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25 More Eggs!!!


Yesterday I got a warm welcome back to work. I got hit on my left shoulder after telling a patient she HAD to have her insulin because her blood sugar was 472. Today, I had to stick her trach back in after she pulled it out. She said she wanted to kill herself over a soda. Being a psych nurse isn’t all it’s ‘cracked up to be. LOL! Days like that, it is just SO nice to come home and ‘chill out on the couch with my husband and kids. I guess I could be called lazy at times, but it’s my way of relaxing after some truly nutty days.

I do think that’s also why I enjoy feeding and watching my flock. Chickens are just chickens. They are goofy, they have a definite pecking order, and it’s rewarding when your pet makes you breakfast (eggs). Chickens don’t really expect anything out of people, except maybe food and water. They don’t care what you look like. They’re curious, and some follow you around like little dogs.

Today is Day 8! I checked the eggs in the incubator, and I took a few pictures. I couldn’t get the camera to focus, but here is what I was able to get:

The dark “blob” on the bottom lower left of the egg is a developing embryo. If it was a better shot, you would be able to see all of the veining on the inside of the egg. I also checked the egg from one of my hens (which is on Day 5), and there appears to be a developing embryo in there! Yay!

Ron was really happy to find another box of eggs on the porch today. It was supposed to be a shipment of 12 fertile eggs from Ohio, but the lady sent 25 eggs!! Unfortunately, Sarah was helping me unwrap the eggs and one fell on the floor. Whoops! Then, Ron looked at me and said, “Now that’s enough for now. We’re going to have 300 chickens running around here!” I doubt any of my hatches will be that successful. But, with all of these extra eggs, I did break out incubator #2, which is a “deluxe” model complete with a fan and an egg turner. We now officially have 2 styrofoam incubators on the bureau in our bedroom. I will put today’s egg shipment into that incubator tomorrow because right now I am trying to stabilize the temp in the ‘bator I plugged in today. If it’s too hot, they’ll fry, and I certainly don’t want that!

We have been getting 5 eggs a day for the past 3 days from our hens! The kitten food is working! I enjoyed my egg sandwich on my way to work today. I bought a really cool toaster online awhile ago. It has slots for 2 slices of toast, and then on the side it has an egg poacher attached. It’s timed so you can poach your egg and toast your bread at the same time. It can also hard-boil up to 4 eggs at a time. If this ever wears out, we’ll be purchasing another one. It’s a pretty cool contraption.

Well, Simon Cowell is critiquing some poor soul on TV right now. Have a great night!

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Today was a 5 egg day!


Today was a good day! Although my vacation time has come to an end… I will be off of vacation officially at 5 AM tomorrow when I wake up to get ready for work. Oh well. I know I wouldn’t enjoy “time off” if I was laid off, so I guess it’s all how you look at it.

Last week I asked the kids how many eggs we were getting a day. Julie said, “none”. What the heck! They say that chickens need 14 hours of light a day to lay, but according to a lot of different things I’ve read, several of my breeds lay over the winter. Sooooo, I spent a lot (and I mean a lot) of time this week reading up on chicken diets. I went to my local Tractor Supply store and bought chicken vitamins (it’s a yellow powder I add to their drinking water). I opened up a bag of crushed oyster shells and put it out for them to snack on – the oyster shells have calcium, which strengthens the egg shells and supposedly encourages egg-laying. I also bought a bag of KITTEN FOOD. Sarah’s friend Ally was over, and she saw the bag of cat food. “Sarah, when did you get a cat?” (I just love confusing the kids!) Anyway, I gave the chickens about 2 cups of kitten food a day for the past week. The result – no eggs to 5 eggs/day in a week! Success! The chickens combs are much redder, and the chickens themselves appear much “peppier”. I will be keeping them on this diet. When spring arrives, they will be supervised in the yard – chickens are great weeders and lawn mowers, and munching on “pasture” is good for them too!

One problem I have had, though, is that the hens keep laying their eggs in a corner, and not in the nesting box we made for them. So, I took an egg crate, put down wood shavings, and some of Ron’s old golf balls to encourage them to lay in the nesting box. According to my readings, hens think that the golf balls are eggs. I don’t think they’ll recognize the Nike insignia on the golf balls! In the picture below are the 5 eggs that were waiting for me today! They’re all different sizes, and all different shades of brown. Cool!

With all of these eggs we got today, Sarah and I decided to bake a cake. We quick threw an orange pound cake in the oven before her dad came to pick her up… As you can see, she enjoyed licking the spoon!

 The incubation project is on Day 6. I got an email today stating that I have another shipment of eggs in the mail – these eggs are coming from Ohio. My temps have been holding steady, but the humidity is still low. I think I’m going to saturate a sponge and place it on the floor of the incubator. That seemed to help last year with the humidity.

