Will we have new chicks??? Confessions from the Coop (TM)

Will we have new chicks??? Confessions from the Coop (TM)

It finally happened (backyard chicken style).

 

The baby bantams have started laying!

 

My buff cochin hens have started laying the tiniest, perfect brown eggs.

 

I KNOW they’re fertile (thanks to my silkie roosters!), so I’m going to start collecting to hatch them.

 

How cute will that be?

 

Out of all my chickens, the cochin bantams are the friendliest, so having more of them would be fun.

 

They’re also very smart — perfect for any chicken flock!

 

 

They’ll start getting more Best Eggs Ever! which has extra calcium (oyster shells AND oat straw!) so they’re able to lay healthy eggs with strong shells.

 

Want to know whether your young chickens have started laying? Go here!

 

Speaking of hatching eggs, we’re almost on Day 10 of this latest hatch in the Brinsea incubator.

 

I haven’t checked the eggs yet, but I probably will tonight – keep your fingers crossed that we have lots of little embryos!

 

I can’t believe how fast the ducklings grew – they’re almost the same size as full grown adults now! I’ve mostly been feeding them Fluffiest Feathers Ever! mixed with Brewer’s Yeast – lots of protein and vitamins!

duckling backyard chicken flock

Brinsea Ovation 56 Advance Incubator Product Review

Brinsea Ovation 56 Advance Incubator Product Review

*** For this review, the folks at Brinsea sent us their Brinsea Ovation 56 Advance Incubator with fully automatic egg turner and digital temperature and humidity control test run.

Although we received the incubator for free, all the opinions in this article are true and accurate, and represent our own opinions. ***

 

What we reviewed

Brinsea Ovation 56 Advance Incubator with fully automatic egg turner and digital temperature and humidity control. Cost: $469.99 on Amazon (Buy here) or (accurate at time of print) $449.99 on Brinsea’s website here.

 Brinsea Ovation 56 Advance Incubator fully digital for backyard chickens

 Brinsea Ovation 56 Advance Incubator fully digital for backyard chickens egg cups

Description

The Brinsea Ovation 56 Advance Incubator with fully automatic egg turner and digital temperature and humidity control is an electric egg incubator with an automatic turning element and forced air heating element.

 

There are 8 egg holders that can accommodate all species of domestic poultry eggs.

 

There are also areas for water to maintain the humidity levels. The temperature and humidity are digitally displayed on the top of the incubator.

 

The Brinsea Ovation 56 Advance Incubator comes with a manual that explains how to use it and how to set it up.

 

According to the Brinsea website:

 

“The Ovation 56 Advance is a sophisticated, high performance incubator ideal for a wide range of species and applications. The high accuracy digital readout of humidity and comprehensive alarms help ensure high hatch rates.

A simple and highly accurate menu driven digital control system gives:

  • Digital display of temperature and humidity
  • Automatic temperature control in °F or °C fully factory calibrated
  • High and low incubator and room temperature alarms
  • Programmable automatic egg turning
  • Periodic Egg Cooling feature
  • Fan assisted air flow with Induced Dual Airflow system
  • Ventilation control
  • Good visibility of the eggs
  • Robust hygienic ABS construction with Biomaster™antimicrobial plastics
  • 56 hen eggs capacity with standard egg carriers provided but suitable for a wide range of egg sizes (optional small/large egg carriers)
  • Easy water top-up with level indicator
  • 3-year warranty”

Our experience

Let’s just say that we gave the Brinsea Ovation 56 Advance Incubator a real run for its money, and it came through with gold stars.

 

We tested it twice, both with duck and chicken eggs (mostly from my brahma chickens). We had to try it twice because on the 18th day of our first test run with 30 chicken and duck eggs, the cat knocked over the incubator and cracked every single egg.

 

Despite this error on our part, our experience with the Brinsea Ovation 56 Advance Incubator was overwhelmingly positive.

 

The first test run of the Brinsea Ovation 56 Advance Incubator

Setting up the incubator was easy, although I did have to consult the manual to make sure all the settings were accurate. The manual is well written and easy to follow.

 

I selected 30 duck eggs and enough chicken eggs to fill up all the cups.

