Hatch-O-Rama

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Well, our bumbling first-time attempt at incubating eggs has just about come to a close.  We still have two eggs in the incubator that look to still be viable, so we are giving them another day before we “call the hatch.” While we had hoped for a higher hatch rate (we are currently at 30%), we knew there were risks: ordering hatching eggs to be delivered via U.S. post, our electricity went out for 8 hours, and using our incubator for the first-time. Not to mention, our own beginner’s jitters.  Still, we hatched three healthy, spunky chicks!

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The first pip was on Monday night, the night of day 20 and Baby #1 was born about 18 hours later, at mid-day on Day 21. We could hear more cheeps coming from the eggs and on Wednesday morning we had two more pips. These two chicks hatched fairly quickly and both were out of the shells by mid-morning.

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This chick got herself unzipped in just about an hour of steady work. We sipped our early morning coffee (it was about 6:30 am) and watched as she worked her way around the shell.  Our visibility was good for hatch #2.

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While Kori had to go to work, Teri was able to watch and report on Hatch #3–this was an Easter Egger/Ameraucana egg and we were so hoping at least one of the two we incubated would hatch.

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This chick took a few moments to rest, all curled up in the remaining shell, before completing the hatch. It gave us a chance to see how chicks position themselves for hatching. While we’d seen this in books, it is always amazing to see the real thing happening in real life!

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She finally pushed her way out into the world and flopped out all soppy wet. She only rested for a few minutes, however, before she started making her way around the incubator in an awkward scootch.

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And here we have the three newest additions at Raggedy Hen Farm! We may be adding a few more to round out this spring’s babies, and we have learned a ton from our first incubating adventure. Welcome chicks!

If you’d like to watch the video of the first egg hatching, you can find it on our Youtube channel!

All Around the Farm

We may still be trying to shake off the memories of recent winter storms, but the critters, the fruit trees, and every other living thing in our corner of the world are all confidently  marching toward spring. The currant bush will be blooming this week, things are getting busy in the henhouse, and the crocus and daffodils are starting to bloom too!  We even noticed the rhurbarb starting to send stubby green “leaf balls” up into the mulch that has been keeping the plants cozy for the past few months. We thought we might share a few photos of how things are looking around here…

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The girls are all in full plumage and their combs and wattles are red. They are sassy and chatty too as they squabble over nest boxes and waddle about searching for grubs, worms and dry spots to bathe. Here, they are enjoying some strawberries we froze last summer.

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While the hens were out free ranging, our cat, Toby, found a warm, dry spot for an afternoon nap…the chicken run!

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Here’s the sassiest one of our Dominiques–Mavis–with her gorgeous spring finery. Her rose comb has finally filled out and now that she’s laying, she’s quite the force! She’s always the first one to run up to us when we come outside and has even taken to leaping up to try to get treats right out of our hands!

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Meanwhile, under grow lights, the seedlings are thriving. These Cubanelle Sweet Peppers are the most gorgeous color of shiny green.

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After about three weeks under grow lights, these heirloom tomatoes are coming right along. Several times a day, we lightly brush over them with our hands to simulate the wind so they will grow sturdy and stocky–and not get wispy and leggy.

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Early morning sun is starting to melt the frost on this artichoke–new leaves peaking up through the mulch.

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A couple weeks ago, these branches were encased in ice–and now the buds are plumping right up!

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The ultimate promise of sunnier days and warmer temperatures–the early spring crocus!

Yay for the reawakening!

Freshening the Nests

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Warming spring weather and more action in the nest boxes means the ideal environment for little bugs and critters. It is so wet and humid here in the Pacific Northwest this time of year, that we try to pay close attention to keep the nest boxes dry and clean. Last year, we started adding dried herbs to our next boxes having read that they can serve both as air fresheners and antibacterial/antiseptic additions–giving the hens a little extra boost in anti-bug action. Whether it actually does that or not, it does make for pretty little nest for the girls to leave their gorgeous eggs.  We’ve added a combination of organic dried rose petals, calendula, red clover blossoms, and lavender.  That way, if the hens decide they want to try a sample, they are all edible and toxin-free!

Breakfast Buffet

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The girls get pretty excited when we clean out the refrigerator and it all goes into the compst! Poor Mavis is trying to figure out how she can squeeze into the already-full buffet line; all those fluffy chicken butts can take up a lot of room. If you’re wondering about the breeds of the girls: clockwise starting at 11 o’clock: Marilla (Barred Plymouth Rock; Dottie (Silver-Laced Wyandotte); Mitzy (Dominique); Mavis (on ground and Dominique); Hilda (Buff Orpington): and Trudy (White Jersey Giant).

Water, Water, Everywhere

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As our foot of snow melted, the temperatures warmed up quickly and it started to rain. And rain, and rain and rain! The temperatures have been nice and mild in the high fifties, but oh, so much precipitation! Fortunately, we knew this drainage situation about our yard when we constructed our garden–thus all the beds are raised and in the “high” areas of the yard. While this puddle-creek presents a few challenges in getting from the house to the chicken coop, it isn’t really doing any damage. It’s a muddy, spongy, sloppy journey, however!

More than Halfway

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Today marks our passing into the second half of the incubating adventure.  In other words, we are more than halfway through the 21-day incubation period and we still have no idea what will happen! We’ve been turning the eggs regularly three to five times each day; recording temperature, checking humidity, and we’ve even given candling our best shot a time or two. As near as we can tell, the majority of the eggs seem to be developing, but there  are a couple where we just aren’t sure what we’re looking at. What we do know is that the dark shadows are continuing to grow in most of the eggs. In the lighter-shelled eggs, we can sometimes see the embryo move, but in the darkest shelled-eggs, we just see blobs…

This is not our photo, but one we borrowed from an online forum–it shows the shadow of the embryo, as well as the growing larger shadow with in the egg. This is a good example of what the eggs look like when we candle them now.

At this stage in incubation, the embryo has done most of its early development. He or she has little wings and feet and feathers, and the beak is starting to harden and the bones calcify. Today marks the point where eyelids are developing over the eyes and downy feathers should be growing all over the little critters. For the next week or so, we’ll continue to turn the eggs and the viable embryos should continue to grow larger, while the air sack at the fatter end of the egg should get a bit bigger too.  This time next week, we’ll be getting ready for “lockdown”–the time when we up the humidity levels, stop turning, and allow the embryos to prepare themselves for hatching. That is, of course, if it goes according to plan!

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