Tuesday, March 20, 2018

We Have Embryos!

Welp, it's been 10 days and time to check for embryos, so tonight I candled the 39 eggs in the ReptiPro!

...and we have embryos, yay!

Right now we have a total of 15 live, oh-so-squirmy (they do NOT dig the bright light of candling) embryos. Of those, 3 are Dark India Cornish Bantams, 7 are Bantam Cochins (with a possibility of Frizzles) and 5 are eggs from our flock--mostly larger eggs but there is one *tiny* banty egg that we added to the ReptiPro at the last minute.

Further, there are another 13 eggs that I'm *pretty* sure are duds--some have detached aircells--but I'm leaving them in the incubator for now and will recandle them in 4 days; I'll pull any duds at that time.

Eleven other eggs were duds for sure and had never developed, I pulled those. Of the duds, three had a broken yolk (shipped eggs, likely scrambled by the USPS), one was bad (one of ours, I suspect bacteria got in through the shell), one of ours was infertile, and the rest were fertile but never developed.  Three (all Dark India Cornish) had detached aircells, more victims of rough handling in shipping.

Twelve days to baby chicks!!!
...or a bit less, given that there are banty eggs in there, and the little buggers like to hatch at 19-20 days instead of the standard 21--!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Club Flamingo Gets A Makeover!

So the other day I drug out and dusted off all of our Chickam supplies.

When I got to the flamingo lamp, our go-to traditional baby chick keeper-warmer and pseudomama...well, let's just say that the last 38 or so years have not been kind to it.

 Yeah...YIKES. My favorite part is the burn-yer-house-down spliced wiring.

It's current state is entirely my fault. I originally bought this delightfully gaudy thing around 1980, and it sat proudly on my desk for many years as a desk lamp.  Until one day the ceramic flamingo head shade suffered a catastrophic incident and got broken into a dozen pieces.

Heartbreaking.  Oh well, that's why epoxy exists...Sadly, the gap in the shade where the initial impact powdered the ceramic proved too annoying to work with while writing, and the flamingo lamp was banished to the garage, where it became a servicable lamp for my work bench. Eventually the plastic cover on the gooseneck also crumbled and my husband replaced it with a length of heavy-duty plastic tubing he had handy. Not pretty, but servicable.

And there it stayed until 1998 or so, when we ran our first baby chick hatch without a broody hen for a mama--and I realized that the battered ol' flamingo lamp, with it's adjustable gooseneck and who-cares-if-it-gets-pooped-on style, was perfect for keeping baby chicks warm.  Not to mention it was also perfectly hilarious.

Once we created Chickam and started webcasting the hatch and subsequent 8 weeks of the chick's lives, Chickam fans found the flamingo lamp entertaining and dubbed the chick box 'Club Flamingo'.

It wasn't long before Chickam fans started creating fanart...

So yeah--the flamingo lamp was lookin' beat, I knew it was time to revamp it!

And presto--a few days later (and a heaping helping of cussing when the new wiring proved to be just the teensiest bit too think to willing go through the metal gooseneck and had to brute-forced into cooperating), Club Flamingo lives again!

Sadly, nothing could be done about the various chips and cracks in the flamingo head, but overall the flamingo lamp just looks heaps better! Not to mention not such a scary fire hazard...

Friday, March 16, 2018

Snow Yard Dinosaur!

We had a really nice snowstorm today, it's been snowing pretty heavily for about the last 15 hours and is still going. It's too warm for the snow to last, but for now we've got a good coating of nice, crunchy snow--perfect for making a snowman!

Or, since it's our house after all, a snow chicken.

Yeah, we slapped that baby RIGHT out front so the neighbors would know to have their kids walk on the other side of the street when they passed our house.  Avoid the crazy chicken people, little Johnny...Really does a terrific job of devaluing the neighborhood, doesn't it?

We used a couple of wooden bark chips from the garden for her eyes, and one of the kids' pink gloves for a comb. 

Her damned head kept falling off and her eyes falling out, every time I stuck them back on it became more and more misshapen and a first-class genetic horror show.

