to know what goes through “B’s” mind and she talks about it very little. I’ll have to try to get her to tell me what she thinks about the whole project.

I’ve been meaning to record the hatching information for each egg and some other meaningless stats. So here goes:

The eggs that did NOT hatch, were # 11, 14, 17, 28, 34, and 35.

Child C had eggs 1-12, the best hatch rate: 11 hatched: 92%
Child B had eggs 13-24, the second best: 10 hatched: 83%
Child A had eggs 25-36, the third best: 9 hatched: 75%
Overall: 83% hatched, 81% survived.

Eggs that hatched:
Monday, May 5th: 22, 23, 33
Tuesday between midnight and 9:30 am: 2, 3, 4, 7, 10, 12, 13, 16, 19, 20, 21, 25, 27, 30, 36
Tuesday between 9:30 am & 2 pm: 1, 5, 6, 8, 15, 18, 26, 32
Tuesday after 2 pm: 9, 24, 31
Wednesday morning with our help: Flopper was in egg #29

Monday, May 19, 2008

Becoming Chickens

Here is a picture of Flopper from a week ago. You can see his crooked toe that sets him apart from the others. He’s also a bit smaller than the others.
They are really looking pretty funny losing all their baby feathers and growing into their full chicken feathers. I'll have to get a picture in the next day or two. We are sort of hoping we won’t be able to take them to their farm until we can see which are roosters and which are hens. Around 3 weeks they should be showing us. If we take them this weekend, they will be just a few days shy of 3 weeks old. Hopefully a few will be early developers…

Pictures of the first 15 to go home

Here are some pictures of the first 15 to go to their farm. You can start to see the wing feathers changing.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Flopper's Alive!

It took me a day or so, but I was able to identify Flopper as one of the 14 remaining chicks in our possession. His toes are straightening out, so it's getting harder and harder to spot him, but he also has a slight bald spot on his back where his feathers were pulled out when we peeled the shell off of him. He is also a bit skinnier than the others.

Boy do they go through food fast!

I changed the litter to a regular small animal pine litter and there is no more smell. Previously I was using some organic stuff that felt like hemp. I don't remember exactly what it was, but the small package cost the same $10 as the HUGE package of pine litter. I'll forfeit the environment this time for the sanity of the family and the smell in our house. Who’d have thought that trying to go green would smell so bad?

I have to feed the chicks 2-3 times a day (using an egg carton for a food dish) and change the water 2-3 times each day. They get so much bedding in the water that they can’t drink. And when we look in or open the cage, the chicks are so scared, it’s no wonder their called “chicken”, um, er, maybe that’s why chicken is another word for being scared…

Oh, and did I mention that I think we have a rooster? Well, it wouldn’t be a surprise. With 14 chicks, there’s bound to be at least one rooster. It doesn’t crow, it peeps – at the crack of dawn… I hear this, LOUD, “peep, peep, PEEP, PEEP” early in the morning. It’s kind of funny.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

First lost, some go home

Well, one of the chicks died. It was either 4 or 5 days old and I found it this morning when I was checking on the chicks. I have no idea what happened. At first, I thought it suffocated, but now I think it had a broken neck. Maybe it was trampled in its sleep. It was still warm and limp, so it was recent. When I found a box to put it in and reached in to take it out, the others were very protective and didn't want me to get to it. That was interesting.

“C” was there; she and I were checking on the chicks together and taking one out here and there for her to pet and hold. She isn’t feeling well, so I was hoping it would make her feel better – then we found the dead one. She handled it OK and then we waited to tell her sisters.

All the chicks were OK last night when I changed the water, gave more food, and cleaned the bedding. Can I just say those chicks are filthy! Yuck! I clean daily and give food whenever they run low. They can eat as much as they want right now. Then the water gets cleaned a couple times a day. Not a fun job, let me tell you. But I had to move them around last night in order to change the bedding and they were all fine and moving at the time.

