Sunday, April 10, 2011

3, 2, 1--Countdown to Baby Chicks at Montessori!

Th exciting moment--first egg starting to zip (Nov 2010)
Today is day 18 of 21 in the Schoolyard Chickens Project, which means the chicks went into lockdown this afternoon and will hatch very soon--in the next three days!  (To see a chick hatching from our last hatch in 2010--the one that had pipped and was beginning to zip in the picture to the left--click here)

Lockdown means turning off the automatic turner or stopping hand turning of eggs. It also means the humidity in the incubator has to go up--in the case of a "dry hatch (low humidity)" strategy like ours--WAY up! Ideal is for it to stay right at 70-75% for the next three days. In the case of the Brinsea incubator I'm using, I removed the wire railings that kept eggs upright, allowing the eggs to recline naturally, as they would under a mother hen. Lockdown in an incubator attempts to mimic what she would do naturally--left alone, a good broody will hardly get off her eggs at all in the last 2-3 days, keeping her body close to them in a way that increases the relative humidity around the eggs. And she stops turning them over, allowing them to position themselves best for breaking through the air sac and pipping a tiny air hole in the shell.

Normal air sac development
Today I candled one last time, and while I still couldn't see into the dark brown eggs from my French Coppered Black Marans, I saw definite movement in 8 of the 12 blue-green eggs from the Ameracaunas and Easter Eggers.

(Hopefully, we can count on this kind of percentage for the whole clutch--75% hatch rate would be a great success, and we'd end up with 18 chicks. I haven't heard a definitive answer yet as to how many birds the Montessori school can keep, but residents of Fayetteville can keep up to four hens. I'll take some home to add to my Olive Egger breeding project, and we should have several available for any families who want to try their hand at raising their own chickens.)

Last candling, Day 18--drew air sacs on shells
As I candled, I was also looking for the air sac in each egg. I drew a line around each one so that I know where chciks will be pipping their first airhole (inside the circle drawn on the egg for the air sac) and zipping the egg open (right along the line of the air sac).

Now comes the hardest part--waiting!  I'll stabilize the humidity at 75% and bring the eggs in to the Montessori Elementary classroom on Monday or Tuesday, as eggs start to hatch.  I'd really love to set up a webcam for the classroom, but lack the technical expertise and the equipment to do so.  If this sounds like a project you'd like to help with, please leave a comment and let me know!  I would love the children to be able to follow the hatch from home and share the experience with their families, especially since they just enjoyed seeing eagle babies hatch at school.

Look for the next post to be details re: the hatch, with lots of pics!

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