Monday, April 06, 2009

Egg incubator

Last fall we acquired a lovely Ameraucana rooster from some friends of ours, a quiet complacent guy named "Peepee" (or "pp" as in musical "pianissimo" since he has a quiet and infrequent crow). We'd had bad luck with roosters -- mysterious coop deaths, predation by bears or raptors. And our collection of Ameraucana hens dwindled from three to two to one little lady named "Toy" last year.

But we had this idea that we'd like to breed more purebred Ameraucanas. They lay lovely blue-green eggs, and are pretty to look at with their varied colouring, but are expensive to buy, since they're a "rare heritage breed" and can only be purchased through the mail in lots of 24 or more, far more than we need. So a month ago we purchased an inexpensive Hovabator incubator in the hope that we could actually hatch some chicks of our own.

Then it remained only for Toy to resume laying. She is not a good layer. She's two years old now, which doesn't help, and she has always been the last hen in the flock to start laying. By March there's plenty of daylight, and we were beginning to lose hope of getting any eggs out of her. But finally yesterday the first blue egg of 2009 showed up ... and today, another. She was just taking her sweet time about things.

Are these fertile eggs? We don't know. Peepee's masculinity is unproven at this point; he's certainly not very assertive with his flock of ladies. But we are hopeful. We've set the eggs in the incubator and are studiously monitoring the temperature (aiming for exactly 100 F, with good stability so far). We penciled a sun on one side of the eggs and a crescent moon on the other, to facilitate twice-daily turning. And we've marked them with the date they went in the incubator, so that in 21 days we'll know which ones to watch. Ideally we'll hatch 10 or 12 chicks between the end of April or the beginning of May. In reality we'll be happy with just one -- especially if it turns out to be female.


  1. That is so cool!

  2. Yeah, what she said (pointing finger at Lee).

  3. Why doesn`t the hen incubate the egg herself? (I am woefully uneducated in the ways of chickens...)

  4. K E, you can certainly do it that way, but then you have to wait for a hen to "go broody" -- to get motherly and start setting on eggs. That's a hormonal change that doesn't seem to happen readily in Ameraucanas, and certainly wouldn't happen on our schedule (we want to hatch ASAP in the spring and get our hens laying in early fall before winter darkness settles in). Right now all the hens are totally ignoring the eggs. They lay and take off outside. With only one hen and one rooster we felt a certain urgency to the procreation thing :=).

  5. A do you know the eggs have a chick in them? Is there a certain point once they're in the incubator that you say..yes, there's a chick? :)

  6. You know you can collect eggs for up to a week and then incubate them all at once? And I fear PP's lack of masculinity might be due to the fact that we thought he was a hen for a long time... We wanted him to be a hen...

    I've used that incubator before and it worked well for us.

    Good luck! And I'll be looking foward to seeing photos of PP's offspring!

  7. Yes, I realize we can hold the eggs for a week, but we know it will take us 2.5 to 3 weeks to accumulate all the eggs we'd like to hatch. Since we'll be on a staggered hatching schedule in any event, we figured we'd just start them as they're laid.

  8. Lee, you can "candle" eggs to see if there's a developing chick. Basically an egg candler is a very bright light in a box with a hole. We don't have one. Suppose we might be able to fashion something.


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