Saturday, April 26, 2008

Now Showing: Chickam!

As promised, my husband and I have set up a live webcam so you guys can watch chicken eggs hatch into cute fluffy chicks! :)

The link to the live webcam is below. We chose to use the Stickam site, hopefully it can handle the bandwidth demands. The Chickam will mostly be operating during the daylight hours at first for the incubator (we turn off the lights at bedtime), then 24 hours when we move it to the brooder box. The color camera is a playstation2 EyeToy usb camera, but there will not be sound with the picture, and no camera controls for viewers. Here's the incubator with the webcam on the right:

Watching baby chicks hatch is fascinating and fun for all ages. We currently have 46 assorted chicken eggs in a Little Giant still-air incubator, scheduled to hatch out late Saturday night, April 26 and Sunday, April 27, 2008. But they may jump the gun a bit and start hatching anytime Saturday, so the cam is live now! The eggs are all from our backyard flock of mixed breed chickens here in suburban Los Angeles, California.

The camera will first be on one of the viewing windows (hence the kinda foggy look)of the incubator so you can watch the chicks hatch, then on the brooder box so you can see them run, play and interact with each other. We plan on having the camera operating until at least Wednesday, April 30th, possibly two more days beyond that. This is assuming the eggs hatch--we have not candled them, so we may have zero hatch, we may have ALL of them hatch, or anywhere in between. This incubator has worked well for us in the past though, so we see no reason why it would fail now.

Chicken eggs need 21 days of incubation in order to hatch. The breeds represented in this batch of eggs are below, the mother hens' name is in parenthesis, and if I knew which hen was mom, I wrote her name on her eggs:

2 Buff Orpington (Betty) ~~large brown eggs~~
8 New Hampshire (Maggie) and/or Kraienkoppe (Baby) ~~smaller brown eggs~~
5 Buff Laced Polish (Sugar) ~~long white eggs~~
6 White Crested Black Polish (Poof) ~~round white eggs~~
7 Blue Wheaten Americaunas (Louise)~~round, pale blue eggs~~
2 Unknown breed (Bear) ~~large, army-green eggs~~
2 Jersey Giant/ Americaunas mix (Skitters) ~~smaller, olive green eggs~~
2 Frizzled Buff Cochin (Moet) ~~small beige eggs~~
1 Black Silkie (Fuzz) ~~small beige eggs~~
1 Kraienkoppe (Baby)~~small brown eggs~~
2 Buff Cochin (Chicken Sister) ~~small beige eggs~~
4 Asst. Bantam (?) ~~small beige eggs~~
3 Asst. Americaunas (?) ~~large greenish-blue eggs~~

The fathers of the chicks are our Blue Wheaten Americaunas/Barred Rock mix standard size rooster and our Belgian d'uccle MilleFleur/Frizzle mix bantam rooster. The 'X' and 'O' marks you see on the eggs were used to tell which eggs we'd turned during the incubation process. The eggs have to be turned by hand three times a day for the entire 21 days, and you need to be able to tell at a glance which ones have been turned and which haven't! During the initial stage of hatching, the eggs will rock back and forth and move a bit, and faint peeping can be heard. Then the chick will 'pip', which means it pecks a little hole in the eggshell. After that, it will continue to pip, working in a circle until it has pipped all the way around the wide end of the egg. The amount of time it takes from first pip to a fully hatched out chick can be a matter of minutes or hours, even as much as a day.

Fresh chicks are exhausted, wet and helpless for a few hours, but as they dry out in the incubator they will become more steady on their feet and will soon be running around, bumping into other chicks and eggs. This is normal.

We will be opening the incubator from time to time to remove dry chicks and place them in the brooder box. Once we get most of them into the brooder box, we will switch the camera to it. Here's what a previous hatch looked like--this is NOT the current hatch:

The brooder box is just a large cardboard box gleaned from a local furniture store, with wood shavings underfoot, a heat lamp overhead to keep the chicks warm, and food and water. The chicks will live in this box in our living room, with occasional trips outdoors, for the first two months of their lives, until they are old enough to join the flock outside. We plan on keeping a few of the chicks, the rest we will take to our local feed store for them to resale.

For us this is a trying time...we can't help but worry, LOTS of things can go wrong during the incubation process and hatch that can prove fatal to the chick. It takes superhuman restraint to resist assisting a chick who is struggling to hatch. You have to just trust in Mother Nature A LOT and keep your damned hands outta there!

We hope you will enjoy the chicks! I'll be happy to answer any chicken questions, and I'll post updates when new chicks hatch. The picture isn't the best, and is heavily pixelated, but it's still fun. Here's a link to the cam, you'll have to copy and paste it into your browser window since it may not link directly to it for some reason:


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