The kid went out and grabbed a hen for...you know...scientific comparison purposes...yeah, that's it, science.

Strychnine was unimpressed.

Right now it's snowing again, pretty hard.  Mother Nature doing a solid for the neighbors and trying to cover it up, I think. The wild birds do NOT care for it and are sitting in the trees bitching at the thing.

Oh well, it was fun.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Countdown To The 10th Anniversary Of Chickam!

Today I set eggs in our good ol' ReptiPro incubator, in three weeks there should be chicks!

This is a landmark year--2018 marks the 10th year we've been hosting Chickam, our 24/7 webcast of the hatch of baby chicks and their subsequent 8 weeks of life.  We've been hatching chicks since about 2001, but only started the webcast in 2008.

Since this is both a special year, and Easter (our traditional hatch day) falls on April 1st this time around, we decided to hatch some special breeds--time for some feathered silliness!

So I shopped around on the Internet, and in addition to hatching some of our own eggs I got some Dark India Cornish Rock Bantams, some Polish (possible Frizzles) and Brahma mixes and Bantam Cochin (more possible Frizzles) mixes.  With Frizzles you don't know at hatch if you have a Frizzle or not--you have to wait until real feathers start to come in to spot the tell-tale curl to the feathers.  And since wing feathers come in first on a baby chick, that's where any frizzling will show up first.

Here are the eggs!

First up, some of the shipped eggs.  On the right, the large white eggs at the bottom are the 3 Polish eggs--speckled, buff, silved laced and gold laced are the colors we may get. At the top right are the 5 Brahma/Heavy breed mix eggs, they are more of a who-knows-what-you'll-get variety.
On the left are the 8 bantam Cochin eggs.  The 7 eggs marked 'MF' have a MilleFleur coloration, the one marked 'CB' is a calico color.  The egg marked 'Wiggles' is one of ours that happened to be in the picture. We decided later that it was likely NOT laid by Wiggles (a Belgian d'Uccle) but is more likely to have been laid by Popcorn, who is a bantam Cochin mix hen.

Next are the 9 Dark India Cornish Bantam eggs.  The one at the top was sadly broken in shipping, so we ended up with 9 instead of 10.  I also candled the others to check for cracks and saw some detached air cells (a very bad thing) in some of the eggs, which points to rough handling in shipping. I'm hoping for the best with these...

Finally, 13 eggs from OUR girls!  We always include some of our own eggs since shipped eggs have a notoriously low hatch rate due to the inevitable rough treatment they receive from the US postal service.
The 'Wiggles' egg is in there, and not pictured is a last-minute addition of a tiny bantam egg, likely from one of the d'Uccle girls.  But I went for a cross-section of our flock in this collection--some large breeds, some bantams, and everything in between.

We have a total of 39 eggs that I started today in the incubator. In addition to each egg getting a number and a breed mark when I knew it (no breed marks for our eggs, 'I' for the Dark India Cornish, 'P' for Polish, 'B' for Brahma mix and 'CB' and 'MF' for the bantam Cochins) I marked an X on one side and a O on the other, and started them with the X side up. Over the next three weeks I will turn the eggs 5 times a day, from X side up to O side up at each turn.
The device at the top right is a hygrometer, is measures the humidity in the incubator, which needs to be 50% for the first 18 days, 65% for the final three days. The cord on the left leads to a thermometer outside the incubator--the probe for the thermometer is stuck inside a glitter pink Disney princess water weasel toy--the water weasel simulates an egg, the probe gets stuck inside the thing to get you an idea of the weather INSIDE an egg, giving you a better hatch! You want a reading of 99.5 degrees inside the eggs.  At the very bottom of the incubator is a dish with water in it to provide humidity--the marbles are just so when the chicks hatch, they don't soak themselves or drown in the water dish.  I could have added the marbles later on, but wanted to get everything up to temperature at the beginning and not have to mess with it later.  The thin black silicone mat on the floor of the incubator will give the hatched chicks needed traction for the few hours they are drying out in the incubator so that they don't develop Spraddle Leg.

