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More On That.

As promised, a little info about what’s going on with our other birds. . . and there’s a lot going on.

You see, when breeding season begins, it really begins. We’re talking springtime in Paris, Valentine’s Day, and lovers’ lane all rolled into one. For the birds, that is. Me, not so much.

Back to the birds.

The turkeys have started laying for the season. A lot.

The Red Golden Pheasant girl has laid two eggs so far. One on Thursday (pictured below) and one today.

Pheasants are something that is completely new to me (we have one pair, Eustace and Esther) and I honestly wasn’t exactly sure what her eggs would look like. Would they be speckled like turkey eggs, tinted like Indian Runners’, pointy, or what have you? And now I know. I learn something new every day 🙂

Of course, here’s proud boy pheasant, Eustace (with Esther in the background – she was patiently waiting for me to quit snapping pictures and leave them in peace so she could sneak back in their house; she’s definitely a bit of a home body).

Anyways, I have a feeling Mr. Boy Pheasant is probably thinking to himself, “Couldn’t she have named me something besides Eustace? I mean, come on, woman!” My reply, “Sorry, boy, but I like it and I’m the resident name-giver.”

The peafowl are not laying, but they are flirting. A lot. And screeching.

The Egyptian Geese, also not laying. They’re a fairly new addition, too, and I’m not sure if I’ve shared a picture of them. So, here they are, Ra and Cleo.

They are also flirting. A lot. In fact, I think Cleo’s giving Ra that over the shoulder come-hither look in the picture above. Huh, maybe she could give me some lessons on that.

No matter, I think this calls for an egg line-up photo op and soon!

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First Time For Everything.

I’m so happy to say that my new gray Indian Runner girls have laid their first eggs! Woohoo!!!

Below is a little back story for you, so you’ll understand just how proud I am of these eggs:

Previously, I only had male Indian Runners, and well, they were getting a little lonely seeing all the other animals pairing up during breeding season. Naturally, I decided to play matchmaker and find the guys some mates.

So, I did an internet search for Runner eggs (actually, first I checked to see if famed waterfowl breeder Holderread still had gray Indian Runners, which also happens to be the stock my guys are from – they don’t), brushed off my trusty Brinsea incubator, and waited for said eggs to arrive (Indian Runners are probably one of the least common duck breeds in our area, especially good quality ones that stand straight and tall, so finding eggs locally did not happen). And when they failed to hatch, I tried again. And again. I mentioned in the post about hatching shipped eggs, that they’re a complete gamble and this story illustrates that point to a tee. Which brings us to this past Fall.

I decided to give up for the time being, and vowed to instead search for someone with ducklings or juveniles or an adult pair or anything remotely gray-Indian-Runnerish for sale in the Spring. And I took a much-needed break from hatching.

Then, a few months ago, I walked into the barn at the Paxton livestock auction and from across the room my eyes latched on to the prettiest sight I’ve ever seen. . . .Well, that may be taking it a little too far. Besides, I’m sure Bryony would beg to differ. Heck, even I would beg to differ (Humble, much? Not at all 😉 ) But it was a very welcome sight.

My jaw dropped, I let out an audible gasp, and I practically skipped over to stand in front of three tall, straight, bowling pin-like ducks. There in all their glory were three gray Indian Runners. Exactly what I had been trying in vain to hatch out for months, and it was that easy.

Actually, it wasn’t. After overhearing someone else in the crowd refer to my gorgeous, much-longed for birds as “The ugliest looking Mallards I’ve ever seen in my life,” I was sure we’d get them for a song. Not so. Someone else in the crowd must’ve known that they weren’t Mallards nor ugly, and well, a slight bidding war broke out. Don’t you just hate when that happens? *shakes head* But they came home with me 😉

Which brings us to the present. Eggs = Ducklings. And soon. . . . or just as soon as one of the incubators is empty (it is breeding season after all, and everything, or so it seems, is breeding – more on that later).

