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I Love My Reclaimed Wood Coop

In the Fall of 2015 my husband and I made the decision to tear our back porch off the house. We had found  (during a stre...

Friday, March 25, 2016

Hatching a Grocery Store Egg - Learning Experience #14,355

This has been my favorite learning experience so far. The story of choosing and hatching the egg is great fun, but my favorite part is the What I Learned at the end. Please stick around for that part.

In my time browsing forums, groups and pages for chicken information, one theme I stumbled upon was the discussion of the possibility/impossibility of hatching eggs from a grocery store. I first ran across this on Backyard Chickens about buying eggs marked as fertile at Trader Joes and Whole Foods (there are several threads actually). I immediately sped, of course, to both of these stores in my town to find that was a big nope.
 I head home (with these eggs), continuing to throw this around in my head. I decide to not worry too much about it though and just keep reading and an eye open for fertile eggs in stores.

Then, I started seeing posts from people who just buy regular eggs. Now when I say regular, I don't mean the eggs at Kroger. These kind of eggs are from large hatcheries where hens and roosters (this is a requirement for babies, folks) do not mix. Here's an excellent description of the different labels on cartons and what they mean as well as how these chickens are cared for. I do find it funny that of the conventional method, they say, "birds are more readily protected from the elements, disease and natural and unnatural predators." While this may be technically accurate, it's most certainly a bit of wordsmithing about keeping hens in cages they can barely move in for their entire lives, but that's another blog.

Anywho, what I'm referring to is eggs that are refrigerated in a smaller chain, grocery environment with more natural foods, that are marked free-range or labeled from a local farm. Free-range still doesn't mean access to a rooster, of course, (it doesn't even mean access to much really) but in the right store, it can. Apparently hatching eggs from Trader Joes, whether they are marked fertile or not, is a thing. I haven't tried any of theirs yet, but I'm making plans.
I chose to buy some from our local grocery co-op. While staring at the egg cartons for way too long, I recognized one of the vendors as a local farm that I know sells roosters as well as hens, which means there is a possibility these could be fertile. So I bought a dozen of them and headed home. Out of the dozen, I pulled out all the brown eggs, put them in the fridge for quiche later and popped an olive, pink, and four white eggs in a carton on the counter with one end tilted up and waited for them to reach room temperature, 12-18 hours is a good amount.

This was at about 4:30pm in the evening. The next morning, with my Farm Innovators 4250 incubator set up and ready for action, I put them in the egg turner and started the agonizing seven-day wait until I could candle.

At seven-days (at the latest, I'll be honest) I always candle. In particular if there is risk that some eggs won't be fertile. I pulled the 6 eggs out and took a look. None of the white eggs appeared fertile, or they never developed. The pink egg was fertile, there were webs everywhere, but the air pocket was not in place properly. The olive egg looked wonderful though! Proper air pocket, veiny looking stuff and a lot of movement for so early in the process. So the white eggs went into the compost (never eat or feed an incubated egg or it's shell to your chickens) and I went ahead and left the pink in the incubator with the olive. Because I Really wanted a pink egg layer and I was hoping I was reading the air pocket incorrectly. Several days later though, I learned I was not. I did my final candle and there was blood so that one went into the garbage, not the compost, but my olive one moved to the hatcher. 

I keep a 10 gallon tank with a lid I built as a hatcher. I move my eggs there at lockdown. This enables me to easily see what's happening from hall as I walk by as well as keeping a webcam up so I can check on the eggs from my phone, work computer, anywhere I need. It's very nice. I can also have multiple hatches incubating at a time without worrying about too little or too much humidity for any of them.

So then, it's lockdown and I waited. On day 20, I got my pip! I was so excited. It was about 10:20am when it happened and I noticed it on the livestream about 30 minutes later! I immediately posted pictures on my various chicken facebook groups and stared at my screen, anxiously waiting...waiting...waiting...
A mere 11 hours later, it pipped again and started to zip. I kept the webcam going, but I also started to record the hatch with my phone at this point, since that is a much better camera.

Ok, so if you watched the video above, or at least the last few minutes, that's the story of Marsha, my sweet Brahma Ameraucana mix chick. I was able to contact the farm and they were so helpful to tell me who the mommy and daddy are.

And this is what I learned:
  • Fertile eggs are able to develop even after refrigeration.
  • In my extreme excitement of getting my little one, I posted pictures on my facebook page. Most of my friends are not chicken folks and I was kind of floored to have it pointed out to me that many of them were assuming the chick was one I Found in an egg accidentally and not one I incubated. This is something that simply didn't cross my mind. An egg HAS to be incubated and cared for over a specific period of time (depending on the breed or species) at a very specific temperature and humidity to even START developing, let alone reach the point of fluffy butt. 
  • Many also do not realize that they may buy eggs at the grocery (depending where they shop, which we already covered) that are infertile or fertile and they will not be able to tell and they taste identical. Because an egg is fertile, does not mean you're eating a developing baby. Development of any baby doesn't ONLY require a mommy and a daddy, it also requires a very specific care. With us, all of a woman's reproductive organs also need to be in order to process everything properly. It's the same with an egg. If an egg is not provided the correct care after fertilization, it will never start to develop a baby. This is why candling an egg in the first 2-3 days is a waste as the egg needs a little time to kickstart.
  • My chick hatching facebook group though, LOVED this and totally got it. Even though it took 11 hours, I was amazed at how they stuck with me and if they happened to miss the hatch, loved the video. I love my fellow chicken folks who are as crazy about these guys as I am.

And that's really it on this one. Until the next learning experience, here's Marsha the Marshmallow:

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Abbreviations for Chicken Folks to use Online

Recently I was running through one of the Facebook groups I follow and someone asked if there was a list of the abbreviations folks tend to use when posting or commenting. Someone replied and said that people would be happy to help them if they asked each time. People in these groups are very helpful, true, but posting a list people could quickly check is a less cumbersome option and many of us take for granted knowing the millions of things we've learned in chicken keeping.

So below is my list (in alpha order by abbreviations and by terminology) I put together based on what I've seen and surfing around on the net a bit to see what other people tend to find important.

I tried to stick to terms specific to poultry. If you're looking for more universal terms (i.e., LOL, BTW, IMHO) Google is your friend. 

If anyone has any additions, please comment below and I will happily add them to the list. Meanwhile, if you'd like a downloadable PDF, click here.