Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hatch #3 a Success--Black Java Broodies Rock!

This hatch is our third since April. This time around, our broody was Minerva, my faithful and lovely Black Java hen. She loves to sit in a heat wave. In fact, I've learned to expect 100+ temps when she starts puffing up and clucking monotonously in the best box.

Minerva has a special place in my heart. She epitomizes the qualities that made Black Javas a standard breed among early American homesteaders. She is calm, slightly aloof, and doesn't get into squabbles with other hens. She forages successfully and is very watchful while free ranging. And she goes broody like clockwork, is relatively cheerful about being isolated during the gestation period, and mothers her chicks like she was born to do it.

I gave Minerva 15 eggs and 7 hatched despite several being cracked or crushed by other unnamed hens (looking at you, Mahalia, since you loooooove to lay your daily egg with a big clutch of someone else's eggs, and squabbled with Minerva daily to do just that, often leaving a broken egg behind.)

I took Minerva's chicks Inside on day 19 after seeing a bunch of tiny red ants all over the nest, since I had a couple of pips didn't want to take a chance on some horrible fate claiming these babies (especially after losing the last batch when they were orphaned by a very hungry fox.)

Proud to say that of the 8 eggs that made it to day 18, 7 hatched.

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Monday, July 4, 2011

Candling Day for the New Clutch of Eggs

Candling Day! Minerva had 15 eggs under her until Saturday, when I found one broken. All the eggs had to be removed from the nest and washed in hot soapy water yesterday, and when I did that I found one with cracks. (I removed it not only because I thought it would not incubate properly, but because the extensive cracking meant Minerva was likely to break it and get the rest if the eggs dirty again. Upon inspection, it was infertile). So we were down to 13 eggs and I decided today was a good day to candle them. I was particularly curious about one egg that has a tiny hole in it.

To candle, you want to make sure your eggs are at least 6 or 7 days along. It's easiest to see movement on days 7-14 in my opinion. After that the egg is mostly just a dark mass, at least with my off the shelf camping flashlights that are nothing fancy in the lumens department like some you can buy! I got my light, my chicken notebook where I keep track of stats and stuff about my two flocks, a sharp pencil, and set all that up in the bathroom, which doesn't have a window and gets VERY for candling!

I took about half the eggs from under Minerva and brought them inside. This was all the blue eggs. I candled them and found to my disappointment that only one of Ruth's four eggs was still viable--and I'm not even sure about that one. Many Easter Egger and other blue egg layers have an egg that just isn't easy to candle. I could definitely tell those that were infertile or never began to develop though--they were light colored and translucent throughout, with no really dark masses inside. You'll see chicken people refer to these as "clears" but the yolk is in there too, a light golden color that doesn't add much darkness or shadow when candling. I cracked the two clears and sure enough they still looked like the eggs I had for breakfast. I made a note that Jules, the FCBM roo, doesn't seem to be making Ruth's eggs fertile. Only one of her four looks possibly viable. I had noted that when he covers her it doesn't seem to work well. She has a crippled foot and he is a big roo...I don't think everything is coming together as it should. On the other hand, all of Esme's eggs looked viable, so it seems to be that Jules is fertile, but just isn't making a consistent love connection with Ruth. This is disappointing because Ruth lays the biggest bluest egg if any of my adult hens, and she lays a lot of them, about 6 each week, even in the worst heat. These are traits I wanted to pass on to Olive Egger line, but Esmeralda's eggs are big too and she is also a prolific layer, at 5-6 per week. Her egg just isn't as pretty a shade of blue. When my Ameracauna babies start laying in the Fall, I can work on adding more blue to the line.

After candling, I put 4 EE eggs back under Minerva. These are my only chances this Spring for a few more Olive Eggers for my line, since I lost three when I had to rehome Gypsy's babies after she was taken by the fox. This will be my third hatch this year, and I only have one OE to show for it, and she won't lay and show her egg color until September or October. Babies born from this hatch won't lay until mid-winter. Working on a new line of birds is time consuming!

After returning the OE eggs, I took out the seven Black Javas and took them inside to candle. One had an obvious blood ring...a mostly clear egg with one dark line encircling the entire inside like an equatorial line. This was a sure sign that growth had begun but subsequently ended and the chick had died.

Sure enough, a tiny embryo was inside. This shows that development ceased after just a few days. The picture shows clearly the nature of the inner air membrane too, which the hatching chick pecks into to get the first breath of air that will sustain it as it rests and then pips through the external membrane and shell.

As usual, I was very pleased with my Black Javas. Of 7 eggs, 6 were obviously alive and very active. Even the one labeled Maeve 25, with a tiny hole in it!

By the time I was done candling, Minerva's clutch was reduced to just 10. I am finding that although the broody mama has many advantages over incubating in a bator (especially since I really don't enjoy hand raising babies with their smell, mess, and fragility), the attrition rate of eggs under the broody is certainly higher than in a good bator. After all, in my last incubated hatch, 23 of 24 hatched and lived. But it seems a normal sized clutch for a mama hen is 5-10 babies...more would be pretty hard to cover, incubate, and take good care of! Since these babes will be hatching just before we begin two weeks of moving to a new home, I should probably be thankful that not all the eggs will make it to chickhood.