You may be wondering what will make their ducklings so special. After all, we hatch out ducklings every year. We even have some right now:

Aren’t they cute? 🙂 But I digress.

Indian Runners are special because there aren’t that many anymore, at least not good quality ones. They’re a breed that’s known for their upright stature; in fact, they sort of resemble a bowling pin. They lay boatloads (and I do mean that almost literally) of extra large green tinted rich eggs. Runners’ personalities tend to be a little goofy, although they can also be a little on the skittish side (as evidenced by my new ducks who head for the corner any time I come near). Altogether, they’re truly special birds.

See, there they are in the corner. Oh well, it’ll take time, but they’ll come around.

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Time To Get Naked.

Naked Neck chickens, that is. What did you think I was talking about?

I have wanted Naked Necks for a long time. I’ve tried a few times before to add them to our flock with hatching eggs, but it never worked out. Finally, we have Naked Necks! Eight of them, in fact 🙂

They hatched out last weekend, and I’ve been meaning to post about them for days now. Let’s just say, it was a rough week, plus I pulled a muscle in my back (yikes, does it hurt!). But now, I’m finally getting around to it.

Aren’t they adorable?

If you’re not familiar with the breed, they originated in Europe and are bred to have less than half the number of feathers possessed by other breeds of the same size. They lay brown eggs and deal well with heat (which, of course, makes them perfect for our climate).

When I showed them to Grandma, she exclaimed, “What’s wrong with them?” It took me forever to convince her that they’re supposed to look like that. I don’t think she’s too crazy about our new birds, but I love them 🙂

We also had Cream Legbars to hatch at the same time, and a few days later, Silkies. The Legbars are a great addition to our flock (you know how much I love those auto sexing breeds), and who doesn’t love a Silkie?

Silkie chick.

Very soon, it’ll be time to unplug the incubators and take a break for winter, and that will mean no new chicks til next year. Unless, of course, I decide to try hatching emu eggs again. Hmm, now, there’s a thought 😉

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Tips for Hatching Shipped Eggs.

Let me preface this post by saying, I’ve hatched out a lot of shipped eggs. Honestly, more than I would care to remember. `In our area, the breeds that seem to be most common are Easter Eggers, Sebrights, and OEGBs. They’re wonderful breeds and in fact, we still have EEs and an OEGB, but after a while of keeping chickens, I started wanting something a little different. My mom says, “Don’t tell her it’s unusual, hard to find, or hard to hatch, cause she’ll want it!” So, for real, don’t tell me 😉

At times, I’ve saved a lot of money adding new breeds to our flock by purchasing eggs, and other times. . . not so much. Hatching shipped eggs is always a gamble as there are so many variables that can affect their viability such as: rough handling during shipping, x-ray machines, changes in air pressure, exposure to extreme temperatures, etc. Even though I regularly have 100% hatch rates with our own eggs, I usually only expect to have 40-60% with shipped eggs (the best I’ve ever had with shipped eggs was 97% and the worst is, of course 0%). Anyways, we sent off a shipment of eggs to my Uncle Paul and Aunt Paulette last week, so I thought I would do a post with my tips on hatching shipped eggs for anyone that is interested. Keep in mind these tips work for me, but they may not for anyone else. So here goes:

Shipping. Try to avoid having eggs shipped to you from the other side of the country, during months with extreme temperatures, and during inclement weather. I live in south Alabama, so I usually stick to purchasing eggs from reliable sellers in the Southeast. I also try to avoid buying eggs during the extremely hot summer months (July and August) and the much colder winter months. Another thing to consider is to not purchase eggs if you know there is any approaching bad weather coming your way or towards the seller (such as a hurricane, tropical storm, etc) as it may cause your eggs to be delayed along the way.

Unpacking eggs.

