Monday, March 30, 2015

Did I just kill a healthy developing embryo?

So I did the first candling on days 7, 8 and 9.  First candling is supposed to be done only once but there were a few eggs where I cannot confirm whether the embryo was alive or not.  With brown shelled eggs, it’s very difficult to see the web of blood vessels surrounding a dark spot.  So I'm counting mainly on movement inside the shell.  And sometimes my eyes (or my mind) are playing games with me.  With 48 eggs, I cannot do it in one sitting.  I had to take a break in between or else my observations become unreliable.

So this egg id #163 (the first 2 digits signify the date egg was laid and the last digit 3 means it’s the 3rd egg collected on that day) is a bit tricky.  I candled three times (day 7, 8 and 9).  Today is day 9 and I saw a thin ring around the circumference which according to the book, the developing embryo died early in incubation.  But yesterday’s candling, it was a vague cloudy shadow which meant the embryo died after several hours of incubation.  So I’ve concluded that they embryo has quit growing.  And I cracked it open to analyze the embryo.  It looks like a perfect embryo but I do see some blood but it could have been due to me cracking the egg.  I feel bad because maybe it was a completely healthy embryo that I just killed.  What made me decide to cull it is because I didn’t see any movement when I candled the egg.  If I leave the eggs that are not fertilized or those embryos that have quit growing, my incubator and room will get very smelly because eggs rot and it can contaminate the rest if it exploded.  An exploding egg is apparently something you do not want to happen because it means tossing everything you have in the incubator.
I hope I didn't make a mistake killing egg id #163.  There was no movement on day 9 and there was a red ring around the shell when I candled it.  However when I cracked it open, it looks like a perfectly developing embryo.

So far I had to toss 5 out of the 48 eggs.  4 out of the 5 I tossed were not fertile and one died early in incubation or could also be my mistake (egg id #163).  The rest are progressing just fine.  It’s exciting to see life moving inside the egg.  I still have about 12 days to go before they will hatch and one more candling to do on day 14 or 15.  I will be doing another candling on about 2 days just on two eggs (#173 and #205) as I cannot conclude whether they are alive or not at this point.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Mr. and Ms. Ducky

Just a few pictures of the recent addition of 2 purebred Silver Appleyard ducks (drake and a hen).  Someone told me before I get into goats, I should try ducks.  That's the natural progression after chicken.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Appleyard ducks and 1st candling of eggs on day 7 of incubation

There were two things I was really looking forward to.  Getting two new ducks and candling the eggs on the 7th day of incubation.

I like the colour of the Appleyard ducks we got.  The male duck (drake) has a shiny green sheen on his head and the female duck (hen) is almost white.  They were a bit shy and skittish today.  We’ve separated them from the roosters in case they bully them.
Aren't they a cute couple?  A drake (male duck) and a hen

Okay, so I’ve candled the eggs and got so frustrated for the first time ever.  I don’t know what I’m looking at and I don’t know what I’m looking for and the books don’t show anything as it is in real life.  Nothing matches anything in the pictures in the book.  I’m starting to wonder if I needed a different flashlight.  I got this flashlight free so it’s not really meant for candling I guess.  I’m only half way done candling.  I’ve candled 24 of the 48 eggs.  I can only keep the incubator open for so long before it starts affecting the health of the eggs.  A good result at this first candling is that I should see a web of blood vessels surrounding a dark spot and so far none of them is showing and I feel discouraged that they are going to be bad eggs.  But then again I don’t know what I’m looking at because the egg shell is brown and being dark it is hard to candle anyway.  I could see a dark patch but no veins.  And on some I actually see a dark spot move so I hope it's a good sign of life.

And to add to my frustration we had given unique id numbers to each and every egg and when it came time to finally candle them, I wound up with 12 of them having the same id number.  So there were 12 duplicate egg ids.  Somehow my husband and I must have been marking the eggs the same numbers because each set was a different handwriting.

So far, I’ve culled one egg because it showed nothing and it was completely clear which means it was not fertilized.  I even cracked it open to confirm and it is indeed not fertilized as the blastoderm does not have a smooth circumference.  Most of the eggs were cloudy which according to the book are either fertilized or they are dead.  But I've put them all back in the incubator except for the one I definitely confirmed isn't fertilized.  I'll try to look at them again tomorrow.

I’ve found this video and none of my eggs looks like what he sees so I’m thinking maybe my flashlight is not suitable for candling.  I’ll use a different flashlight tomorrow.

For now, I’ll have to leave it till the morning when I do the other 24.  I definitely cannot be a scientist as I don’t have the patience and I easily get discouraged at the first sign of failure.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Day 3 of hatching eggs in the incubator

It seems days are going so slow as I’m eagerly waiting for my eggs in the incubator.  It's only day 3.  I have to wait on day 7 before I can start candling it.  I’m so excited but I need to have a lot of patience.  I’ve set the temperature to 37.6 Celcius as suggested by the manual and the humidity to around 55%.  I’ve talked to the vet and she said that it’s perfectly okay to interrupt the incubation process when I need to candle on day 7 because in nature the hen would normally leave its nest to eat.

