Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch

http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/count-your-chickens.aspx

Who can resist estimating or daydreaming about how many of the eggs in the incubator or under a broody hen will hatch? Hatching eggs is certainly exciting and fun.

For the Community Chickens project, we have 152 pheasant eggs from MacFarlane Pheasants and 62 from Oakwood Game Farm (a total of 214 eggs) in the GQF 1202A incubator. As a little experiment, I didn’t turn 42 of the eggs for the first six days. They were in the hatching tray instead of the trays that are turned automatically.

Most books recommend turning the eggs at least three times per day from the second day of incubation until about three days before the expected hatch date. Turning the eggs prevents the embryos from sticking to the shells and makes chicks stronger by giving them exercise. Some people I’ve spoken with say that turning eggs doesn’t increase hatch rates or health of chicks at all. The pheasant eggs should hatch late next week. I’ll share the results with you.

So that we don’t have all our pheasant eggs in one incubator, I also have 35 eggs in the Brinsea Octogon 20 Eco in my basement. Yesterday when I came home from work, an electrical breaker had flipped, and the incubator wasn’t getting electricity. The eggs had cooled below 90 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m not sure how long they were chilled, but I hope the eggs were far enough into the incubation (two weeks) that some of the embryos will still survive.

I also have two broody chicken hens setting on nine eggs each. This morning when I opened the crate to water one of them, she left the nest. Sometimes a broody hen will do this just to stretch, eat and defecate. Other times she’ll leave for good. She didn’t return to the nest after about 15 minutes, so I put her eggs under another broody hen that was setting on two infertile eggs. I left the infertile eggs for the hen that left the nest, just in case she returns.

Between an electricity outage and an unreliable broody hen, I many not get any chicks or pheasant chicks at home. Then again, you never know. There’s no point in trying to count them now — until they’ve hatched.