 

Days 1 – 10 went uneventfully, and I appreciated how easy the Brinsea Ovation 56 Advance Incubator is to use.

 

On Day 10, we pulled out the eggs that did not develop or were never fertile, and left the remainder to incubate. Out of 30 eggs, we pulled out less than 5. In any hatch, some eggs won’t develop, and it’s not a reflection of the incubator.

 

Before the incubator crash, we candled all the remaining eggs on Day 18, and they appeared to have embryos developed enough to hatch.

 

After the crash on Day 18, we had 5 chicks hatch immediately, and they were all healthy, and have lived to tell the tale. We lost the rest of the hatch, but it was no fault of the incubator.

 

The incubator itself was unharmed, which is a testament to its craftsmanship.

 

The second test run

The second time, we tested the incubator with 15 duck and about 20 chicken eggs. All went as planned, and we loved that we didn’t need to worry about the temperature levels, and adding more water to maintain the humidity was easy.

 

The temperature stayed a constant 99.6 degrees F throughout the entire incubation period, except when we replaced the water in the humidity trays. When the temperature dipped a few decimal places because of the water, the incubator returned to 99.6 degrees quickly.

 

When we removed the top of the incubator to candle, again, the temperature returned to 99.6 quickly. Candling the eggs was easy, although I had to be careful to grasp the eggs tightly to remove them from the turning element safely.

 

We kept the humidity at 55%, and removed the chicken eggs from the turning element on Day 18.  The duck eggs remained in the egg cups, which protected them when the hatched chicks rolled around to get their bearings.

 

On Days 18 – 21, all the chicks hatched, and are healthy and now happily running around our farm. Because of the automatic turner, we didn’t have to open the incubator at all while the chicks hatched to turn the duck eggs, allowing us to incubate both types of eggs simultaneously.

 

The duck eggs remained in the cups until Day 28.

 

We removed some duck eggs before the final 3 incubation days (the eggs were never were fertile) and all of the remaining duck eggs hatched on Day 28 and Day 29. We now have 10 healthy ducklings.

ducklings try swimming for the first time

The Good

This incubator is very easy to use, and is as close to set and forget as you can get with an incubator, at least until it’s time to remove the eggs from the turning element to hatch.

 

The temperature stayed the same the entire time, and the humidity was consistent as long as the water level was constant.

 

The egg cups that are part of the turning element are easy to use, and accommodates our very large Pekin duck eggs well. For goose eggs, the manual recommends laying the eggs on their sides, which we had to do with a couple Pekin eggs.

 

We noticed that the incubator did not draw a lot of energy, even though it maintained 99.6 degrees for well into 2 months, so it seems to be quite energy efficient.

 

Some key points about the Brinsea Ovation 56 Advance Incubator

This isn’t bad per se, but more of a piece of advice: Consult the manual carefully and keep it handy when setting up the egg cups and automatic turner.

 

In the confusion of the day 18 crash on our first test run, we panicked to get all the eggs back in the Brinsea Ovation 56 Advance Incubator as quickly as possible to avoid shrink wrapping.

 

I had to consult the manual to figure out how to place the egg cups so they lined up with the automatic turning element because I completely forgot how they fit together, and it wasn’t 100% intuitive in the heat of the moment.

 

If not set up correctly, you run the risk of the eggs falling out of the cups, which is initially what happened when I tried setting up the incubator for the 2nd test run. The eggs were unharmed, but it’s best to keep the manual on hand.

 

Some other points:

The timer for the Brinsea Ovation 56 Advance Incubator automatic turning element is set to go off every 45 minutes by default, so be sure to consult the manual to select an interval that works for you. We set it to turn the eggs every 2 hours.

 

We couldn’t figure out how to turn the beeping off completely for the timer, and it kept my husband up at night, but it didn’t bother me. If you’re a light sleeper, take this into consideration when deciding on a location for your incubator. Because we have special needs children and cats who get into things they shouldn’t, we kept ours in the bedroom where we could keep an eye on it.

