Just over a month ago I loaded up our new incubators with eggs from across the world. Hand-carried khaki Campbell ducks and jumbo ring-necked pheasants. We had no idea what to expect and if any would develop at all. That first candling on day 7 was full of anticipation and curiosity. Would there be any alive?
As it happened there were 15 pheasants developing and 10 ducks! I took out the duds and had high hopes for the rest. Day 14 candling brought the numbers down to 10 pheasants and 8 ducks. Due to a dumb mistake of my own mid-week, we lost one of the duck eggs and our count went down to 7.
On day 21 I stopped the roation for the pheasant and lowered the temp for hatching on day 23. Day 23 came and went with nothing, so I did more research. Some people said day 25 – ok. Day 25 came and went. More research had others saying 28 days and others just simply stated 23-28 days. Yikes! On day 26 in the evening we had our first pip (when the chick breaks the surface of the shell so it can breath while it rests and prepares for the work ahead), then our second, then silence.
It took 24 hours of rest time for the two pheasants to unzip the shell to get out (unzipping is what it sounds like – they break a line around the top of the egg to open it and then push out). No others pipped or showed signs of life. After letting the chicks dry they got moved to a brooder I set up. I took the unhatched eggs and checked inside to better help me know what had happened. Only two of them were bad and the rest, I believe, would have made it if I had not stopped the rotation or lowered the incubator temperature like people had said to do. One pheasant guy never does either and has great hatchings – if we ever do them again, I also will do neither.
The same day I moved the pheasants to the brooder a man brought by 4 guinea fowl chicks who were 4 days old to sell. We have wanted guineas since we got here but they are only wild here. The man had found the nest and waited for them to hatch and then collected them right away. It had a small risk of sickness, but compared to buying an adult or even adolescent the small days-old chicks were the best option that we had heard of. We decided to buy them and then added them into the brooder with our two pheasants.
The ducks all pipped on day 28 and took just over 24 hours to unzip from their shells. All 7 of them made it out of the shell. I left them in the incubator for the evening and overnight to dry before moving them to the brooder the next day.
I had to split the brooder in half with one side for the ducks and one side for the pheasants and guinea fowl because gamebirds (guineas and pheasants) require a lot more protein than the ducks and it would harm the ducklings if they consumed the feed I have mixed up for the gamebirds. So right now they each get their own side of the brooder.
The day I moved the ducklings into the brooder I set out to load up both of our incubators (one belongs to us as I’ve said before, and the other to the animal micro-loan program) full of chicken eggs for a first massive hatching to begin the program. Before I hatch any eggs for our program, as a part of the biosecurity I’m putting into place, I am going to disinfect the eggs using a special solution. The solution gets mixed up and the eggs are placed in it for 30 seconds or so before being placed on a towel to dry. The solution will kill bacteria and viruses outside and even inside the shell through the shell’s pores. I want to do as much as I can to keep our flock and the program’s birds safe and healthy – this is one of those steps to biosecurity.
Normally you would only be able to fit 24 chicken eggs in the brooder but because the eggs are smaller here I was able to fit an extra 4 in each incubator! So right now there are 28 eggs in each brooder, 56 total. The first candling will be next week and we will see how many are developing after that.
All of the current babies are doing well so far. Hopefully their nutritional needs can be met through specially mixed feed and vitamin-mineral supplements in their water. Pray for this success please! We did have one of the pheasants hatch with crooked toes so I gave him a cast using vetwrap (self-adhesive medical tape for animals that is amazing stuff). I took it off yesterday and am happy to report it was a success and he now has straight toes again to walk on all proper-like for the rest of his life.
So our hatchings were a success (though the pheasants could have been better) and we are already onto the first incubation for the new animal micro-loan program. It will be another three months until the first families receive their flocks but every step right now is a milestone. I do have plans for a brooder that will go out in the chicken house in the future but for now they are in the house with us. Any brooder for the tiny babies that I create must be driver ant-proof to be used with confidence here. Because of this the brooder wont be able to touch the walls or be on the floor. It will have to be on stilts that are placed in cans of diesel or oil and may even be rubbed down with cinnamon oil to help deter the ants. Oh Congo, the things you make me have to think about!
So we’ve hatched a few this week of the many many hatchlings that will go through our homestead through the years. I’ll learn more as I go along while doing the rest of life on our homestead.