Tag / hatching eggs

Chickens Eggs

Are You A Boy or Girl Egg?

This past Sunday, I attended the Boston Poultry Expo.  One of the cardinal rules during these shows is that you do not converse or interact with the judges.  In fact, people are required to keep a certain distance from them.  It is very easy to spot a judge.  They don a lab coat or jacket with official badges and tagging.  I enjoyed watching from a far as the judges selected their top picks.  Later in the afternoon nearing the end of the show, I recognized one of the judges standing near me in street clothes.  I decided to strike up a conversation.

He is from New York, grew up on a farm with poultry and has been involved in his local 4-H for years.  He has been raising chickens his entire life and now his adult son is one of the best breeders in the country.  His pride oozed as he told me his relationship with chickens.  I listened closely, I could tell that I was going to learn something important.  What he told me next amazed me.  He told me that you can tell what sex of chicken will hatch out of an egg  based upon the shape of it’s egg.  According to him, eggs that have rounded tops will be females and the eggs that have pointy tops are the males.  He further went on to tell me that a researcher from Cornell University did not believe him and tested his theory in the lab.  On day 23, he received a phone call from the researcher, in shock that it was true!  I knew of those eggs.  Sometimes eggs are just too incredibly pointy not to take notice.

I came home and took some eggs out of the fridge.  I had a bowl of mostly Silkie eggs, as the larger girls were still molting.

At first I visually examined each egg.  Then I rubbed my finger over the tops of the eggs. I was able to separate them into two distinct piles; pointy verses rounded.  The piles were almost even, just a few more in the “female” pile.  I would expect this to be true.  There is always a higher birth rate of females to males.

Yes, you can see a difference.  Here is a pointy egg in the back and a rounded one in the front.

When I had heard what this judge was telling me at the show, I had to call my friend over to hear this too.  This information was exciting and intriguing to say the least.  After we finished our conversation with the judge, I told her that we had to try this experiment on our own.  She owns two incubators.  For her next hatch, she is going to put all pointy eggs in one and all rounded eggs in another.  I, for one, will surely be counting down those 21 days to see what hatches from the eggs.

Photo Credits:  Tilly’s Nest

Chickens DIY Projects Eggs

So You Want To Raise Backyard Chickens: 5 of a 5 Part Series

Well the flock will be one year old in June.  We have survived our first Northeast Winter and we just just hatched our own eggs.  I think it is now time that I write the final chapter in my guide to raising chickens. I’ve touched upon these topics now and then with some of the blogs over the past few months.  For some of these topics, I am going to refer to previous posts as added references for you.  I am by no means an expert in keeping chickens.  I am also positive that I am not going to cover all the ins and outs of keeping backyard chickens.  However, I do know what I have discovered along our journeys and I am happy to share them with you.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Chick Fever

Number 8’s pip hole

Yesterday evening, both eggs number 8 and 9 had pip holes.  Number eight arrived around 7 pm and what a shock!  Once number 8 was completely dried after sitting underneath Dolly, I discovered that egg number 8’s color was different.  I was mistaken in my last posts.  After some researching, it appears that most of the chicks are going to be Black Silkies.  However, not number 8.  Number 8 is a Lavender Silkie.

According to sources, there is about a 25% chance per clutch that you will get a lavender Silkie.  Well, we got one!  Egg number 8 is so very fair and definitely a silvery color.  There is absolutely no black anywhere.  All the others are black with yellow tipped wings, yellow bellies and yellow feet feathers.  Some of their toes are even yellow.  Egg number 8 has black toes, just like Mommy.

Number 8!

Yesterday, egg number 9 started peeping as well.  Even though both eggs 8 and nine both had pips at the same time.  They did not hatch at the same time like the twins did two days ago.  Finally, egg number 9 hatched this morning about 8:45am.  For now, it is still to wet to determine the coloring, but I think it is a Black Silkie.

I have also photographed the inside of the empty egg shell.  I am absolutely amazed at the shell.  I love to see the remains of the chick’s life source.  I am amazed at the remaining thin membrane and the vasculature that supported this chick’s life over the last 21 days.

Life support

When I started out on this journey with Dolly, I read that the mother hen will abandon any eggs that she feels are not viable.  With my inexperience, I placed eggs underneath her over a four day period.  I knew that the hatch dates would be staggered.  I did not know if Dolly would remain on the eggs for the entire time but she did.  She knew.

While Dolly patiently waited on the nest for the others to hatch and strengthen, she allow the older chicks to leave her safety.  The older chicks come out from underneath Dolly and walk over for food and water.

All of our remaining eggs have hatched!  We have a total of seven live chicks. I consider this experience life changing for my family. It is wonderful to raise day old chick like we did last Spring from the hatchery.  However, it is an amazing family experience to have hatched them on your own!

 

Chickens Stories from Our Nest Video

Mother Hen

Here is a tender moment shared between Dolly and her chick, known as Egg number 3. She is so gentle and tender with her new baby.  I was very fortunate to capture this on film.