 

[UPDATE: Brinsea contacted me after this review posted, and let me know how to turn off the beeping sound:

 

  • Press all 3 buttons simultaneously to unlock the calibration menu
  • CAL TEMP
  • OK < >  will show on the screen
  • Keep pressing the OK button until you see TURN ALM
  • Press the OK button
  • The screen will now show
  • T ALM: 1
  • OK 0 1
  • Press the – button to select 0 (off)
  • Keep pressing the OK button until you save and exit.]

 

The heating element on top of the Brinsea Ovation 56 Advance Incubator isn’t easily removable, so it made it difficult to completely clean it between hatches.

 

When I emailed my contact at Brinsea for help, I was promised a reply with the information, but didn’t hear back with instructions for cleaning around the heating element.

 

[UPDATE: After this review posted, I did hear back from Brinsea about the cleaning instructions, and you can view them here. They are easy to follow, so print them out and keep them handy. Their customer service was friendly and very interested in helping us solve the cleaning riddle.]

 

Overall Experience

GREAT – I love this incubator, and had great hatch rates. The fact that we got 5 healthy, beautiful chicks after the crash speaks to the quality of the product. I haven’t lost a single chick or duckling that hatched, and they’re all healthy.

 

While a bit pricey for beginning chicken and duck keepers, the peace of mind and craftsmanship is well worth it if you plan to incubate eggs frequently.

 

I plan to use the Brinsea Ovation 56 Advance Incubator again and again, and it’s my prime recommendation for a mid-priced chicken egg incubator.

Store Chicken Hatching Eggs Like A Pro + Top 3 Mistakes You Need To Avoid

Store Chicken Hatching Eggs Like A Pro + Top 3 Mistakes You Need To Avoid

If you have hens and roosters, chances are you’re wondering how to store chicken hatching eggs so you can raise your own chickens.

 

At least, that was the first question I asked myself as soon as I realized I would have fertile eggs for hatching.

 

(Looking for an incubator recommendation? Here’s my favorite!)

 

The first time we hatched chicks on our homestead, it was a great day – we could increase our flock (and our food supply), develop our own line of healthy hens, and watch as the chicks grew into healthy adults. Fun!

 

I’m sure you will want to start incubating your own chicken eggs also – and it starts with storing them properly.

 

In this article, I’m going to show you how to store your chicken eggs so they’re in the best shape possible for incubation – yes, how you store the eggs does impact whether they are likely to hatch or not.

 

If you want to learn how to hatch chicken eggs, I have a detailed article on that here. And I’m going to assume you have both hens and roosters – without the rooster, your chicken eggs won’t be fertile.

 

Before we get started, though, there’s a couple things to keep in mind:

 

Tip #1: Avoid washing the chicken eggs

As you probably know, when eggs are laid, they have something called the “bloom” on them. This extra layer keeps bacteria and other nasties out of the egg, protecting the precious oocyte from harm.

 

It’s important to not wash your hatching eggs – you’ll remove the bloom, and potentially expose the chick embryo to bacteria, crushing your hopes of hearing peeping and getting to watch them zip into life.

 

Tip #2: Stay away from eggs that have abnormal shapes

Abnormally-shaped eggs are good for eating in most cases (there are some exceptions like lash eggs), but they won’t really give you a good result when it comes to hatching.

 

Excessively big eggs might contain double yolks (these rarely hatch because there’s not enough room in the shell for both embryos in most cases) or even another whole egg.

 

Chicken eggs with a lumpy shell might not have a big enough air sac or an air sac that’s too large. Bottom line: You only want to incubate eggs that are a regular egg shape.

 

Tip #3: Stay away from cracked eggs.

Yes, you can glue a crack back together, and it might hatch. But make things easy on yourself – only incubate uncracked eggs.

 

Storing fertile eggs

Start by collecting eggs no more than 10 days before the incubation process (the fresher, the better), and keep them out of an area that’s too hot or too cool (room temperature is best) and away from the sun. The last thing you want is too much heat to kick start the incubation process.

 

If you live in a hot area (for example, if it’s over 100 degrees every day in the summer), you’ll want to collect your eggs frequently.

 

I’ve had readers send me photos of eggs they had left in their coop for too many days – and indeed, the embryos in the eggs had started to develop. It’s gross, and you don’t want to deal with that.

