Thursday, 29 July 2010

Happy Birthday Peeps

The peeps are one week old today. They have grown at a phenomenal rate, and are strong and healthy. I am very pleased with their progress. I was much less pleased, however, when the ever tolerant husband woke up this morning to find that the heat lamp had blown. Cue me flying down the stairs with hair like Wurzel Gummidge and expecting the worst. The chicks were happily scratching about in the sand bath, and not shivering in a corner near death as I had imagined. Still, to be on the safe side, I scooped them up and brought them in to the house in a shoe box.

The ever tolerant husband gallently embarked on a mercy dash to the local country store to purchase a new bulb. I chewed my nails nervously, hoping that the chicks wouldn't have hypothermia. The chicks ignored my fretting, and pecked the box enthusiastically, making sure it wasn't edible. The new bulb was dropped at the door en route to the ever tolerant husband's real business of the day, and with relief I returned the peeps to their brooder. With marvellous aplomb, they turned their back on the heat and headed back to the sand bath. They seem completely unfazed by the whole episode, where as I think I have added a couple of wrinkles to the collection.

The unruffled peeps.

The suspected boy, complete with curling feathers.

The straight feathers on the other two are clear. Typical.

Hopefully, the gender divide should get more obvious in the next week.

Monday, 26 July 2010

They Know

The girls are aware that something is up. They watch me walking back and forth to the garage with alert postures, and low chuntering. They have seen me carrying what looks suspiciously like their treat bowl, and yet they have recieved no treats in it. Most damning of all, they have heard the peeps.

Yesterday, I left the garage door open while I cleaned out the unbelievably messy chicks. Catching movement from the corner of my eye, I turned to find the magnificent Mabel standing in the doorway, the sunlight behind her giving off a 'gunslinger at the saloon'-type vibe. The peeps were, well, peeping. Mabel had her head cocked at an angle, listening to the alien chook chatter. Then she eyeballed me, turned around on the step, and stalked off in disgust, her ample behind swinging regally. Once back on the lawn, she called a flock meeting. I can only imagine what was said, but it looked fairly peaceful.

The peeps are growing at a truly astonishing rate. They have got the hang of eating, drinking, scratching about and even play fighting. They seem to think that each others' faces need a damn good pecking at random opportunities, and that falling asleep while standing up and then keeling over is perfectly acceptable. All in all, they are as comical and individual as their larger counterparts.

For anyone still playing the feather sexing game, here are a few more shots:

Chick 1, the first to hatch.

Chick 2, the assumed lavender.

Chick 3, the smallest of the three.

And some other pics, just because they're so cute:

Chick 2 is the biggest.

Chick 3 is the teeniest, and most vocal.

I am waiting for any sign of frizzling, but have yet to see any. I have my fingers crossed.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Feather Sexing

Today the peeps are two days old. I have attempted to feather sex them, as per the link. I have drawn my own early conclusions. Let's see if anyone else out there agrees with me.

The lavender chick, number two to hatch.

The first chick to hatch.

Number three.

Place your!

Friday, 23 July 2010

A Bit Of Sad News, And A Chick Update

The last chick didn't make it. It was in the slightly odd shaped egg, and I was always a little unsure about it. It did seem to pip yesterday, although I'm not certain the damage to the shell wasn't caused by the other chicks bouncing all over it. This morning, I opened the shell to peer inside, and it had died. A real shame, as it was fully formed.

However, I am focusing on the three successes currently bouncing around the brooder like insane cotton wool balls. They are steadier on their feet today, and are beginning to peck at everything. Including each other. Sigh. They amusingly fall asleep at odd moments, and just flop forwards on to their faces. I'm guessing that this is normal chick behaviour, and that I haven't got a bunch of narcoleptic poultry. The two dark chicks have decided that the larger lavender chick is some sort of cushion, and keep trying to sleep on it. It seems resigned to this role on occassion, and on others gets up and wobbles off, leaving the once comfy smaller chick sprawling on its back.