This afternoon when we told her sisters, they were all pretty sure it wasn’t any of the ones they have named: “Sweetie” (from egg #27), “Honey”, “Chicka”, “Tootsie Roll”, and “Tu-tu”. How they can tell the chicks apart, I have no idea. I suspect they can’t really!

I had taken to calling the one we helped hatch “Flopper” because his toes on each foot curved inward towards the other foot. He hobbled a little as he got stronger, but I could still tell which one he was. Last night; however, I wasn’t able to determine which one he was. It could be I just wasn’t seeing his feet amongst the other 58 chicken feet, or it could be that his toes have straightened out. Unless I find him when we move the chicks to a box for transporting to their new homes, I won’t know if the dead one was him. Even if it was him, at least he didn’t die alone stuck in a shell trying to get out.

In just half an hour, we will be moving 15 chicks to a smaller box, filled well with bedding to keep them warm, so they can go home. They will be out from the heat lamp for about 5 hours, so there has to be plenty of bedding. They are going to live in NW Illinois. The other 14 will be going about an hour south of us and we don’t have a set date for them to go yet.

As they get older, they are growing more and more “chicken” to being held and starting to run faster. They are only 5 days old and are starting to grow their real wing feathers and the floppy thing on the top of the beak is really noticeable, though still small.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

DAY 24, Thursday, May 8, 2008

Today the little flopper looks almost like the others. I can still point him out and he walks with a limp, but he’s otherwise OK. I don’t know for sure if he’ll make it, but at least he didn’t die in his shell.

This evening, I will throw out the un-hatched eggs. I’m hoping to have time to candle them to see how far they got before development stopped. If I don’t have time, then I may wait until tomorrow to toss them. I’m still trying to decide if I’ll open the shells. It will be sad and will be hard for the kids to understand, but it is a fact of life and I’d rather explain it in terms of a chick than wait until the necessity to explain it about a person. We’ll see; I haven’t decided what to do yet about those eggs.

We have identified 1, maybe 2, farmers interested in our chicks. We are taking them Saturday evening to a friend’s house whose sister-in-law is taking them about 2-1/2 hours northwest, but still inside Illinois. The other farmer, if she takes some, may offer opportunity for us to visit periodically. That would be neat.

DAY 23, Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Before bed, we (my husband and I) made the decision to help the little chick a bit. We helped crack the egg all the way around, using the existing crack already there. Now he should be able to break out of it, so we thought.

When we woke up in the morning, he was still in the shell, but now he looks like he’s stuck to it. It’s all dried around him. Using a spray bottle with warm water and tweezers and fingernails, we slowly and carefully pulled the shell off of him. Sure enough, the membrane was dried up and stuck to him. His right wing was stuck on this head and covered his eye. We carefully dropped droplets of water to moisten the membrane and peeled it off him. He only lost a few feathers in the process.

OK, I need to stop here for a minute to clarify something. I keep referring to this little chick, and maybe others, as “he”. We have no idea which ones are hens and which are roosters. That won’t be known until they are about 3 weeks old, and they will be at their farm by then.

Back to the little chick… After he was successfully out of the shell, we put him back in the incubator to warm up and dry a bit. We tried putting him in the Brooder, but he was just too cold and the others pecked at him. “A” insists they were picking on him. So back to the incubator he went. Later we moved him to the Brooder, even though he was still wet – well he looks wet, but it could be all the goo stuck to him – and not able to walk well yet. He just flops around. He tries to walk, but flops instead. I hope he makes it. The other chicks peck at him, but I think they are trying to clean him up, not be mean.

We spent some family time in the evening holding the chicks and playing with them a bit. They are funny the way they hop and peck. They were pecking at my fingernails.

"C's" Demonstration of a chick

DAY 22, Tuesday, May 6, 2008 (more)

Well, this time I mis-numbered the days. I skipped Saturday because nothing was worth reporting, but then I mis-numbered. Today is really Day 22.

