Since we're going to be setting eggs to incubate on March 30th to hatch for our annual Chickam web broadcast on April 20th, I'm test running the incubators.
chosen spot is back on top of my massively heavy kitchen island, in the
dining room. The table we had them on last year transferred too much
vibration from the floor, making the eggs jiggle suggestively and
leading to false hopes for those eggs to hatch. NOTHING moves this
thing, which is also good since it eliminates the danger of bumping the
table and knocking over eggs you've been incubating for weeks.
been doing hours and hours of research online, reading scientific
studies on hatching at high altitudes and picking fellow chicken
breeders' brains for tips--last year our hatch was miserable and
weird--we either had chicks hatching out 2 days early or 2-3 days late,
and many chicks that died at day 19-20--they'd turned into hatching
position but never did the internal pip of piercing the air cell.
They'd been rocking their egg but then just died. When I did the
after-incubation breakout of the unhatched eggs it was heartbreaking,
and knowing that those healthy chicks got that close to hatching was
I have gained some new insight and this year,
although we weren't able to build the homemade incubator we want and are
still using the old styrofoam 'bators, we will be making some drastic
changes to our technique--things that absolutely wouldn't work at sea
level we're going to have faith in here at 5000 feet in a dry climate.
The hatching of an egg is a remarkably complex and delicate procedure
and everything has to go just right.
Lower air pressure and drier
air mean that we have to increase both humidity and
ventilation--ideally pumping in extra oxygen would help during the last
three days of incubation, but that isn't an option right now. Since we
had chicks hatch early, I'm going to go against all instincts and lower
the overall incubation temperature just a hair to about 99 to 99.5
degrees--no higher--we need to cook 'em slower! Last year we also had
an overnight temperature spike of 106 degrees on hatch day, reason
unknown. Also, getting the incubator humidity up to 65% for the final
three days is nearly impossible up here. All the equipment is getting a
thorough testing and calibration check.
We'll also make some
more ventilation holes in the lids and bases of the incubators and buy
some cap plugs so we can increase/decrease ventilation as needed.
also hoping that using only high altitude eggs will make a big
difference--trying to hatch sea level eggs at altitude makes for a poor
hatch rate and lots of dead-in-shell, near term chicks. Sea level
eggshells have larger pores and exchange O2/CO2 at a much greater rate
than high altitude, smaller-pored eggshells do.
I had what I
thought was a wild idea--somehow seal sea level eggs partway to balance
the larger pore problem, possibly using a super thin coat of wax,
strategically painted on in spots. Turns out someone else already tried
it, with limited success, and wrote a scientific paper on it. I'm
still kicking it around in my head as an artificial 'bloom' coat for
hatching eggs, maybe with some other substance...
girls are getting tons of vitamins, Omega oils, fresh dark leafy greens,
protein & calcium to get the best eggs possible from them--last
year they had only been here a couple of weeks and some of their
eggshells at breakout were thin. Now we're getting lovely, healthy,
strong eggs; the girls are happy and relaxed and the boys are doing
their job. Who knows, maybe one of the girls will go broody and we'll
have a mama for Chickam!
With my luck it'll be one of the HUGE hens and I'll have to make the brooder box accomodate a plus-size hen.