A kind Twitter pal has sent me a link about feather sexing, so I have had a go this morning. It involves looking at the feathers just beginning to sprout on the wings. The pin feathers come through in two rows, and apparently in a female the leading pins will be longer than the second row. In males, they should be more or less equal. The lavender chick seems to have female characteristics. The two dark chicks don't appear to have any feathers yet. Hmmmm. I will check again tomorrow.

The journey begins.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Some Uber Cute Fluffy Chick Pics

Chick 1, who I think is going to be black.

Chick 2, who I think is a lavender.

Number 3

Number three has arrived, and my God, it's noisy! Tiny yet perfectly formed, it is busy stomping around the incy and annoying its sleepy hatch mates. It stepped on chick 2's head, which didn't go down too well. I predict a troublemaker.

...And Then There Were Two!

I got home from the school run just in time to see the next chick explode forth from it's egg. The egg at the top of the picture has a large hole and is rocking about like mad.

We Have A Chick!

Early this morning, we came downstairs to find a tiny, soggy chick flopping about in the incubator. Every so often, it lifts it's head and cheeps at us, before dragging itself about to bash it's siblings' eggs. Another one has pipped, so now there is only one stubbonly refusing to get on with coming in to the world.

The chick is super cute, and growing stronger by the minute. I fear that my determination not to get attached has already gone out of the window. This is bad news, especially as the chick has a tiny serated comb. Arse. Still, I have a good few weeks to find new homes for any boys, and I'm hoping that it will be possible.

The children (and ever tolerant husband) are fascinated. I am trying to be quite blase about the whole affair, but in reality it is an amazing thing. Three weeks ago, this tiny, wobbly baby chicken was no more than the average egg. Miraculous.

You can just make out the tiny crack that the chick had made in the egg at around 8.30 yesterday morning.

This is what we found this morning at 6am.

I hope to have more birth announcements by the end of the day.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Ooh, Another One!

Another egg has just pipped with a sound rather like someone karate chopping paper. The two eggs are now 'talking' to each other.

I wonder what I'll get up to tomorrow?


A quick update. Nothing much has happened all day, but now there seems to be some activity. If you watch the crack, you can see it moving slightly as the chick does its best to break free. It has also issued a bit more cheeping, just to remind us that's it's terribly busy, and on it's way.

I'm hoping for a hatch before bed time.


We have a pipper! I have just returned from the school run to find that one of the eggs has a teeny, tiny crack in it. Although I was certain it wasn't there before, I began to wonder if it might have been accidently damaged. But then it cheeped at me. I doubt I'll move from the side of the incubator all day now.

Expect updates as and when they happen.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010


Today is day 18 of the incubation process. Theoretically, the chicks could hatch at any moment, but I am not really expecting anything to happen until at least thursday (day 20). I turned the eggs for the last time this morning, and have upped the humidity from 30-35% to 50-55%. Now it's a waiting game.

Purdy is deep in the broody zone, and is proving to be a formidable hen. All broodies are completely psychotic, but usually they restrict themselves to growls and threat displays. Not so Purdy. Twice now she has flown at me in a whirling, hormonal dervish of whupass. It is quite unsettling to have a small ball of feathers launch itself at you with a low growl. She has been admonished for this behaviour, and I have flattened her to the deck a la a cockerel. She mutters chickenny oaths and eyeballs me with malicious intent. However, her new boldness is keeping her safe. Even the formidable ASBO chicken, aka Maeve, is not keen to peck the head of this broody. If she doesn't snap out of it soon, I will have to don the gardening gloves and dunk her in a cold bath. I expect to bear the scars.

With the arrival of summer, I have taken to leaving the back door open. This has its downside, as hens are incredibly inquisitive. I have so far found the silkies sunbathing under the dining table, Maude staring rapt at the washing machine on spin cycle and Doris scoffing grapes out of the fruit bowl. In a more sinister twist, Maeve likes to sit behind the curtain, occassionally muttering a hex. It is most disturbing. Mabel will sometimes venture inside, do a stately tour of the kitchen area, and then sail back outside with her beak in the air. Celia hovers by the back door, clearly wanting to venture forth but lacking the courage without her nosier friend.