We went to bed last night with 3 chicks fully hatched. This morning at 8:30, we had 12 hatched and 2 hatching. By 9:30 we had 18 chicks!!! Holy cow. Or Holy Chickens! Wow.

I simply cannot believe it; I was just hoping for 3 – one for each kid – after our temperature scare last Thursday and our inconsistent rotating.

At 9:30 we moved the chicks to the Brooder Box. First, we closed the cats in the bedroom. Then, we washed our hands. Next, we opened the incubator and carried them, one by one, to the Brooder Box. I moved the first one and had the kids stand watch over the incubator. Those chicks are daring and I thought they may just hop right out – and have a 3 foot drop to the floor. Whew. Glad that didn’t happen… Then I helped “A” bring one to the Brooder Box. Next I helped “B”, then “C”. After that, “A” pretty much had the hang of it. She and I helped “B” and “C”. Those little prickly feet were freaking “B” out a bit. Once they were all moved, I closed up the incubator and we washed our hands again. Oh, and we let the cats out of the bedroom. I wonder how long it will take for them to notice…

I decided to change the bulb to a 75 watt bulb so that they would stay warm enough. With us peeking at them, we were letting warm air out. If the chicks huddle together, they are too cold. If they are all scattered apart then they may be too warm, so we have to keep an eye on them.

Throughout the day we watched a few more hatch. By 2:00, all the cracked eggs (5 more since 9:30 am) had hatched except one that was still working on it. All day the kids kept asking if we could move them over to the Brooder. Not wanting to keep opening the incubator, I assured them that we would move the other 5 in the evening. Hopefully by then it would be 6.

Man they can be loud! The incessant chirping! One of the cats was caught sitting on the incubator and another was hunting around the Brooder but I don’t think she had it figured out that the birds were inside. They seem to have lost interest since then.

In the early evening, we moved the other 5 to the Brooder. It’s midnight and that other one is still in the shell – cracked halfway down the middle – and chirping. Poor thing. He looks stuck. I’ve read that human help is really discouraged, but it’s breaking my heart to hear him chirp with no more progress. He actually looks stuck. I don’t know what to do.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

DAY 21, Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I woke up this morning hearing my husband say “You don’t have 3 chicks, you have a flock…”

DAY 20: Monday, May 5, 2008

This morning, that little protrusion hadn’t really gotten bigger, but the pieces had chipped off. The temperature in the Brooding Box was at 80 and not going up at all. I contacted a couple people at the Extension office and the University and they offered some suggestions. Basically, I was told that I should do whatever I need to in order to get the temperature between 92-95 degrees. I can increase the wattage, add another light, etc. I was also reminded that the thermometer may be defective and it should be at the level of the chicks – so on the bottom of the cage, not hanging up on the side. I knew that from the class, but had forgotten about it.

I took the thermometer out of the incubator and put it on the floor of the cage. Sure enough, it goes right up to 90. OK. Let’s leave it and see if it goes up. I have 3 strips of cardboard that I put over the top so that the heat won’t escape (because heat rises.)

Throughout the day we are noticing changes in the eggs and a gradual progression towards hatching (and the chirping is quiet, but audible):

#4: 10:30 am - small protrusion
#12: noon - small protrusion
#13: late evening - small protrusion
#16: 8:45 pm – hole (this is the one that started last night)
#17: late evening - small protrusion
#18: late evening - small protrusion
#19: late evening - small protrusion
#20: evening - small protrusion
#21: late evening - small protrusion
#25: 10:30 pm - small protrusion
#29: 8:45 pm - small hole
#33: evening - small protrusion
#36: evening - small protrusion

In the evening, “A” was at an athletic event when I went to check on the eggs. A chick was trying to get out of the egg! It was really working at it and hatch was eminent. I called “B” in (“C” was napping). “B” came to look, was interested for about 45 seconds and asked very politely if she could be excused to watch more of her movie. Of course, I’m not going to make her watch this when I have no idea how long it’s going to take. I watched for a another couple of minutes and went back to what I had been doing previously. Not 5 minutes had passed when I heard very loud chirping. When I went to look, there it was! The chick was out! Our first chick had hatched! 7:40 egg #22.