 

Store chicken hatching eggs

 

Another common question I get is “how long can eggs sit out before incubating?” I personally don’t incubate eggs that are older than 10 days, and I prefer eggs that are no older than 7 days.

 

Keep eggs in cartons – pointy side down

Keep your chicken hatching eggs in cartons like these (or like this if you want a reuseable one) to keep them safe and clean, and be sure to store them with the pointed end down. This will protect the air sac and make sure the yolk stays where it should, which is critical for your chicken embryos to grow into chicks.

Store Chicken Hatching Eggs Like A Pro With These Tips!

 

Turn your eggs consistently

This is to prevent the embryo from sticking to the internal membrane. Hens turn their eggs seveal gimes a day; you can do it 2-3, and just be sure to do it gently.

 

That’s pretty much the skinny on storing chicken eggs for hatching!

I’d like to hear from you!

How do you store chicken hatching eggs? What are your best tips? Leave a comment below!

How to Hatch Chicken Eggs (Even Without Incubators)

How to Hatch Chicken Eggs (Even Without Incubators)

Fluffy chicks are the best and learning how to hatch chicken eggs (and hatch eggs at home without an incubator) is a ton of fun!

 

Letting Mother Nature (who knows how to incubate chicken eggs perfectly) do her thing is always best, but if your hens aren’t broody (wanting to sit on eggs) or if you want to maintain a precise environment for your hatching eggs, incubating them is a good option.

 

If you want to know how to hatch chicken eggs without an incubator, we’ll cover that, too.


Buy Now

 

wpid-img1046.jpgFirst things first. It usually takes 21 days for a chicken egg to fully incubate. A day is the full 24 hours after you put the egg in the incubator, so I write the next day’s date on the egg to remind myself what day I started incubating. So, if I put eggs in the incubator on January 18, I write 1/19 on the egg. I tend to see external pipping (when the chick starts to break the egg) on day 19, but it can take up to 28 days in some cases. (Full disclosure: I’ve never personally had an egg take that long to hatch but it reportedly happens on occasion). I use a Little Giant Still Air incubator that I bought locally for about $50. I’ve had a good hatch rate with it, it’s easy to figure out, and it’s a great starter incubator. It’s important to run it for 24 hours before you put eggs in to ensure the temperature is correct and stays steady.

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These eggs were fresh and were fertile.

1. Choosing eggs to incubate. Don’t incubate eggs older than 10 days, and eggs no older than 7 days are best. If you come across a bunch of eggs you’re not sure about, and want a test, put the egg gently in water and do an egg float test.

If you’re saving eggs for a few days before putting them in the incubator, store them at room temperature. I use an old egg carton, and I store them pointy side down. This is to protect the air bubble at the fat end. More on that later.

Do not refrigerate them. (note: if it’s winter, the sooner you gather the eggs the better, but if they’re cold for a couple hours, it’s ok. Bring them back to room temp before incubating). Put only unbroken eggs in your incubator.

You can make sure they don’t have any cracks by candling them before you put them in the incubator. (If you’re wondering how to hatch eggs from the grocery store, you can’t because they’re not fertile. If you don’t have any chickens, or if you don’t have a rooster, you can check out Craigslist and see if anyone’s selling hatching eggs near you).

(Hint: Keep small hands away from the incubator! While this might seem intuitive, if you’re an obsessive temperature and humidity checker like me, you can inadvertently place the incubator in a place where children can get inside. And you might just find an omelette on your floor. Not fun for anyone (ok maybe for your kids).

2. Maintain a temperature between 100°-102° with a still air incubator and 99-99.5 with a forced air incubator. Your goal is to keep the temperature inside the egg as close to 99.5° as possible. Since you can’t actually take the temperature inside the egg, the best you can do is maintain a slightly higher temp outside the egg.

I’ll admit it. Occasionally I’ve let the incubator get too hot, especially when I was first starting out. It got as high as 113° one day while I was out running errands, and I swore I killed all the chicks. I had an 80% hatch rate, which means I’m either incredibly lucky or small, short changes in temperature do not necessarily mean disaster. By all means, keep your temperature between 100°-102°, but if the worse happens, don’t panic and assume all is lost.