Cracks. Once your eggs have arrived, carefully unpack them and examine each one (preferably candling them). If any of the eggs have hairline cracks, you can try melting candle wax and dripping it on to the crack to seal it. This doesn’t always work, (in fact, I’ve only ever had one chick to successfully hatch out from a repaired egg), but  my belief is that it doesn’t hurt to try. Keep in mind, though, that you will need to be on guard for possible bacterial problems. Should the sealed egg develop a blood ring, begin to smell, or seep fluid immediately remove it from the incubator (Believe me, you don’t want to leave it in and risk the chance of it exploding – cause that has got to be the worst smell ever!).

The Bloom. I don’t wash hatching eggs – Ever. Eggs have a protective coating called a bloom that works to keep out bacteria. Washing them removes that. If any eggs have dirt on them, I very lightly rub it off with a paper towel.

Settling. Allow the eggs to sit upright in an egg carton (large end up) for 24 hours at room temperature (in fact, I set them out in the same room that the incubator is in).

Calibrating. Make sure your hygrometer is calibrated. Here’s how to do it: http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/calibrating-hygrometer

Location. Location. Location. You wouldn’t think it, but location is a big part of incubating eggs – particularly if you’re using a still air incubator. Make sure your incubator is located away from drafts, direct sunlight, and in a room that isn’t prone to temperature fluctuations. I prefer the room my incubators are in to be kept at about 75-76F degrees, but living with my grandmother who doesn’t believe in using the AC, that rarely happens 😉

Damaged Air Cells. Air cells are basically a small pocket of air located on the large end of an egg. One of the most common problems you’ll encounter with shipped eggs is damaged air cells. Rough handling during shipping will cause the air cell to become misshapen, detached, etc. To combat this and give the air cells a chance to settle, I place the eggs in the incubator upright (large end up) in the automatic turner or in an egg carton and I don’t turn them for at least the first 4-7 days of incubation, depending upon how badly they’re damaged.

Turning. After those first 4-7 days of not turning the eggs has passed, it’s now time to reverse course and start turning them. If you have an auto turner, that’s great . . .sit back and let it do the work for you. If you don’t, then make sure to turn the eggs an odd number of times each day. When I hand turn shipped eggs (which I always do with waterfowl and sometimes with other birds like peafowl), I do it one of two ways, depending upon how badly damaged the air cells are and what type of bird it is. The first option (and the way I usually do waterfowl) is the normal hand turning method – I mark each egg with an X on one side, then I lay the eggs on their side in the incubator and turn them by rotating til the opposite side is facing up. The second option for hand turning is the method I use if the air cells are really badly damaged – I set the eggs upright (always large end up) in an egg carton in the incubator and use a block of wood underneath the carton to tilt them from side to side (similar to how an auto turner works). I don’t have to enlist the second method as often anymore, simply because almost all of my incubators have auto turners now. And before I forget, when hand turning I also keep a small dry erase board by the incubator to keep track of how many times I’ve turned the eggs that day.

A candled egg.

Candling. The first hatch I ever did, I almost literally candled everyday. Not surprisingly, that hatch was completely unsuccessful. . . not a single chick hatched. I learned my lesson and now, I usually candle at day 7, day 14, and the day the eggs go on lockdown. [For one of my favorite resources, complete with lots of pictures of candled eggs, click here.] This is what I use for candling, but a cheap LED flashlight works just as well. It’s best to handle the eggs as little as possible lest you risk the transfer of bacteria to them or even accidentally dropping them (No matter how careful you are, there’s always the chance that an accident can happen – Case in point, I once knocked over an entire incubator full of guinea eggs 🙁 ) When you do handle the eggs, wash your hands thoroughly and ensure they’re completely dry beforehand.

Lockdown. Three days before your eggs are due to hatch, they should be placed on lockdown. Lockdown means exactly what it sounds like. You don’t open the incubator. At all. Opening the incubator will cause the humidity to quickly drop at a time when you want it to be high to enable the chicks/poults/ducklings/etc to hatch out successfully.

Humidity. When you put eggs on lockdown, you also have to bump up the humidity. Now, living in a fairly humid area, I usually don’t have any problems keeping the humidity at an appropriate level during the main part of incubation, but I do have problems keeping it high enough in my Brinsea Octagon 20 during lockdown. To combat that, I place a wet sponge in the incubator (see in picture below). Remember, it’s the surface area not the depth of water that increases humidity.