I called in “B” to take another look and tell me what she saw. She was so excited! She immediately asked if she could call dad. When “A” got home, we told her she should go check the eggs and she also was excited to see our first hatchling! Later, when “C” woke up, she, too, was excited.

I went to the store around 9:00 and came home around 10:15. I was expecting the kids to be in bed, but when I opened the front door I heard them saying “Come on, you can do it, come out little chickie, come out!” Then squeals of glee and “oh, it’s almost out!” I quickly made my way to the incubator and saw that #23 was working his way out. Yeah! He emerged at 10:30. Now off to bed for the kids. Before the grownups went to bed, #33 also hatched. We didn’t kill 3 of them! Now let’s wait and see how many more survived our inconsistent turning and greater than 100 degrees on 2 occasions.

#22: 7:40 pm - HATCHED
#23: 10:30 pm - HATCHED
#33: late - HATCHED

Preparing the Incubator for Hatching - forgot to mentino this

Things I forgot to mention:
Preparing the incubator for hatching… We removed all the eggs and added water to all the chambers. We soaked 2 sponges and put them on the bottom of the incubator for more moisture. The humidity level has to be high for hatching. Then we put the metal grate back in the incubator, placed Handi-wipes on the grate, and then put the eggs back in. Now leave them alone and wait.

DAY 19: Sunday, May 4, 2008

Well, again, nothing like waiting until the last minute. It’s Day 19 and we need our Brooding Box set up. I bought the thermometer and the litter and cleaned out an old guinea pig cage… man was that thing filthy after being outside all winter. After washing it thoroughly with soap and water, I sprayed it with a diluted bleach-water solution. It sat in the sun all afternoon to dry. Then we wrapped a taken apart cardboard box around it, taped it together with Gorilla tape and put the work lamp on top of the cage with a 60 watt bulb in it. The thermometer is hanging inside; now let’s see how warm it gets. We need the inside to be around 95 degrees.

Well, it looks like we got the box set up in the nick of time! At 11:00 PM, there is an outward crack in the shell!

DAY 18: Friday, May 2, 2008

Temperature Range: 98
Turned the eggs: 2 times – 9:30 am, 12:15 am (just after midnight)
Water added today: No

I haven’t been able to get the temperature right back at 100 since our 104 scare. I’m keeping it a tad cooler rather than risk frying them. The thing is so touchy that it’s hard to get it exact. I figure it may slow things down a day or so if they are cooler, but at least they’re not fried (I hope!)

Today is the last day to turn the eggs. If we keep turning them, we risk hurting their tiny little necks. They are at the developmental point where they will suck the yolk up into their belly for nourishment until they have access to food after hatching. This weekend I will prepare the incubator for hatching. I have to buy a new thermometer for the Brooding Box (where we put the chicks after they hatch and dry). Because I should still have a thermometer in the incubator, I need another one for the Box. I also need some litter material for the bottom of the Box and to actually set the thing up.

Today, I purchased a special little water-dish device that screws onto a mason jar for the baby chicks.

DAY 17: Thursday, May 1, 2008

Temperature Range: 98.5-100
Turned the eggs: 2 times – 9:15 am, 9:45 pm
Water added today: Yes

More eggs are looking misshapen. It’s really weird to see a section bulging out. Not like it’s going to crack, but just bulging.

Oh my gosh! At 3:00, I was getting ready to take “A” to piano lessons and the thermometer read 104!! How can that be? No one has touched it or even gone near it since this morning. How long has it been that hot? Just a few hours and it will cook the chicks. Oh man, All this, over two weeks, and we might have killed them all. I made an adjustment to the little stick of a gauge and checked it frequently after that. It seemed OK, but man am I a wreck now. We’ll just have to wait and see…

This evening we weighed the eggs again using the same 1 ounce container as before (weights indicated are after container weight was subtracted):
#14: 1.8 ounces (previously 1.75 ounces)
#22: 2 ounces (previously 2.25 ounces)
#27: 2 ounces (previously 2 ounces)
#34: 1.9 ounces (not previously weighed)

I really wish I had initial weights for them all!

