The third hatch of Ameraucana chicks finished this morning. Currently there are 14 babies. Very cute and alert little guys who are already eating the chick mash. I’m glad to be done with hatching for this year, it is a chore.
The first two hatches are growing well. They spend every day free-ranging around the barnyard. The first hatch from 4/19 has eight young birds, including a beautiful silver pullet (right front.) It is hard to catch these guys long enough to get a good photograph. Here I slowed them down with some scratch grains for a pose.
The second hatch from 5/14 has thirteen chicks. They are growing fast and have nearly completed their first fledging. These little guys are real adventurers and even harder to capture in photos than their older siblings.Here the two hatches mingle at the feeders. The older chicks chase the younger ones some, but they are getting more and more tolerant with exposure. By fall they will be one big flock. I must set up the feed stations inside pens with narrow entries so the adult chickens can’t steal the food.
Today I set 42 Ameraucana chicken hatching eggs to incubate. If all goes well, in 21 days they will hatch. About half the eggs are from my chickens and half are from two out-of-state breeders. I purchased the eggs on eBay and had them shipped. I add new blood to my flock this way.
Shipping hatching eggs is hard on them. The interior of the egg can be damaged. Temperatures that are too high or low can kill the embryos. Sometimes mail is x-rayed and that kills the chicken germ. Yet, I have had luck hatching shipped eggs so my fingers are crossed!
The incubator has a fan to move air and keep the temperature at a steady 99.9 F. Water is added to reservoirs under the eggs to maintain the proper humidity. The yellow rack holding the eggs is an automatic turner. Eggs must be turned every day as they develop so the embryo doesn’t stick to the egg and become malformed. As long as we don’t have a long power outage, the incubator does a good job for me. I’ve hatched many chicks with this set-up.
Time to hatch baby chicks! I’m collecting eggs from my silver and wheaten Ameraucana chickens to put in the incubator. I can incubate 42 eggs at once. Saving eggs to hatch takes a little effort. The eggs must be handled gently to protect the tiny germ of chicken inside.
I collect several times per day, so the eggs are less likely to get dirty or too warm or cold. The eggs are marked in pencil with the laying date and parents’ colors. Hatching eggs must be kept around 50 degrees F. This temperature will hold the embryo in stasis for about 12 days. After that the egg is too old to have a good chance of hatching. The humidity in the storage area must be held at 75% so the inside of the egg doesn’t dry out.
Eggs for hatching should not be turned so the narrow end is up. This can put too much pressure on the air cell at the top of the broader end of the egg. If the air cell ruptures, the chick embryo won’t have air to breathe just before hatching and will suffocate. The eggs have to be kept clean. Dirty eggs can introduce bacteria and disease into the incubator. Never wash eggs, the protective waxy coating will be stripped away and the egg will lose too much moisture. Hatching eggs should never be tightly wrapped in plastic as this can also suffocate the embryo.
While the eggs are held until I gather enough to fill the incubator, they must be turned daily and placed at a 45 degree angle. This prevents the embryo from sticking to the side of the egg.
Wheaten Ameraucana rooster
Silver Ameraucana rooster
I have two colors of Ameraucana roosters: silver and wheaten. The silver has three hens. All his hens are silver, except one appears to have a little wheaten, she has more brown than the others. The wheaten rooster has eight hens. Four are wheaten or blue wheaten and four are brown red.
This year I am buying some hatching eggs from purebred Ameraucana breeders to introduce new blood into the flock and to *hopefully* improve the blue color of my eggs. My expensive purchased eggs should arrive next week and will also go in the incubator. These eggs are shipped through the mail, a tough trip for chick embryos. The hatch rate is lower for shipped eggs than ones from our farm, but it is still the least costly way to add new blood.
Wheaten rooster and hen
Silver rooster and hens