Friday, April 15, 2011

on the way

We're all pretty excited for the projects we've taken on these past few weeks and the sense of success that comes along with completing these sorts of undertakings. Of course, among all the triumphs, there have been a few flops.

One of our recent experiments involved building our own incubator. Each week, we return from the farm with cartons of fresh eggs. Well, I thought, why not try to hatch some? With a good stack of trusty library books to educate ourselves (and a variety of internet resources, too) we took on the task of making an incubator.

We learned the basics; the required temperature in a still air incubator is around 103 degrees with humidity at 60 percent. Using a clear sided storage container, we drilled holes for ventilation, added a lightbulb for heat and a water source for humidity. Then we tried to perfect it. We needed stronger wattage for greater heat, more water for increased humidity, more ventilation to balance the two. When we thought we had it right it was a sight to see, with a child's dragon-shaped humidifier feeding steam into the container through a make-shift duct, the lid propped open with a screwdriver handle that was just the right size to maintain the required settings.

All seemed to be going well for our first dozen hatchlings (okay, eleven total after I dropped one) until one day I returned to find the temperature had inexplicably spiked to over 110. Anything over 107 is fatal. The signs of growth we had seen when candling the eggs had stopped. Some remained just a small, dark spot within the shell. Others showed the watery lines that are a sure sign of an embryo's demise.

Not to be deterred, though, we started again. With a fresh dozen eleven eggs (alright, so I broke one this time, too) and a more sophisticated incubator on loan from the farm, a new batch began incubating.

It takes 21 days for the eggs to hatch, and we are now ten days in (almost halfway there!) Last night when I candled the eggs, I could see the dark shapes inside the shell taking form and -- so exciting -- I saw the chick move! Maybe my giddiness seems a bit silly, but there is so much about development that I find incredibly fascinating. Watching leaves form on the branches outside our windows, seeing the seeds sprouting in the dirt where we placed them and observing the life within these simple eggs take shape delights me. Such common, everyday things yet they are so complex and awe-inspiring.

With any luck, (and without any more dropping on my part) we will have a few of these soft little bundles hatched out here in a short while.

Cheep, cheep!


Sharon said...

That is so exciting! When will the chicks hatch? What breed are they? Are you keeping them all? Can't wait to see how this will all go!

Amanda Greco Holmes said...

Hi Sharon,
We're expecting our hatchlings on the 26th or 27th. They're an endangered breed called Dominiques. We'll have to wait a few weeks to see how many hens and roosters we have before deciding how many will stay here. (I don't think the neighbors will appreciate any roosters!).

Lisa said...

So exciting! I'm jealous... wish we could have some chicks hatching around here!