I have 48 eggs in the incubator and I’ve assigned a unique serial id to each one of them.  The first 2 digits represents the date they were laid and the last digit(s) are the number of eggs laid on that day.  I need to keep a record of everything so I can analyze the results later (i.e. how many made it and to identify what went wrong on those that will fail to hatch).  Under reasonable conditions it is expected a hatch rate of 80 to 85%.  Wish me luck.  This is like a gamble.

On day 3, the embryo should be beginning to take shape and should look like a question mark.  But I'm not opening the incubator yet until day 7.

Marked each egg with a unique id.  I also marked an X at the back so I can keep track the front and the back side of the egg so when I candle it, I can put it back at the right position again.

Put all 48 eggs in the incubator.  I hope most of them are fertilized.  There's no way to identify fertilized egg until it's around day 7 when it's time for candling.

I took this from the book "Hatching & Brooding Your Own Chicks" by Gail Demerow

Black Australorp rooster visits the vet

I was cleaning the coop early this morning when chicken poop dropped on my hair and at the back of my coat.  And I said “Oh sh*t”.  And I realized in this case it’s perfectly fine to swear as it literally describes the thing that dropped on me.  Anyway that’s just my introduction…

I brought one of my Black Australorp rooster to the vet today because the front corner of one of his eyes is frothy and I didn’t want to take a chance in case it is contagious.  I’ve already separated this rooster for a few days.  But I’m relieved that the vet (who also has her own chicken farm) said it’s not something to worry about.  It could just be due to stress or being cooped up all winter.  She checked the nostrils and the roof of its mouth and there’s no respiratory problem at all.

While at the vet, the assistants seem to be amused with the chicken.  Usually pets they see are dogs and cats.  The rooster flew all over the place when she (the vet) took him out of the box and it was very difficult to catch him.  It took the vet herself to catch it and the assistants were just amused.  I was amused too and I couldn’t contain my laughter to see the whole entertainment.  This rooster is very unfriendly and does not want to be touched.  I apologized for not warning them that this is a very anti-social rooster.  So they had to wrap him in a towel so he would stay still while the vet examines his eyes and cleaned his nostrils.  Anyway, that was the fun part of the day.  Not the vet bill.  I had to do it because I didn’t want to take a chance in case it was contagious.  Now, I’ve put too much expense on this ungrateful rooster.

Here's the Black Australorp rooster in mid-crowing.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Excited to pick up 20 ready-to-lay hens today

On my day off (I took a vacation day just for this), I’ve picked up 10 Columbian Rock Cross hens and 10 Barred Plymouth Rock hens.  They are about 19 to 20-week old young hens.  I know pretty much about Barred Plymouth Rock breed as I have a few of them already.  But not Columbian Rock.  I’ve searched the internet about Columbian Rock breed.  Based on the images I found, they look like Brahma breed but without feathers on the feet. For my own information, I copied and pasted the description below from this site Columbian Rock Cross.
Produced by mating a Rhode Island Red female with a Columbian male, this robust, dual-purpose bird is known for its ability to efficiently produce eggs even in the coldest of climates. An excellent layer of cream colored brown eggs with a calm good natured disposition, this cross is a great choice for the family flock. Females are basic white with the traditional Columbian pattern of black laced across the neck and black-trimmed wing tips and tails. 

Here's the other description (I copied and pasted) of the breed according to the Chicken Forum
The Columbian Rock, is a crossbreed which falls under the Plymouth Rock. They are a generally great breed for farms. They are not known to be aggressive and are easily tamed as well. Very docile. They are commonly bred for both its egg-laying capability as well as its meat. Today, the Columbian Rock are tagged as one of the hardest breed to find.

The Columbian Rock chickens have long, broad back and they also possess a moderately deep and full breast plus a single average-sized comb. They were bred in the U.S. in the mid-19th century.

Since the Columbian Rock is only a sub-breed of the Plymouth Rocks, we can distinctly classify the Columbian Rock as the breed with white or cream-colored feathers on its neck, head and some parts of its wings and then having black covering for its whole body up to its tail. Their feet are not covered with feathers. The average weight for the rooster is about 7.5 lbs to 9.5 lbs. They lay light to medium brown eggs with a touch of pink.

I purchased them from the local farm supply and they were hatched by Frey’s Hatchery.  Since these are actually hens that had just start laying, it’s guaranteed that there are no roosters.  I’m tired of them.  I took today (Wednesday) as a vacation on my day job so I can focus on handling these 20 new hens.  I separated them during the day because I don’t know if my existing flock will bully these newcomers who are very skittish.  

Here's the videos I took today.

And here's some pictures I took today.
A Barred Plymouth Rock hen peeking through the hole.  Taken inside the vehicle while I'm transporting them home.

Temporarily separated the newcomers.  Just for the day.

I couldn't figure out where to put them temporarily so I used the dollhouse.  Don't ask why we have a dollhouse.  I picked it up long time ago from Goodwill for my imaginary future unborn child that will probably never happen (haha).

These are Columbian Rock Cross breeds.  Unusual combs.

They are very scared.  More scared than the Barred Rocks.
 I will merge them tonight once it's dark with the rest.