Well, it’s time for me to sign off for now. I’m going to throw a quick load of laundry in the washer and head up to watch The Walton’s. OK, I know it’s corny, but my nightly routine involves watching an episode of The Walton’s with Sarah. Besides, they have cool chickens.

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Day 2, plus news from the coop!


Today is Day 2 in incubation land! Since last evening, I’ve been having difficulty controlling the temperature in the incubator… I read a really interesting thread on my favorite website [ http://www.backyardchickens.com ] about temperature and humidity, so I changed the temperature last evening. The problem is that now I’m having trouble getting it where I want it. I just checked, and it’s 100.2. Good. But the humidity is reading “low”, so I’m going to have to adjust that.

Poor Ron (who is having back problems again)… He went to lay down in bed for a little while. I walked in, stopped, and said, “I think I’m going to plug in the other incubator in here tonight”. He just looked at me and sighed. I decided that it wasn’t a good time to tell him about the other 3 batches of eggs I ordered. I am just determined to get this incubation thing down! My hatch rates last year were lousy, and I am determined to get this figured out!

As a sidenote, one kind of egg I ordered is the Sicilian Buttercup, named for the comb shaped like a “buttercup” (credit for this picture goes to another cool website http://www.feathersite.com). There are literally hundreds of varieties of chickens! Some breeds are cold hardy, some aren’t. Some are skittish, some are friendly, and some are mean. Some breeds lay a lot of eggs, some hardly lay any eggs at all. Some are good for eating, and some are scrawny. I am looking for friendly egg-layers!

Here’s the latest from the coop: I assumed my rooster Hugh wasn’t getting lucky with his ladies. I mean, he’s at the awkward teenage stage. Gangly, trying to be manly and strutting around, but just not there yet. So today, I was getting ready to eat breakfast. I cracked open the egg, and yowza! Hugh is a man, I mean rooster! I was so happy!!! My baby has grown up. So, the next time I go out to the coop and find a small pinkish egg, it’s going in to the ‘bator!

FYI: no, there wasn’t any chick. The eggs have to be maintained at the proper temperature for awhile before anything happens. You can tell if an egg is fertile by looking at the blastoderm: all eggs have a white spot – not the white cord thingy. Sometimes you have to really search for it, which can be hard to do without breaking the yolk. It’s a small solid white dot on the egg yolk. If it’s solid – and all grocery store-bought eggs are – it’s INfertile. If it looks like a small bullseye, it’s fertile! Look closely at the egg yolk below, in the lower left hand corner of the egg. Yep, a bullseye! It’s fertile! By the way, this is a picture of the egg I broke open today. Neat! The white cord thing is called the chalazae, which anchors the yolk in the center of the egg. That’s all it is. It’s not an umbilical cord!

In other coop news… Check out our eggs!

My hens were not laying any eggs, which can happen in the winter due to decreased sunlight.  So, gasp, I had to go and buy eggs from the…. store…. I haven’t had to buy eggs in quite a long time. The next day I went out to the coop and found two eggs waiting for me. The store-bought eggs are the white ones. They are labeled “Large”. I’m not sure what size my eggs would be then. Maybe XXL? The problem with having eggs this large is that they don’t fit into the egg cartons we have. The light brown-pinkish egg on the right side is the same size as the white eggs, and this was the “magic” fertile egg. (I left the feather “cap” on the egg I found first thing this morning. So cute!)

Well, that’s all for tonight. I’ve been trying to work on this blog for a long time now. I’m on vacation this week, so I have the time right now to figure this out. 4 more days off, then back to reality.

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RN by day, urban chicken hobbyist by night…


Welcome to my blog!

Why am I now blogging? What do I have to say that is all that important? Well, whether you think my thoughts are important or not is up to you. I decided to start blogging because I needed to start journaling about my most recent egg incubation project. Since I’m on my computer quite often, I figured I’d just journal online.

So… chickens. Why do I raise chickens?

It started last year. Ron and I went to a local farmers market. They offered 2 chicks and a little bag of feed for$5 that you could take home for Easter. We could return the chicks after Easter if we wanted to. It sounded like something the kids would like, and besides, Sarah was hatching chicks in her 3rd grade class. We did a little research, and decided to keep those 2 chicks. Ron “gave up” the lower part of the garage to turn in to a chicken coop. Fresh eggs sounded like a great idea! Then, I went to Tractor Supply and saw corrals of sweet little chicks for sale… After the second (or third?) trip to Tractor Supply, Ron forbid me to walk in that store again. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the two cute little chicks that we got at the farmers market were MEAT birds… They grow super fast, and they were HUGE.

