Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Chick Triage

I started forty-five eggs in the incubator on the 15th of August.  After two weeks I candled them and tossed a dozen of them.  About half of the remaining eggs were "maybes" but I kept them in the incubator just in case I was wrong.

The peeping started Monday night.  By Wednesday morning, there were seventeen live and fluffy chicks.  But I had to preform some chick-fixing in order to save seven of them.  It seems that for whatever reason (my fault, incubator fault, nature's fault, etc.?) at least nine of them had problems with the attachment of the umbilical cord to their abdomen.  When they freed themselves from the shell, the spot where the cord meets the body wasn't totally formed or developed, so there was muscle poking out.  Not much, but every time the chick peeped, it was forced out.  I pushed the "stuff" back in and put a teeny-tiny bandage over it.  Seven of them got a bandage and two of them I just left as it wasn't that big and had started to dry up on it's own.  During the night one of them had the same problem but I didn't see it until the morning and there was already too much of his insides pushed out and dried out.  I put him down because there was no way I could get all that back inside without doing more damage.  I put down another as when he kicked his way out of the shell, most of his intestines were already outside of his body.

There was also one other that had started pecking out of the shell, but after a while there was no movement or sound and even a little "goo" oozing out of where the shell was pecked opened; another of the same problem I suspect.  I gave it another few hours then determined it was really dead and tossed it.

So out of forty-five eggs, I got seventeen live chicks.  A 38% hatching rate isn't very good, but it beats a sharp stick in the eye.  Except half of them had some serious development issues.  I did have a problem keeping the moisture up in the incubator this time and I also didn't get the eggs out of the egg-turner until almost 36 hours before the first one hatched.  Could that have been the reason?  Anyone have this problem before?  I'm assuming it wasn't just a fluke as there were so many with the same problems.  I just hope that they heal up and can become productive laying hens or soup stock (roosters).

I definitely think I'm going to have to call it quits for the 2012 Egg Incubation Marathon.  Although we finished with a total of 28 homegrown chicks this year (plus two wild turkey poults), I'd have to say that the outcome was less than desirable.

But just like the garden.....there's always next year!


  1. Good reason to keep a couple of broody banty hens on hand. Been many years since I incubated any eggs (late 60's early 70's) but never had many problems.

  2. Poor chicks! At least you were able to save some of them. And yeah... There is always next year...

  3. Congrats on your hatch! Sorry about the weird stuff though. My babies hatched today ☺ I have four of the five so far, I am in love and they all have feathered feet!

  4. Well gosh, Carolyn, no one can say you didn't give it a good go this year. Maybe 2012 just wasn't the year for you, your incubator and your eggs. Yep, let's put this year's garden and incubating eggs behind and look forward to next year. 2013? Sounds like a good year! We'll take it and run with it.

  5. My goodness, there's a lot that goes into this, I will remember your experiences when it comes time that I want to try this LOL, you will have to set me straight! Yes, there's always next year, and with a new year we always have more experience under our belts. I hope your chicks do well and heal up this week :)

  6. Ah, little bandaids, what a sweet image :)

  7. Well my guess is that it had something to do with the moisture or humidity in the incubator, but that's just a guess. I did a quick google search and it seems like lots of people have posted this question in places but no one posts an answer to it as to why it happens. Yes, there is always next year...and it HAS to be better, right?

  8. I second the suggestion of keeping a decent broody hen around. I have one right now that I have to watch soon as she has two eggs, she sets! I have her setting some peafowl eggs right now! She will set on duck eggs, goose eggs, long as it is an egg.

  9. Hi Carolyn,
    When it comes to livestock I do learn a great deal from your experiences because you tell the whole story just the way it really is.

    From previous postings I know now that goats are not in my future! :-)

    Chickens are in my future and I always thought that chickens just about took care of themselves but you seem to have more than your share of issues with them and it makes me wonder how to avoid your current dilemma with them. For one, is your experience normal? Would an incubator with additional monitoring, temperature and humidity control give better success? Then again, this wouldn’t be Paul’s fault would it? :-)

    Again thanks so much for telling it like it is.

  10. My kids want to do this, but hubby says no way. He said our butcher is too far to drive if they are not all born at the same time. I may convince him yet.

  11. Tombstone, I've had three broody hens this year, but one of them crushed almost every single egg, the other one left her chicks after only a few weeks, but the last one seems to be ok....for now. I guess the key term is a "Good" broody hen.

    Tiny, Although I try to save each one I can I sometimes wonder if I'm doing my flock a disservice by letting inferior chickens lay and breed....although it's not like I'm some world class poultry breeder or anything.

    Kelly, Congrats on your feather footed peepers!

    Mama Pea, I am SOOOOO looking forward to next year.

    Erin, at least somebody can benefit from my mistakes!

    Nancy, well, it wasn't very cute, but I won't spoil it for you with pictures then! :)

    Mama Tea, I couldn't find a definitive answer about it either. Probably not getting them out of the turner early enough, who knows.

    Lamb, I envy your broody gal! Tell her to shoot my gals an email and give them some tips :)

    Mike, Chickens may just take care of themselves, it's probably just me! And besides, I'm sure you'd have spread sheets or timetables for them in their coop!

    Kristina, not sure how you guys feel about it or how old the kids are, but butchering is a great "Biology" lesson as well as "Where our meat really comes from".

  12. Strange that so many have the question but the answers aren't out there. I'm glad you were able to save some and I hope they all heal up okay.