Yesterday was day 21 of the eggs being in the incubator, so it was hatching day. It's amazing that new life can grow in just 21 days inside eggs, they really are very clever things. Despite having promised myself that I wouldn't sit by the incubator for the better part of the day and that I'd just get on with tasks and ignore the incubator, I didn't manage to get through the day without returning time and again to the snug, where we have the incubator to see how the hatching was progressing.
As a reminder, we have 16 eggs in the incubator, although we started with twenty-six eggs, ten of them were not fertile (9 of the Australorp and one Jersey Giant), so we are hoping for three Australorps, eleven Jersey Giants and two hybrids. The two hybrid eggs from our smallholding were laid by Diesel (fertilised by the bantam cockerel that is with us at the moment).
By early evening, one little chick had hatched, it was one of the hybrids and although it's very small, it's feisty and loud which I am taking as a good sign. I stayed up rather later than I normal in the hope that I would see another chick (or more).
I was in that place where 'expectation meets reality' and having to accept that I can't make those little eggs pop open by sheer willpower or by being hopeful. I can't understand why the others didn't hatch yesterday, but perhaps the incubator was a little cooler than it was for the last hatching (which we did in a different incubator) or perhaps because the eggs were put into the incubator later in the day than the first batch. Who knows, but I did go to bed feeling rather despondent.
This morning the first chick is still alive and looking strong and, to my delight, three more eggs have pipped. I can see the small holes in the eggshells made by chicks getting ready to hatch. So it seems that today I will be in and out of the house again, checking for developments in the incubator. Typically, as I am writing my blog I can hear that there is movement in the incubator! The second chick has hatched, it's one of the White Jersey Giant eggs, which is delightful as it means that Little White will have a companion.
By mid afternoon today (Wednesday) a third chick had hatched, it's very tired having spent the better part of the day trying to release itself from the shell. And now I will have to wait to see whether any of the other eggs that have pipped will hatch a chick. I've been advised that hatching can be any time up to thirty-six hours after pipping, so I won't give up on the eggs left in the incubator just yet. I find it disappointing to have hatched only three so far from sixteen eggs and can't help but wonder if I've done something wrong. I will update this post again if more chicks hatch.
The next task for us is to make sure that everything is ready for the chicks to be moved into the brooder area once they are dry and fluffy. So Mr J and I have turned on the brooder which will keep them warm and put a small dish of chick food and grit and also a water dispenser filled with water, apple cider vinegar with garlic and honey. This mixture should provide some energy, help their gut health and promote their well-being.
There are changes afoot with the small flock outside. The cockerel that we have at the moment will being going to his new home on Sunday evening. He is obviously fertile as we have just hatched one of his chicks and I am sure that he will enjoy living with Helen on her smallholding and looking after her girls. We gave that small cockerel a home as we wanted to have some fertile eggs while we were waiting for the Cream Legbar cockerel that we have been promised by a well-respected Cream Legbar breeder. The new laddie is now ready to come to us and we will be collecting him at the weekend. The timing is perfect as we can keep the new boy in quarantine for a couple of days before he joins the girls in the field by which time the current cockerel will have left.
I've just checked the incubator one more time and we still have just the three chicks but on the plus side, they all look strong and healthy.
THURSDAY - UPDATE
It was somewhat of a surprise to come downstairs at 5am today to find another chick just pushing the last of it's shell off and looking big, strong and healthy. This is an Australorp chick, the only one to hatch and I am delighted that at least we have one now. It is the largest of the chicks that have hatched and certainly seems very robust. Within an hour of hatching it was up and running about in the incubator, steady on its feet and cheep-cheeping merrily.
Later in the day I spotted that another egg was trying to hatch but having difficulties breaking the shell. A while later and it was in trouble, so I looked online for information and sought advice from friends on social media (who have kept chickens) and then tried to help the little bird. It's now been several hours since we helped it and although it seems to be out of the shell, much of the membrane is still stuck to its feathers and it is desperately weak. I suspect that it is just a matter of time before the struggle to live becomes too much. Part of me wants to put it out of any misery it may be in, but the other half says to give the little fella (or gal) a chance to fight for survival. It's very hard to know what it is the best thing to do in this situation. So for now, we are going to leave it to rest and keep our fingers crossed that it will survive. I'll update again when I have more news about the fifth little chick.