DAY 16: Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Temperature Range: 100
Turned the eggs: 3 times – 10:30 am, 4:45 pm, 10:00 pm
Water added today: No

Did I mention anywhere that this whole process takes about 21 days?
I have gotten so many questions in the past 2 weeks about why we are doing this, how we got started, and what we are going to do with the chicks. Since this was an uneventful day, I’ll answer those questions here.

Why are we doing this?
We love opportunities for hands-on science. Children learn best through hands-on activities and are most likely to remember things they actually experience, rather than just read or be told the information. We love animals and my older children were each present for the birth of their younger siblings, so this is right up our alley. It’s also a great way for us to remember how amazing the formation of life is and what a wonderful God we have to create each living thing according to it’s own likeness. It’s a great reminder of how delicate life is. We are making an investment of time, energy, and love ineach of these eggs. The very idea that they won’t all hatch, which is realistic, is distressing. Will it be because of something we did or didn’t do? Because of the very formation and reproduction of it’s own cells? Simply because God didn’t will it… So much to discuss here with the children.

How did we get started?
I belong to a couple local homeschool groups and several homeschool email lists. The opportunity to hatch chicks came through on one of the email lists. It was basically for teachers and there was an application to complete and a deadline to meet. After much discussion and several budget revisions, we decided to go ahead and apply. We met the deadline and paid a small fee for one 3-hour class on egg embryology. It wasn’t a whole semester – just one evening for 3 hours. Now we just needed an incubator.

I called our local school district to inquire about borrowing an incubator if they weren’t using it. Good idea, but they don’t have any. Several years ago parents became concerned about the risk of Salmonella, so the school stopped participating and liquidated their incubators. Neighboring school districts still participate, but I didn’t make additional calls. We’ll just get one from Farm & Fleet.

The program is organized by our local University of Illinois Extension Office.

What are we going to do with the chicks?
Well, we can’t keep them. Where we live, we are not permitted to keep chickens. We have enough chick feed for several days and we have a list of local farmers who expressed interest in chickens. While we are not limited to those farmers, we are limited to our state because they are not supposed to cross state lines without some certificate of health, which we do not have.

I know a few people who may be interested, considering they are free chicks. After all, if someone is interested in raising chickens – why buy them when you can get them for free? So, I have put the feelers out and am waiting for confirmations before I call the farmers on the list.

These are White Leg Horn Chickens

DAY 15: Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Temperature Range: 100
Turned the eggs: 2 times – 10:00 am, 10:30 pm
Water added today: Yes

(Somewhere between Days 11 & 12 I got my dates messed up, but this blog entry has the correct date for the day of the week – the days of the week are all correct, just not the dates from yesterday back to day 12.)

The water is evaporating faster. A few days had gone between yesterday and the time before when I added water to the chambers, but I just added it yesterday and today it needs more. Now, I don’t wait for it to be dry to refill it. When I notice that the water level is low enough to add some water, then I add some warm water using a turkey-baster. We have to be very careful not to get any eggs wet. But the point here was just to mention that the water evaporated more quickly this time.

Egg #14 is a bit misshapen and leans very heavily to the narrow end of the egg. The shell feels much more rough than the others. It didn’t before, but it does now. Upon closer examination, it appears to have a small crack. I don’t know if it’s superficial or if it penetrates the shell completely. This is all a waiting game.