Thank God we don't have a cat flap.

Friday, 16 July 2010

The Final Straight

So, now I find myself on day 14 with my pekin frizzle eggs. All chicks are alove and (literally) kicking at this stage, so I am quietly thrilled. However, anything could happen between now and hatch day, so I am learning the truth of the old adage about chicken counting. Still, just in case I do have chicks by next weekend, I have to be prepared.

This weekend I will be organising the brooder in the garage. I'm undecided just yet on whether to use the wooden box I used for Purdy and Celia as babies, or whether to put any resulting fluff balls in one of the childrens old plastic toy boxes. Regardless, the heat lamp will have to be set up and some non-slip flooring installed. I have a chick drinker, which I have been reliably informed needs to be filled with marbles to protect against any drownings. I need to pick up some medicated chick crumb to protect against cocciodosis, and then I should be all set.

The chicks were always going to be housed in the garage, yet a slight complication has put a spanner in the works. We are having two entire bathrooms delivered next week, and they will also need to be stored in the garage. I'm not quite sure how this will work yet, beyond envisioning the chicks living in the bath. We shall see.

The main flock have been most put out by the wet weather. Bad tempered pecking is on the up, and the silkies have taken to gobbling like deranged turkeys at the sky. A nightingales song it is not. Mabel is randomly flattening underlings, apparently more out of boredom than anything else (Actually, while I've mentioned Mabel, it seems that she has become a bit of a pin up. Several of my twitter pals are currently incubating millefleur pekin eggs based on her magnificence. She would expect nothing less).

The next week should be very interesting.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Half Way There

The mini heatwave has broken today, and the wet weather is a blessed relief. The chooks are staring at me from the run as I sit at the kitchen table, attempting to hypnotise this human in to letting them out. Either that or they are attempting to guilt trip me in to giving them their freedom. I am crouching a little lower and hiding behind the laptop screen. Soggy pekin foot feathers can easily get matted together, so for now they can stay in.

We are down to four eggs in the incy as of today. I candled at day 7 and suspected that one of the embryos had stopped developing, but it's taken me three days to be sure. The difference between the dud egg and the others is now startling. During candling yesterday, I got a good look at a tiny chick leg, complete with the beginnings of claws. The dud egg had no blood vessels or movement, just a dark spot in the centre which I assume was the beginning of chickenny life. I removed it from the incy this morning, and have my fingers crossed for the other four.

Now, at day ten, I am beginning to wonder who's advice to follow. Traditional wisdom states that bantam eggs hatch on day 18, so turning should cease on day 15.  Once turning has ceased, humidity should be raised and the whole kit and kaboodle should be left alone. However, practical experiences on the Omlet forum suggest that pekin chicks tend to hatch on day 21, the same as regular chickens. So turning should cease on day 18. I don't want to get this wrong, as if I don't get the humidity right at hatching time the chicks may not get out of the egg.

Any advice would be most welcome.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Day3 / Day 4

The entire flock is, at the moment, back in lay. There are crouching hens everywhere, tripping me up when I go out to hang out the washing and interupting the children's football games. Egg production is up, and pelet consumption has gone crazy. During the winter, I was filling the feeder around once a week. Right now, it needs refilling every other day. The girls have big appetites.

The hot weather continues, so they are also powering through their water. I have to keep a close eye on it, as it's not uncommon for them to totally empty a full drinker by late afternoon. When they see me coming across the lawn with fresh, cool water I pick up a following. Before I've put the drinker down, there are small fluffy chicken heads diving in to it.

The balmy temperatures continue to cause me problems with regards to the hatching. In order to keep the incy temp down, I have taken to propping up one side of the cover with a pencil. This small extra ventilation seems to be working, but does lower humidity unfortunately. It is a delicate balancing act, and at this stage I am seriously winging it. Advice differs so greatly, that I've given up on asking. However, at candling yesterday I am pleased to report that there were five viable embryos. A small foetus could be seen, along with a complicated pattern of blood vessels. I confess to letting out a small squeal of delight.

