Now that we’ve had finished most of the coop, it was time to start hatching the chicks! We could have bought adult chickens or already hatched chicks, but we really wanted to hatch the chicks ourselves. We’d actually get to see them grow up! 😀
So, we had to decide on the breed first. I’ve written before about the three breeds we had in mind. After a lot of going back and forth between them, we finally settled for Orpington chickens! 🙂 After writing that blog post we’ve seen them in real life and we really fell in love with them…
First things first, we needed a starter kit: an incubator, a hygrometer and… some fertilized eggs! We got ourselves a Brinsea Eco Mini 2 incubator. It had generally positive reviews on the internet and, according to it’s instructions, could fit 10 chicken eggs – the amount of eggs we initially wanted to incubate 🙂 We ordered a brandless hygrometer along with it.
After we received the incubator we decided to try and hatch 8 eggs instead of 10, just so if all eggs would hatch the coop would be big enough to house them. 🙂 We got the eggs from a nearby Orpington keeper. It was close enough we could go pick up the eggs ourselves, so we wouldn’t have to wait for them to arrive 🙂
When we got the eggs, we marked the shells with pencil. We put an X on one side, and an O on the other side. We’d have to turn the eggs manually, so that would help us to know when the egg was turned properly – and also which eggs we still had to turn each time. After that we let them rest for a couple hours. They’d been a bit shaken during the ride back home, so everything needed to settle back in place before we started incubating.
While the eggs were resting we set up the equipment. We set up the incubator and waited for temperature and humidity level were stable. The incubator reached a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius, and the humidity level went up to 50%. Which is needed for the first 17 days, so that’s great! 🙂
We waited until the following morning to be completely sure everything was fine and to see how fast the water level would drop (which wasn’t fast at this point). Then it was time to put the eggs inside the incubator!
The following 17 days are a bit boring 🙂 It’s a lot of checking the temperature and a humidity level, to make sure everything was alright. The eggs also need to be turned twice a day. There are incubators out there who do that for you, but this one doesn’t so we did that manually. Which was a bit of a race against the clock, to make sure the temperature and humidity didn’t drop too much 🙂
On day 18 we put in the hatching mat, which came with the incubator. It basically is a piece of carton which you place underneath the eggs, to soak up moisture from the hatched chicks and to give them better footing. That same day, we also had to crank up the humidity level to 65-70%. That proved to be a challenge because of the weather at the time, so we added a few strips cut from a coffee filter (seen on the pic above) to the water cup. That did the job!
And on day 20 we woke up to this… A first pip!
Two of the eggs showed signs of life! When we saw this it was 8:00, so I got really excited… The chicks would hatch soon! 😀 Boy, was I wrong… For 12 hours nothing much happened. Granted; they chirped every now and then – which is really weird to hear from an egg – and sometimes they would fidget with the shards… But nothing significant.
This being the first time hatching chicks from an incubator, in the evening I started to get nervous. What if something was wrong? What if they needed help? But I shouldn’t have worried 🙂 When I checked on them om 20:00, they started hacking away at their shells – exactly 12 hours after we saw the first pips!
And then we decided, we should do a timelapse! And so we did… We got the camera in place just in time!
And then our little chicks had hatched… 🙂
Their first 24 hours
The little chicks were really tired from all the hard work, and they had little room in the incubator. When they calmed down a bit and moved around we removed the shells so they had a bit more room to sit. We knew we had to be really careful and fast while doing that, so they didn’t get cold and the humidity wouldn’t drop too much.
We left them in the incubator for the night, so they could fluff up real nice and rest after the hard work. The following morning the other eggs were still not pipped, and the chicks looked fluffed up enough to be taken out. With no risk of cooling down chicks that were also gonna hatch, we did just that…
Twelve hours later they looked even fluffier and started to eat and drink! A 24 hours later they were fully fluffed up… And they’re SO FLUFFY!!!
Next adventure… Raising them 🙂