Ten days from now, I'll candle each egg.  Eggs that haven't started to develop an embryo will get pulled from the incubator, those with developing embryos remain.  If an eggshell is too dark to see through when candled (like the dark green and dark brown eggs), they stay in the incubator.  Usually only about half of the shipped eggs develop at best, but we tend to get about an 80% or better development on our eggs.

Chicken eggs typically hatch after 21 days of incubation, with bantam eggs sometimes hatching 1-2 days early-so I suggest you check the UStream Chickam channel starting on March 29th.  If all goes well, Chickam will be the weekend of March 31st-April 1st!  The cam isn't started until the first egg pips, so if you tune in to the UStream channel linked above and see EGGS, it means the hatch has begun!

Fingers crossed for lots of embryos in 10 days and a bunch of little April Fools in 3 weeks!

Thursday, March 8, 2018


The ReptiPro is ready!
Gathering egg candidates for Chickam this week...looks like someone was a little overanxious and popped out a wind egg...
One of these things is not like the others.....

I'm guessing it's a first egg from one of last year's girls.  Keep trying ladies, you'll get there!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Road Trip!

Took another trip down highway 395 to visit family and my doctor.  Just the other day we had a pretty big snowstorm--not much at our place but the Sierras in general got socked pretty hard.  We've been hearing the avalanche canons going off a lot as they try and knock loose some of the more dangerous areas.

Luckily for me the roads were pretty clear by the time I drove through. The hot springs off the side of the road at Devil's Gate Summit were drifting huge clouds of steam over the roadway...

All in all it was a nice drive and the weather took mercy on me this time.

Mojave is...interesting.  Half thriving, half waaay dead. There doesn't seem to be anything in between.  The AP/PM station there is like the 9th circle of Hell with it's broken gas pumps, the drug addicts-begging-money gauntlet you have to run if you want to go inside and the floor to ceiling tagging that is carved into every available surface (even the toilet seat, I kid you not) of the bathroom.

Why anyone would want to grip a public toilet seat long enough to carve their tag into it is beyond me.

But the local Army/Navy store--sadly closed now--is fascinating. They have fun signage.

Wait...2nd annual...?

They also had some random signs someone had made...most of them were generic yearlong holiday themed but this one stood out.

'Sorry you're no spruce goose anymore'. Okaaay...
Running the lawnmower over the waterfowl is a bit much, tho.

Farther down the street is a local RV park with a cute sign.

And an old factory of some kind...
Wait--what's the sign say...?

Do they even allow grass in Mojave...?

Friday, March 2, 2018

Hey, Real Snow!

Finally, FINALLY, we got a real snowstorm!  This winter has been plenty cold and windy--but lacking in the white stuff, much to my kid's irritation.

Last night, after three solid days of wind, we got some!  The storm damage was horrific:

OK, maybe not.

But it sure looked pretty! We'd taken the top part off one of our yard decorations--it spins in the breeze and it was so ridiculously windy that we didn't want it taking off and decapitatiing someone.  The snow piled up on it and made impromptu yard art.

The wind had caused this snow to drift first and then pile up so it made for pretty scenes.  The dog's water dish was modern art.

OK, so getting into the chicken yard involved a bit of shoveling.
One of the water hose heads...

A section of the chain link fence that was protected enough from the wind to allow the snow to pile up delicately on each link.

My plum tree, which is already thinking about budding out, got each branch lined...

Ah, well..time to let the chickens out and see what they think of all this.
 More shoveling of snow away from the doorway first...they are NOT gonna dig the snow that dared drift into the run. Chicken toes must NEVER touch snow at our house. I think it's in their union contract.

...gotta scrape snow off the latch...

...and watch out for more of it falling on your head as you open the door.

Just as I thought, the chickens were NOT impressed, and what's more did not appreciate neither snow in their food NOR the fact that their breakfast was frozen.  There was much spitting out of food and 'Ick' expressions.

I left them to deal with their First World Chicken Problems and went to check on the food for the wild birds out front.  I expect that they will have no problems getting something to eat!