The other egg was a dud. I could see the clear yolk, and more conclusively, the red ring around it. I have dubbed this the 'red ring of death'. It is bacterial growth, and marks the beginning of the egg turning bad. I assume that this egg was infertile to begin with, and being slow cooked for four days has speeded up the decomposition process. I rechecked it from every concievable angle before tossing it. A bad egg has the potential to explode in the incubator, spreading infection to the viable embryos.

So now they are five.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Day 1/Day 2

Yesterday was not a good day. The temperature in the incubator was hovering around the 40C mark, occasionally nudging towards the fatal 41C. I opened windows and doors, fiddled with the incubator and eventually added water to up the humidity and lower the temp. Nothing much worked.

As afternoon rolled in to evening, the temp slid down to a perfect 38.5C. I was dispondent, and more or less accepting of the fact that my eggs would be ruined. However, some wonderful people on the Omlet forum told me not to give up hope, so I have persevered. Today, I kept the incy a little bit open, and the temp has reached a maximum of 39.5C during the hottest part of the day. This isn't perfect, but it shouldn't be fatal. Hopefully, because the temp issue has occurred so early on, no serious harm will have occurred.

If I seem particularly optimistic, it's because I am. What I have yet to mention, is that this morning I candled the eggs. I did so with a heavy heart, fearing that they would all be curdled. However, three of the eggs had clearly defined dark spots, and several fine veins. The other three were harder to see. I think that the shells on these eggs are thicker, and it's just too early to see much. With renewed determination, I replaced the eggs and have kept a close eye on the temp, adjusting as necessary.

The brooding continues.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Day 0

Sometimes life surprises you. Today I recieved a humidity gauge in the post, sent by a fellow poultry lover I know through Twitter. I am deeply touched by this act of kindness, and delighted that I can now stare obsessively at the little dial, worrying about any tiny deviation. My anxiety needs direction.

Today is officially day 0, or the day on which the eggs are set. The incy has been running since wednesday evening without problems, but upon measuring the humidity it was reading at 60%. This is a bit too high, so I emptied the water well and allowed it to run 'dry'. This has brought the level down to between 40% and 50%, which is the best I can hope for in this weather I suspect. The eggs have been marked with an R and an L, so that as I turn them I can keep track. I lovingly placed them in the incy just after lunch.

The digital thermometer for the incy has not shown up yet, so I have been checking the temp with an oral digital thermometer. I think the temp is right. I hope the temp is right. When the proper thermometer arrives, I will be reluctant to check it officially, just in case I've got it hideously wrong. I am happy in my ignorance.

Kiki has gotten over her broody spell, and decided to celebrate by exploding all over the garden. She resembles a moth eaten feather duster, and the other hens are all accented by stray silkie fluff. Doris did a disturbed lap of the garden earlier in an attempt to shake one from her forehead. I had to take pity on her in the end and remove it. Maeve has decided that any in flight feathers are edible, and can be seen energetically jumping after any which get taken by a breeze as Kiki road-runners past. The coop has drifts of fluff at its corners.

I may take the dyson to her tomorrow.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

...And We're Off!

Yesterday, I set up my tiny incubator in the garage and let it run over night. I measured the temp with a normal mercury thermometer, and the reading was far too high. Adding another thermometer, I got a reading that was far too low. So I have a digital hatching thermometer on its way. I have moved the incy in to the living room in the hope that the more stable temperature will be more suitable than the garage, where the day temps were fine but the night temps were fluctuating rather too much.

The eggs are here! And, I didn't drop them! Yet. Ahem. They are currently resting, pointed end down, in an egg box in the kitchen (hoping that the humidity will be a bit higher). Some of the eggs are a bit long and pointy, so not ideal, but I'm going to set them anyway and see what happens.

           The tiny covatutto 6 incy, my accidental ebay purchase. The light bulb is the heat source.

The eggs. Four seem to be a good shape and size to me, while the other two are a little questionable.

Tomorrow afternoon, I hope to be setting them. Wish me luck!