DAY 14: Monday, April 27, 2008

Temperature Range: 100
Turned the eggs: 3 times – 10:00 am, 5:00 pm, 11:30 pm
Water added today: Yes

I feel SO much better! Yeah! It’s not Salmonella. Must have been something else it probably was from something I ate in order for it to have been so short-lived. I don’t care; I’m not complaining. I’m glad it’s over. And the sweater is in the wash! Not taking any more chances… Yeah! Oh man, I am so grateful to God for little reminders like this to be so careful. He gives us such beautiful life and we are so fortunate to be able to participate in projects like this. So many people around the world would give or do anything for opportunity to have just one or two chickens for eggs or food – and here we have 36 eggs we are trying to hatch for education and amusement purposes. I just pray that the educational opportunity here glorifies God. We are so blessed to have such an opportunity.

DAY 13: Sunday, April 26, 2008

Temperature Range: 100
Turned the eggs: 2 times – 1:30 pm, 10:30 pm
Water added today: No

Today just hasn’t been a good day to take care of the eggs. I forgot to turn them this morning and so did everyone else. I have felt really crummy – chills, strong stomach cramps, etc. I’ll spare you more details. Knowing that I have eggs we’ve been handling, I looked up Salmonella poisoning. Oh my gosh, I hope I don’t have it. The strong stomach cramps and a few other symptoms are the key characteristics, which I do have. I’m drinking lots of fluid to stay hydrated because that is the biggest danger. Even if I have it, I can’t guarantee it’s from the eggs – we’ve been many places in the past couple days where food-handling could have played a role: a banquet hall Friday night and a Kane County Cougars baseball game last night. It’s supposed to last 4-7 days, so let’s wait and see. We’ve been so diligent about hand-washing! Uh… that sweater I put the eggs in for candling… I haven’t washed it but I’ve worn it several times since it’s been cool in the afternoons and evenings. Maybe I cross-contaminated myself from the pockets? Uh-oh.

DAY 12: Saturday, April 25, 2008

Temperature Range: 100
Turned the eggs: 2 times – 10:20 am, 10:00 pm
Water added today: No

Finally, an opportunity to candle when everyone is awake and it’s dark enough. Once again, we made our way to the bathroom with eggs in my pockets. I walked so carefully, trying to keep the kids away from me so they wouldn’t break open an embryo all over the inside of my sweater. Oh, that’s really something I can do without!

So, crowded into the tiny bathroom, we candled eggs #1, 16, 23, & 34. We didn’t notice too much of a difference from the first time (Day 6). We definitely saw “tree branches” and a dark spot in each one. We also looked at the air cell at the wide end. The narrow ends are very dark, except #16.

Today we also decided to weigh some eggs. I wish we had weighed each and every one of them in the very beginning when we numbered them and placed them in the incubator. Next time! Next time, we will weigh initially, on or around Day 10, and on day 18 or 19 when we prepare the eggs for hatching.

We were very surprised to see that the eggs in the incubator weigh less than the eggs in the refrigerator. I have a postal scale (dial, not digital), which we used for this project. First, we selected a small, yet stable plastic container in which to place the eggs. Then we weighed the container: 1 ounce.

Here is what we found:
Egg from refrigerator: 3.5 ounces – 1 ounce (container) = 2.5 ounces
Fertile egg #14: 2.75 ounces – 1 ounce = 1.75 ounces
Fertile egg #22: 3.25 ounces – 1 ounce = 2.25 ounces
Fertile egg #27: 3.00 ounces – 1 ounce = 2.00 ounces

I noticed when turning the eggs that #14 was “X”-side up tonight and it is supposed to be “X” side up for the night with the others. Was it "X" up all day? I don’t know if it got knocked while we were weighing or candling or if we put it back on the wrong side. I don’t know, but I’m leaving it “X”-side up so it’s the same as the others. It would be too confusing if some were “X” up and some were “O” up.

DAY 11: Friday, April 25, 2008

Temperature Range: 100
Turned the eggs: 3 times – 10:00 am, 4:30 pm, 12:00 am
Water added today: No

There isn’t much to comment on because it’s just the same thing day after day right now. The kids are just going through the motions with me, here. However, “C” is very excited and keeps telling me how she’s going to hold the chickies and that “chickies are in there… in the eggs.” We are supposed to candle again, but just haven’t had time. Probably this weekend!