Dry and fluffy turkeys.

Pip. Zip. Hatch. There are three main parts of the hatching process. First, a chick (or poult or whatever it is you’re incubating 🙂 ) will make a tiny hole through the eggshell (this is the pip – there’s also internally pipping, but for now we’re just talking about the stages you might be able to witness through your incubator window). They’ll usually rest for a while after that (after all, it’s hard work making your grand debut into the world). . . although some are in a hurry and burst on out into the world not long after. Others take their sweet time – in fact, it’s not unusual, 24 hours later, to still be waiting on the next stage to begin. But during this time, the chick is not just resting, it’s also making it’s final preparations to enter the world, such as absorbing the yolk, allowing the blood vessels to dry up, etc. Which brings us to the next stage. . . zipping – the chick will begin to break through the shell all the way around the egg. Almost like it’s unzipping it. Once the chick has zipped all the way around the eggshell, they’ll usually hatch fairly quickly. . . which is our third stage. The chick will hatch out wet and not at all like the cute, fluffy little things people usually associate them with. They may even have bits of eggshell or even an umbilical cord attached (and if they were in a real hurry to hatch as some of mine have been, even an occasional unabsorbed yolk). Have no fear, give them a little time and the chicks will dry out and fluff up.

Eggtopsy. Now, once your hatch is over, you’ll most likely have eggs that didn’t make it. By eggtopsying those eggs, you might be able to gain some clue as to what went wrong or at the very least ensure that those leftover eggs really aren’t going to hatch before you toss them. Believe it or not, I actually had eggs that I was eggtopsying (5 days after the last egg had hatched), and one of them contained a chick that was still alive. Needless to say, that egg was quickly put back into the incubator and successfully hatched out the next day. [For a great resource on Eggtopsies, click here. . . Warning: Graphic Pictures!]

Whew! What a long post!

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Update on the RP Eggs and more.

Very hectic week for us here with the house undergoing a little bit of renovation (definitely gonna have to share my bathroom’s makeover when it’s done), new pens being built, soap and lotion bars being made, and orders going out

By the way, for a limited time receive 10% off your order from our Etsy shop when you use the code: 10OFFMHF. I’ll be listing two more soaps this month as soon as they’re ready – restocks of Cool As A Cucumber-Cantaloupe and Oatmeal & Tupelo Honey, so watch for them 🙂

Back to the post at hand. . . I thought I would do an update on the Royal Palm eggs: seventeen went in the incubator on April 22nd, and after candling last night, we’re left with fourteen (two were complete duds and didn’t show any signs of development and one had a blood ring).  They’ve also been joined by a few Polish eggs. Time for a couple of pictures:

Not the best picture of a candled egg that I’ve ever taken, but there’s definitely a little turklet in there. 

Polish egg.
Now, this is a much better picture of a candled egg. Check out those veins! One of the best sights to see for a confirmed hatchaholic (like me) ;). Less than two weeks left, and we should have babies. 
And guess what? I heard Ossiris the peacock screeching his head off the other day. Maybe, finally, the girls will begin laying. I can only guess that they’re so late in laying because our spring has been somewhat mild (it was actually in the 40sF – high 40s, but still the 40s – early one morning this week). 
And in other news, we’ve added a Nubian doe, who’s bred, to our herd. So thrilled about her. Our does are getting on up in years and I’ve been wanting to add registered goats to our farm for ages, and this year has been perfect for it. 
Meet Brownie:
What a sweet and smart girl she is (and big, too). She’s learned that I take the weimaraners (Remy first, then Hunter second) out first thing in the mornings before I do anything else. So, unlike the other animals who start making noise and become totally rambunctious as soon as they see me, Brownie relaxes and chills out until she sees me with Hunter. Then she decides it’s time to get up and meet me at the gate to her pen. See, I told you she’s smart 🙂    Hope you have a nice weekend!