Last night, eggs number 4 and 5 hatched.  I am calling them the twins.  It was so amazing yesterday.  The pip holes were there at 7am.  We had to be away for most of the day and when we returned home around 2pm, it did not seem like much progress had been made. I checked on them about every hour.  Finally around dinnertime, I just resolved myself to the fact that I was going to miss their hatching.  It would probably happen sometime in the middle of the night like egg number 3.  However, I could not have been so wrong.
My son got home after a great day with friends.  As they were being dropped off, I invited my son’s friend and his Mom to see the eggs.  The timing was just right!  We watched.  If we had been a minute later, we would have missed it.  Sumultaneously, both eggs 4 and 5 opened on the fissure that the baby chicks had made around the wall of the egg.  Suddenly, in one burst of mustered up strength, they pushed their way out of the shells.  Spent and exhausted, they lay there vulnerable and stretched out quietly.  You could see their chests rising and falling with each deep breath.  I can only imagine how difficult their first task in life can be.

 

Here we are!  Egg number 3 is so happy to have some company!
Overnight, egg number 6 hatched. Now we have 3 eggs remaining and 4 new little lives at Tilly’s Nest.  I am hoping for some pip holes from the remaining eggs today.  I am not sure how long Dolly is going to remain on the nest.  At this point, she seem much more interested in her babies.  This morning she was in her usual zen-like trance.  Maybe, like most new Moms, she didn’t get much sleep.  I do know one thing.  She did not poop in the run like she usually does when I let her out.  She just had a one track mind on getting back to her babies.  I hope she doesnt’ poop in the nest because we know what happened last time!

 

Proud Mama

 

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

The Dolly Mama

It must have happened during the night.  This morning, the garage was quiet.  Not a single peep, but Dolly seemed to be sitting a little more elevated and a little more careful.  I gently lifted Dolly up to the side.  Egg number 3 has hatched!

Quietly snuggling with my brothers and sisters

I gently scooped up the baby, quickly counted all ten toes and returned Number 3 to Dolly.

I think I am a lavender Silkie.
My toes, belly and wing tips are all yellow!
Do you like my egg tooth?
Dolly gently guided the peeping chick back to the safety of her downy sea of feathers.  After a few moments, the peeping settled down.  I did however get a quick chance to examine the rest of the eggs.
Number 4 and 5 are next to arrive

Eggs 4 and 5 have pip holes.  I think they should arrive by dinner time.  I think my husband said it best this morning, “Isn’t life a miracle?”

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

I Hear Peeping!

At 7am this morning I could not contain myself anymore and ran into the garage to visit Dolly.  All of the eggs were underneath her as usual.  As quickly as I could, I took care of the rest of the flock and put Dolly in the large run with her family, I headed in to visit the eggs.

Yesterday, I candled all of the eggs once more.  From some eggs, I could hear a faint scratching noise against the shell.  In others, I heard nothing.  I was so reassured after the candling.  All of the eggs, except number one, were almost completely dark with a very small air space.  Number one, did not progress much further than 10 days.  I can only assume that there was something wrong with the embryo.  I removed it from the nest.

Goodbye Number 1

I was now visiting eggs 3-9.  Dolly still had 7 chances for chicks.  I quickly searched for egg number 3.  Since it was the oldest and it had been 21 days, I was hoping for signs of life.  As I picked up egg number 3, I could hear the faintest “cheep, cheep, chip”.  All of the other eggs remain quiet for now.  I brought the egg inside the house and showed the kids.  They were unable to contain their excitement!

I went out to the large run.  Dolly must have known.  She actually leaped in my arms when I said, “Dolly, eggs!”  I quickly returned her to the nest and headed into my son’s school for a presentation.

I returned home around 11am.  I rushed to see Dolly.  I could hear chirping from the nest.  I looked underneath and all eggs were unchanged.  However, I could hear peeping from underneath Dolly!  I gently looked at egg number 3.  The eggshell remained intact.  However, I could not mistake the tapping sounds from within.  I hope to have baby number one by this evening.

As for the rest of the eggs, their introduction was staggered over a three day period.  In nature, a broody hen will lay an entire clutch of eggs over the course of 8-12 days.  It is at that point, that she incubates the eggs.  Some eggs will hatch before day 21 and others will be late.  I hope that all of Dolly’s eggs hatch over the weekend.  We are truly blessed and amazed as we witness the miracle of life unfold before our very eyes.

Photo credit:  Tilly’s Nest

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Talking to Eggs

It’s only two more days until the hatch date of the baby chicks.  Today while Dolly was out in the large run, thoroughly enjoying herself, I investigated all of the eggs.  I picked each one up.  They are heavier.  They are toasty warm and I could not be happier.

I placed egg number one by my ear.  I gently tapped with my fingernail on the shell.  From inside the shell, I could hear the faintest of scratches against the inner shell.  I tapped on most of the eggs.  I got the same response.  I am filled with such giddiness and anticipation.   

On the other hand, I am quite sure that Dolly want to be done with broodiness.  After this experience, she knows her name quite well and she knows when I tell her that she needs to return to the “eggs”.  She is now coming over to me when I call her and allows me to pick her up.  However, with each moment she spends in the run, I can tell that she is happy to be home.  Today, I thought that she was not going to return to her eggs!

