The story of how I hatched chicks in an incubator
You know when you describe someone as a Mother Hen? What you mean is they're being a bit fussy, a bit over protective. Well, that was me this morning. With my brand new, fresh from the shell, tiny and cute chicks.
I came downstairs, woken by a cat that had been out all night and was demanding her breakfast. Loudly. So I scrambled out of bed and made my way down. I could see a dark, fluffy thing in the incubator, but the cat was calling continuously so I fed her first. I didn't want her eating anything she shouldn't, after all.
Once she was sorted I could see what we'd got in the incubator. And it was one very fluffy, brown silkie. Next to her (I'm so hoping its a girl) was an egg that had been pecked to reveal a little hole.
So it was all systems go. We set the heat lamp up and I lifted the tiny little thing out of the incubator into the homemade brooder.
It was cheeping loudly, but as I lay my hand out in the brooder, it clambered into it, exhaled and sank down in exhaustion. Just....flopped. Flat as a pancake. Its heart was beating against my palm.
A couple of hours later a piece of egg shell tumbled off the other egg in the incubator. Cameras at the ready, we watched in wonder as a crack appeared around the top of the egg. Then a black wing popped out, the feathers wet and matted. The chick would take time to recover, then do a big push. And out came a leg with an enormous foot on the end. More recovering, a bit of cheeping, then another final push and out she came in her entirety.
As I write this a third shell is just starting to break.
Pure magic. Mother Nature is incredible.
(If you'd like to see the story as it unfolded then do go over to my Instagram Stories. In the highlights section on my Instagram page is the saved stories under 'chicks'. You can also see an amalgamated version in the film below.)
The chick story all began about four weeks ago when Wincey, one of my chickens, became broody. In excitement I ordered two different breeds. Six chocolate silkies and six black-laced wyandottes. Then the weather changed. It was cold, a wind whipped over the field. And, just like that, Wincey stopped being broody.
As the eggs had been ordered (off eBay) I looked into alternatives. I must admit I've always had this belief that incubators were a lot more complicated than they actually are and have been put off using one before. But I found this one called a Brinsea Mini II Eco Incubator. It had good reviews on the site and the designer had filmed instructions on YouTube. It was incredibly reassuring.
The only other equipment I'd need would be a heat lamp and a brooder. But I could make a brooder out of a box and I ordered a Titan heat lamp.
The only down side to using that incubator was not all the eggs would fit in. So I used five of each type, figuring I'd put the spare two under Wincey if she became broody again (sadly, she didn't).
Twice a day I would lift the lid of the incubator and turn the eggs. I'd placed a o on one side and an x on the other in pencil, so I knew I'd turned them. And I did this twice a day.
The temperature on the brooder is set automatically and all I needed to do was to add water to a little pool in the centre to keep it humid. After 18 days the water was to be added via a pool on the outside so I no longer needed to lift the lid, keeping the humidity enclosed.
Once the chicks started to hatch we set up the heat lamp, put some newspaper at the bottom of a box and popped the chicks in to fluff up. They don't need anything to eat or drink in the first day just plenty of rest and warmth.
I'm utterly obsessed and just love popping my hand down for them to hop into.
No doubt this story will be continued...