So, to make a long story really short – here I am a year later. I didn’t mention that I bought TWO egg incubators last year and tried several times to hatch eggs. I had a few successes, but mostly failures. The last year was very interesting, and I learned a lot. So, now I’ve fired up one incubator to get started for this year. I have two batches of eggs in the ‘bator (more on that later). [Note: Try looking up “hatching eggs” on Ebay… You will find out quickly that there are many people who are interested in raising chickens, so I’m not totally alone! Another great website to look at is backyardchickens.com.]

One more thing I forgot to mention is that I live in town. Well, roosters can be loud. Really loud. Apparently one of my neighbors didn’t think the crowing was cutesy anymore, and complained. The zoning officer came around, and apparently he didn’t even know the code (which states you may have poultry in our town, as long as they don’t disturb the peace and are kept clean). So, to keep the peace, my husband knew a guy that owns a farm (and if anyone knows Ron – Ron knows a lot of people!)… The farmer was looking for chickens, so I tearfully said goodbye to several of my beautiful roosters…

Obviously, I’m hoping that most of my hatches this time around are pullets (young female chickens) and not cockerels (young male chickens). And, if I do have a good hatch, I’m going to have to sell some of the chicks. I won’t be able to keep all of them living in town. I’d love to own a small hobby farm, but that isn’t in the cards for us right now.

So. Back to the incubating business. Incubating is definitely a science. The temperature of the incubator MUST stay no lower than 99.5 degrees to approximately no more than 101 degrees (at least that’s the range I’m shooting for). The humidity should stay around 30-35% during the incubation period, and raise up to approximately 60% during the hatch. The eggs need to be turned 3 times a day for the first 18 days. After day 18, you DO NOT open up the incubator for anything (lovingly called “lockdown”), and that is when you increase the humidity to 60-65%. If those conditions are not met, your chicks will either not hatch, or if they do hatch they could be deformed and/or sick and die shortly after. And the incubators I’m using are small styrofoam jobs. Definitely NOT high-tech incubators, all the controls are being done manually – by me. If you raise or lower the temperature in the house, you need to closely watch your incubator and make the necessary adjustments quickly! To raise the humidity, you need to add water to little reservoirs in the floor of the incubator. The best way I found to do this without taking the lid off (and thus losing heat) is to use a straw. You can put the straw through little holes in the top of the incubator (not very scientific, but hey, it works). So, as you can see this whole thing can get complicated.

Last week I bought 2 batches of eggs off of Ebay. One batch I bought off of an Ebay-er in Maryland, the other batch in from an Ebay-er in Virginia. I forgot that Monday was a holiday, and my eggs had to sit at the post office all weekend, ugh! I am worried because you can’t let the temperature drop below 40 degrees and it is a gamble buying eggs this time of year AND having them shipped. But, I have read online where many people have  refrigerated their fertilized eggs and have had success hatching. Well, yesterday morning 3 boxes arrived from the post office! Ron had no idea how many eggs I bought. I made him smile for this picture, but right before I snapped this picture, he said, “How many eggs DID you buy?” I don’t think he liked my non-reply, but smiled anyway (sarcastically, I might add).

My thanks go out to my cousin Lisa, who sent the kids a surprise package! That box did NOT include eggs, much to Ron’s relief! 😉 But, two boxes did contain eggs!

(Did I mention that I “secretly” have one rooster? He is a young Transylvanian Naked Neck/aka “Turken”, he is on the picture on the top of this page. He is still learning how to “mate”, poor guy is practicing but I don’t know how lucky he has been… I am hoping to have fertilized eggs this spring.)

We had to let the eggs come up to room temperature before adding them to our little incubator, which can take anywhere from 8 to 24 hours. My “chicken partner-in-crime” is Sarah. I was going to wait until this morning to put them into the incubator, which would’ve been 24 hours. However, Sarah wanted to put them in last night. I was nervous putting them in at night because obviously the temperature drops in the incubator when you take off the lid and add room temperature eggs, and I wanted to make sure the temperature came back up before I went to sleep. I want this incubation period to go perfectly. So much for that. She won out. I made Ron wake me up at 1 AM to tell me what the temperature was before he went to bed (he is a night owl).

One more thing I should mention is that the incubators need to be kept in a draft-free area. The best place I can think of in my house is upstairs. Julie and Sarah’s room is drafty. Tyler’s room is not drafty, but what 15 year-old teenager wants his step-mom walking in and out of his room constantly to check on her chicken eggs? That left our bedroom. Ron loves it. “How romantic, sharing our bedroom with chickens!” 😉 I tried putting the incubator on our kitchen counter last year once, but we definitely had a better hatch rate when the ‘bator was in our bedroom! That’s my argument, and I’m sticking to it! (But I do have to admit, it’s hard sleeping when they’re hatching and you hear the eggs rolling around all night and hearing “peep peep”!)

Well, I have to stop blogging here. We have our tax appointment in 45 minutes. I just checked the temp on the ‘bator. It’s holding now at 99.9! Perfect!

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