I just checked the eggs, lifting the lid and keeping the clear plastic covering the incubator and our (about to be) hatched eggs. I am so, so excited and so nervous by this point, 21 days has gone quickly… but it is a long time to wait and find out if you have succeeded or failed. Anyways, this morning there is one egg moving itself around a little, probably positioning for hatching!
At this point the humidity is supposed to be increased from 50% up to 65%… well I don’t have anything to do this exactly, so I have added 2 wet washcloths into the incubator to hopefully keep that humidity up. This is really important because if the egg pips (the starting hole allowing air into the egg) and it is too dry, the membrane can shrink around the chick and stop the egg from hatching, or best case scenario require assistance. We had this happen to one duckling with our last hatching, luckily I was able to see that the membrane was stuck to its wing, stopping it from moving enough to get out. I assisted it very lightly, being very careful to only take off part of the membrane that had already separated from the chick. It is important to know that during the last days of incubation, right up until they finally emerge from the shell, the chicks are absorbing the yolk from the egg, and if you remove part of the egg that is still separated, it can kill them, so this is a very very delicate scenario to deal with. Do so only as a last resort.
9:00 am Hatching Day (Day 21)
I am getting super nervous! I have seen 2 out of 5 eggs wobble, but there is not one pip yet! The suspense is driving me crazy! It’s a good thing I have clear plastic under the lid keeping the humidity in, because I can’t help but take a peek every few minutes, lol. After all this blogging on the subject, and candling etc, it sure would be a jolt to my ego if not one hatches! Fingers and toes crossed!
12:30 pm Hatching Day
I am losing my mind waiting to see the first pip. Like seriously, I need to do dishes, and bathe, but I just can’t stop checking! Argh! My husband arrives home tonight after a week, I should probably at least shower
In order to help my obsession today, and since our incubator doesn’t have it’s glass top yet made, I decided to improvise, removing the glass from a picture frame and using it as a lid. Hey, whatever works. At least I finally saw 4 of the 5 eggs wobble, giving me hope that they are still alive and well! I also added a humidifier below the incubator near the vents…hoping this helps keep the humidity up!
1:00 pm Hatching Day
Okay so I’ve decided that maybe a watched egg doesn’t hatch…so I’m going to go do my chores, bathe, and try to not look at the eggs for at least another 2 hours. I’m probably sounding pretty pathetic, lol.
3:00 pm Hatching Day
We finally started hearing peeps! Don’t see any pips yet though. Only a couple are still wobbling, 3 have stopped… getting a little worried about them, and resisting the urge to check on them
We decided to change the girls room around to pass the time, and also get the brooder set up so it is warm and ready to go! Our brooder is simple right now, just a bin we had with the top cut out to allow for a hardware cloth insert, and a very robust hook, installed by my hubby to hang the heat lamp! We like to put the lamp to one side so the chicks can move in or out of the heat to their choosing. As you can see we are missing the hardware cloth as of now, but it will be added, to protect from our dog. A good padding of pine shavings and we are ready, at least for day one.
7:00 pm Hatching Day
I stopped being patient. I kept hearing loud chirping , and not seeing anything, so I quickly lifted the lid and picked up an egg, only to feel it was pipped on the bottom! I’ve turned it to the side so we can see it’s progress.
12:00 am Day 22
I determined that the chick was malpositioned, meaning it was pipping at the pointy end of the egg, rather then the fat end where the air sack is. This can make it very difficult for chicks to hatch, but also means they need more time to absorb their yolk, which normally starts to absorb with the internal pip into the air cell. After several hours the chick had made hardly any progress, it just kept pecking in the same spot and seemed to be stuck so I decided to very carefully help it unzip a little. The membrane was solid white and I couldn’t see any blood vessels so I unzipped it all the way around using tweezers to remove small pieces of shell, then moistened it with triple antibiotic ointment (I read this is a more effective and long lasting way to keep it moist then water, with less risk of drowning) I set the egg back in the incubator until around 3 am, when I removed the pointy end of the egg, leaving the membrane intact, and again moistened. (Note* if you are going to do any intervention keep cornstarch within reach for any bleeding!)
At this time I also decided to candle one of the other eggs, as they have stopped moving. I thought I saw just a little movement, so I put it back quickly.
7 am Day 22
Still nothing from the other eggs. The hatching egg has made just a little progress, tearing the membrane a little with its leg just about popping out. I touched the membrane just enough to let its leg pop out, then left it a little longer.
8 am Day 22
After an hour of watching and seeing NO movement in the other eggs I decided to candle and tap. I did not see any internal pip (the beak entering the air cell), no movement, and no chirping, so I decided to pip the air sac end of one egg, sadly I found that the membrane had dried up and shrink-wrapped the chick. I did the same checks and procedure with the other 4 eggs, they were all the same, but one was moving just the tiniest bit when I touched it, so I moistened the membranes and let it sit. It sadly stopped moving after about an hour.
After realizing that the other 4 eggs had not made it I decided to help the remaining chick out, with not a whole lot to lose. It appeared to be entering the same fate, its membrane was drying despite being moistened with antibiotic ointment and having the humidifier. So I very carefully and slowly removed the rest of the shell and moistened the membrane, I did get just a little blood, which I applied the cornstarch too, with no more problems, finally the chick started to emerge and I could see that its yolk had been absorbed so I helped it the rest of the way out (much of the membrane had dried to its feathers) I left the belly part on right until the end, and when the chick moved it pulled off and started to bleed! Ahh Panic! I pinched a bunch of cornstarch and put it on it quickly, then again and held a towel on it. I was so scared I killed this last little chick! But it survived, it didn’t continue to bleed, and is now, almost 12 hours later fluffy and looking healthy! Now I am just worried that having only the one will cause problems, so I am on the search for some more chicks to keep it company.
Here is our one little Plymouth Rock chick:
In the beginning of this post series I said that I am no expert, and this would be a trial and error type post…so here you have it, exactly what happened, it wasn’t perfect, and wasn’t pretty right at the end. I have learned that I need to have a working hydrometer to check the humidity, and that if my gut says something is wrong (like when the eggs stopped moving) you might be right to trust your intuition, if I had intervened with the other chicks (one had pipped on the bottom without me knowing) I may have saved more – the outcome really couldn’t be worse then it was. I found this thread right at the end of my hatch – Hands On Hatching and wish I found it sooner. I also realized that I can use the humidifier to increase humidity in the incubator if need be (which means I need the hydrometer!) I also learned that Day 21 hatching is just a guide to go by! I wish I had a happier, more exciting outcome to share, but this is farm life. You win some, you lose some, right!?