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Busy chicks in their brooder, checking things out.

3. Keep your humidity between 40-50% days 1-18, then increase to 50%-60% on days 18-21. Humidity is important, especially in the last days of incubation. If the humidity is too low, you run the chance of your chicks getting “shrink-wrapped”, and unable to break out of the egg. The last thing anyone wants is to get super excited for hatch day, only to have fewer eggs hatch because the chicks died. I keep a digital thermometer in the incubator that measures both temperature and humidity. It’s been a lifesaver (literally) and it keeps me from guessing. I try to adjust the temperature by opening and closing the vents instead of turning the dial. It’s a slower and less dramatic change.

4. Turn your eggs at least 3 times a day from days 1-18, then don’t turn them at all on days 18-21. Turning your eggs an odd number of times each day is important for embryo development. In nature, a hen turns her eggs constantly. Don’t turn your eggs after day 18 – let the chick orient itself to break the shell and hatch. Remember the air bubble I mentioned? When the chick is being born, it “pips” (breaks) into that air bubble, then pips into the external world. To help the chick hatch, keep the incubator shut (we call this time “lockdown”) and don’t open it unless necessary.

5. Candle your eggs starting on day 7. If you have darker eggs, you might have to wait until day 10, but you definitely want to candle them at some point. Candling an egg just means looking at the inside by shining a light through the egg. You should see veins and eventually a chick moving in there (which is the coolest thing ever, aside from seeing a human in the womb). If by day 10, you only see the yolk (looks like a shadow and the rest of the egg clear), then the egg either wasn’t fertile or the embryo never developed. Eggs that don’t develop need to be removed.

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A new chick just born! The light keeps him from getting cold.

6. Once they’re born, move the chicks to the brooder. Congrats! You made it to day 21, and now you have baby chicks. You can leave chicks in the incubator up to 3 days. When you move them to the brooder (I do it the day after they’re born, once they can stand and walk ok), make sure your brooder is at least 95° but not too hot or the chicks will overheat (you’ll know if they start panting). I usually keep mine 95° – 100°.

Newborn chicks have a harder time regulating their own temperature, so I keep a thermometer in the brooder too. I use straw in my brooder because we have it on hand. Some people use wood chips; if you use wood chips, use larger ones so the chicks don’t try to eat the finer shavings.

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I gave these chicks a probiotic the same day they were born, and they’ve grown up very healthy.

7. Give your chicks a probiotic in their water. I used to think probiotics were a useless trend, but after losing some newborn chicks inexplicably, I gave them a try on a friend’s recommendation, and every one since (knock on wood) has been very healthy. All you do is add it to their water, and I heavily recommend them. The probiotics help establish good gut flora and aid in helping the chicks poop correctly, and avoid pasty butt (pasty butt is when a chick’s feces dry and cover their vent, and they’re no longer able to poop correctly). Pasty butt is a #1 killer of newborn chicks.

What if you’re off-grid? If you’re interested in how to incubate chicken eggs with a heat lamp, or how to hatch eggs at home without an incubator, or how to incubate chicken eggs without electricity, for example if you’re off-grid, as long as the temperature in the incubator is at these levels, you’re doing ok. Make sure whatever you’re using as an incubator is able to consistently maintain these temperatures. Newspaper makes a good insulator, as do styrofoam ice coolers (that you buy at the grocery store). The styrofoam will be less of a fire hazard and easier to maintain the temperature. You will also need a cover for your homemade incubator, as well as a way to turn the eggs easily without disrupting the temperature or humidity.

You can always let the hen incubate the eggs for you if you’re off grid. Silkies are a good choice, since the breed tends to go broody.

If you want to improve the quality of your chicken eggs for hatching, give the girls a calcium supplement, such as crushed egg shells (mine go NUTS for these) or oyster shells. The added calcium increases the strength of the shells.

Hatching eggs really is that easy! If all your eggs don’t hatch, don’t worry. A 80% hatch rate is normal, and if your first hatch yields a 50% hatch rate, you’re doing great! Have fun, watching the chicks grow up is a blast!

Want to see a chick being born? Check out my video! http://youtu.be/dg5nXWU0n9k