DAY 10: Thursday, April 24, 2008

Temperature Range: 100
Turned the eggs: 2 times – 9:15 am, 11:00 pm
Water added today: No

DAY 9: Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Temperature Range: 100
Turned the eggs: 3 times – 10:00 am, 5:30 pm, 11:45 pm
Water added today: Yes

DAY 8: Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Temperature Range: 99-100
Turned the eggs: 2 times – 10:45 am, 10:00 pm
Water added today: No

The eggs are feeling noticeably heavier. It’s weird to notice such a small change because eggs are so light anyway, but I can feel the difference. Several of the eggs are also tilted towards the narrow end. They are laying on their side, but they tilt more towards the narrow end.

Monday, May 5, 2008

DAY 7: Monday, April 21, 2008

Temperature Range: 99-100
Turned the eggs: 2 times – 11:00 am, 11:00 pm
Water added today: No

DAY 6: Sunday, April 20, 2008

Temperature Range: 100
Turned the eggs: 2 times – 9:30 am, 10:00 pm
Water added today: No

This evening we candled the eggs. We don’t have anything fancy to do this, so we waited until nearly bed time and then I put a few eggs in my sweater pockets and we took a field trip into the bathroom with a flashlight. Now, the bathroom is all of 3’x4’ of floor space, maybe. I might be generous on that measurement. We were cramped – 5 of us in there. I knelt down and held each egg in one hand and shined the flashlight at the end of each egg with my other hand. I asked the kids what they saw. One of them said “tree branches.” I guess the veins and arteries do look like tree branches. I explained that they are really the veins and arteries carrying the blood to the developing chick. Then with each one after that, I asked them to tell me when they saw the “tree branches”. They all were exclaiming at the same time as soon as they came into view, but I think “B” was a bit ahead of each one in seeing them.

After we made it through each of the eggs I had brought with me, we went back to the incubator, pocket full of eggs, and gently placed each one back in it’s warm spot in the incubator.

Eggs candled: 1, 9, 16, 25, and 36
What we saw: Veins in each one, solid dark spot in each one

DAY 5: Saturday, April 19, 2008

Temperature Range: 99-100
Turned the eggs: 3 times – 10:00, 6:30, 12:15 am
Water added today: No

Day 4: Friday, April 18, 2008

Temperature Range: 99-100
Turned the eggs: 2 times – 9:30 am, 10:45 pm
Water added today: Yes

DAY 3: Thursday, April 17, 2008

Temperature Range: 99-100
Turned the eggs: 3 times – 9:15, 4:45, midnight
Water added today: No

At times when we are rushed or when it’s late, I turn all the eggs without student assistance. “A” has Math Club on Thursday mornings, so we were in a bit of a hurry. I turned the eggs. Egg #25 dropped out of my hand as I was turning it. It didn’t crack and it didn’t fall more than an inch, but it was sudden. I hope it didn’t hurt the embryo. Poor little chick.

In the evening, I was reviewing my notes for this project and realized that for a still-air incubator, I should have filled the inner-chamber with water, not the two outer-chambers. I don’t think it will make that much of a difference as long as I keep them filled. It was probably easier to fill the inner one and keep it full rather than the two outer ones. Leave it to me to make it more difficult!

DAY 2: Wednesday, April 16, 2008

There are 3 students participating in our chick-hatching adventure. Because this is a public blog, I am simply going to refer to them by letters. Student “C” has eggs 1-12, Student “B” has eggs 13-24, and Student “A” has eggs 25-36. Student “A” has established an attachment to egg #27 and is very hopeful for hatching! We’ll have to wait and see…

Today the temperature ranged from 98-99 in the incubator and we turned the eggs twice – 12 hours apart. Each student washed her hands and then took turns, one at a time, turning their 12 eggs. “C” is so gentle with hers and turns them without lifting them from the incubator. She knows exactly how far to turn them. Her arms are short, so I have to rotate the location of the eggs for her so she can then turn another without having to reach too far. “B” is pretty careful and it’s hard to tell if she’s excited or just doing this because it’s something we are doing. “A” makes me very nervous. She thinks she has to lift the egg up out of the incubator turn it, switch hands and then put it back down. I hope she doesn’t drop one! But she’s having a good time and is excited to be participating.