Finally, she came over and I picked her up.  Once reunited, she was so happy to see her eggs.  She quickly but ever so gently entered the nest.  She gracefully lowered herself upon the eggs and with her beak rolled any eggs not entirely covered, underneath her downy blanket.  Her chest is bare of feathers.  She keeps her eggs so very close.  When she is satisfied that all of the eggs are underneath of her, she gently rocks side to side, shifting the eggs underneath her body.  It should only be a couple of days now.  I’ve read that you will hear the eggs peeping about 24 hours before the hatch.  I hope Dolly can just hang in there for a couple more days.  Motherhood is right around the corner.  I am so proud of her dedication to her family.

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Emergency Exit

I have been quickly catching up, reading as much as I can about broody hens and hatching eggs.  My learning curve has been on an upward trajectory!  Most resources suggest separating the broody hen from the rest of the flock.  Some jealous hens can become saboteurs or even have nesting envy, only to kick the broody hen off the nest at day 20 and reap the benefits of motherhood.  In turn, the broody hen who sat all those long days is robbed of her children.  I was still in the process of making my decision whether to leave Dolly with the flock or not.  So far, for the most part, they have left her be.  I did however, find Tilly’s egg underneath her yesterday.
This morning was a different story,  perhaps because I was later than my typically punctual arrival.  I let the flock out, added fresh water, scratch and then ventured over to visit Dolly.  She was sitting on her nest but what I saw I could not believe.  Egg number one was rolled into the center of the coop.  Eggs 5 and 6 were found in the nesting box next to Dolly.  Eggs 5 and 6 were still semi-warm but Egg number 1 was chilly.  This was not good.  As quickly as I could, I gathered the three eggs and returned them under Dolly.

I next went to the garage and began to set up my temporary brooder.  I gathered an old shipping box, an extra waterer and an old Tupperware container for food.  I created a nest with shavings and straw.

Food and Water
Temporary nest

As I was setting up this brooder, I could hear squabbles from the coop.  I went over and saw Tilly sitting in Dolly’s nesting box. I looked in the run.  I could not see Dolly.  Dolly must still be in the same box as Tilly.

It seemed like forever, but Tilly finally laid her egg.  My window of opportunity had arrived.  Quickly, I scooped up all of the eggs. I placed them in the makeshift nest.  Next, I ran to the coop and grabbed Dolly.  I placed her in the new brooder.

Dolly was not happy about leaving the coop.  I think she thought that I was taking her from her eggs.  Little did she know, I was taking her to their new location.   I placed her in the brooder.  She was nervous.  I showed her the eggs.  She stood in the nest, rolled two eggs with her beak and got out. She looked around and was talking.  Taken back by confusion and utter nervousness, Dolly was apprehensive of her new surroundings.  I decided to scatter some scratch on the ground. She started to eat the scratch.  When she was done.  I showed her the eggs again.  Time was marching on.  The eggs were getting cold and Dolly was showing no signs of broodiness!

Looking out

I showed her the eggs a few more time.  Each time, she panicked and hopped off the nest.  Thoughts entered my mind that I was going to have to abandon any attempts of Dolly and parenthood.  Finally, just as I had my doubts, I showed her the eggs once more.  She squatted on them.  Then gently rolled each egg on the outer cusps into the center, puffed out her body and wings, then settled down on the eggs.  Thank goodness! As she sat, I praised her.  I then noticed that her comb was bleeding.  My best guess is that it was from her earlier squabble with Tilly.  I think I made the right decision.  I just hope I was not too late for her eggs.

 

Dolly’s clutch
Finally settled

 

Photo Credits:  Tilly’s Nest

Chickens Stories from Our Nest

Our Attempt at Motherhood

Dolly has been sitting on eggs for 3days.  She seems to be a great broody hen!  As of this morning, she has a total of 5.  Today will be my last opportunity to place anymore eggs underneath her.  You see, the mother hen will sit on the nest for 2-3 days after her first chick hatches.  This is to see if any other eggs in the clutch will hatch.  However, after about 3 days, she will abandon any unhatched eggs and begin to raise her brood. 

I have been collecting Silkie eggs from the nesting boxes to place under Dolly.  If they are still warm when I pick them up, I quickly number them with a pencil and place them under Dolly.  She seems so pleased when I add another to her growing collection!

I am also amazed at her instinct.  Yesterday, while peeking through the window, I witnessed her turning the eggs.  With the most amazing grace and gentle touch, she inspected each egg and rolled it according to her liking.  Wow!  How in the world did she know how to do that? 

She seems to leave the nest a couple of times a day, but it is only for fleeting moments at a time.  I have placed fresh water with vitamins and electrolytes near her as well as food.  In a few days, I will attempt to candle the eggs to insure viability.  I have never done that, so it will require some research.  I too am learning all about this fascinating process.  If all goes according to plan, we might just have some chicks in time for Easter.  The whole family is rooting for Team Dolly!