I added water and also a couple drops of blue food coloring to the incubator so I can easily see if it needs more water in the days to come.

Everyone washed their hands after. We don't want anyone getting salmonella.

Incubator Pics

DAY 1: Egg Pick-Up Day

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Today we are going to the University of Illinois Extension Office in Naperville to pick up 3 dozen fertile eggs. The kids and I are so excited!

Wow, I hadn’t realized how many hands I would need to pick up the eggs. I’m glad I had the kids with me. I carried the grocery bag with the 3 dozen eggs (packaged in regular egg cartons, but with no holes in them), while two girls each carried a bag of chick feed and one girl carried my folder that we brought with us.

This afternoon, we added warm water to the two outside chambers of our still-air incubator. The metal grate was placed on the bottom of the incubator. One by one, we take each egg out of the carton and number them one through thirty-six. With a PENCIL, on one side (sideways, not up and down), we put an “X” and an “O” on the other. This way we can keep track of turning the eggs. They have to be turned every 6-8 hours. This keeps the chick from sticking to the inside of the shell and inhibiting growth. It’s very important. Each egg was then placed so gently on top of the grate. In order to accurately observe the temperature, we put the thermometer right on top of the eggs (it lays flat). We closed the incubator and went on with our afternoon. Of course, we washed our hands before and after touching the incubator and eggs. This is a must! We don’t want anyone getting sick – us or the chicks!

The temperature initially dropped to 68 degrees in the incubator. Wow, that’s a lot. Well, we were expecting it to drop and the eggs were room temperature, so we’ll just watch and see. Then later in the evening, I took a glance at the thermometer. Oh my gosh! It’s 102!!! How can THAT BE? I have no idea what happened. Did someone bump that knob? Did I do something wrong? Did I just kill those baby chicks?

Tiny, tiny turns of the knob… It’s gradually back to 100. I hope that didn’t increase the temperature too rapidly and harm the chicks. We’ll just have to wait and see… Tonight I prayed for those 36 eggs! Tomorrow we start turning the eggs.

Incubator Temperature - Steady

Monday, April 14, 2008

The incubator is steady at 100. We expect it to drop a bit after placing the eggs in it tomorrow, but we have instructions not to adjust the temperature for 24-48 hours after egg placement, as it will gradually rise as the eggs warm from room temperature. Tomorrow is egg pick up day!

Setting up the Incubator

Weekend of April 12-13, 2008
It’s time to set up the incubator and be sure it works. We should have done this long ago – nothing like waiting until the last minute in this family…

It’s all hooked up and the thermometer is gently resting on the floor of it so we can try to get it to stay at 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I never really learned to convert to Celsius, but this has been a learning opportunity for me to commit it to memory – in a simplified way. This is not a super-accurate conversion, but it’s close and simple enough for if we need to do it! C=(F*2)+30 or F=(C-30)/2. I’m excited to be in my mid-30s and not brain-dead!

In order to adjust the temperature, there is a little tiny stick-of-a-knob that should be turned no more than a quarter-turn every few hours. It is very touchy. If the temperature varies more than 1 degree above or below 100, the growth of the chicks can be inhibited. No pressure, right?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

April 15, 2008 was Day 1 in our Chick Hatching adventure. We've been keeping notes and charts on paper since then and will begin transcribing them very soon. We are currently on Day 17 and are preparing to prepare for hatching (if we didn't fry the eggs today, which we'll detail very soon.) Stay tuned! We hope to have this updated before the hatching begins!