Friday, May 6, 2011

Incubator Vs. Broody Hen

In the last post we had just collected 25 guinea eggs from nests in the woods and decided to incubate them.  On the day I wrote the post Randy collected one more guinea egg from a nest in the woods, so that made 26 eggs.  No more collecting guinea eggs, we have enough!

There are two ways to hatch eggs - use a bird to do all work for you, or use a incubation machine.  

Eggs in incubator
Previously, a friend had given us an egg incubator, and so we decided it was time to open the box.  It was a Little Giant Still Air Incubator.  It's not the newest model, but it should get the job done.  All the eggs sit in the machine, and there's a rotating motor that rotates them slowly back and forth.  We have to put water in the incubator below the eggs which creates humidity.  The machine must remain heated to 99.5 degrees F.  We must check the water and the temperature of the incubator daily.  It's much more complicated than just putting eggs underneath a chicken.


On May 1st, May Day, we setup the incubator, heated it up, got the humidity going, made sure the egg rotator was working properly, verified the exact temp, and finally put 14 guinea eggs in the machine.  It's so weird hatching eggs this way.  They are in a quiet, sterile environment.  No noise, just their back and forth rotations in a perfect environment.

"Cooking" eggs

Bella decided to go broody this past weekend, too.  Thank you, Bella!  I used to hate broody hens, but this time I was very happy!  I really didn't want Bella as a Guinea mama again, but I didn't have a choice.  She was the only broody hen.  Last year she raised our day-old keets we bought from the farmer's market.  She did a great job in the first couple weeks, although she didn't do a great job talking to the babies.  She's a quiet hen.  Then she gave up on being a mama early, but the keets were already integrated into the flock and they did fine on their own.  So she'd just have to make do this time.

We put 12 guinea eggs under Bella on May 1st, and she was very happy with them and proud of herself.  Then, lo and behold, Mama Charlotte went broody last Wednesday!  Mama Charlotte raised a batch of chicks last year, and she was the best mama hen we had. She is an excellent protector, no one dared to even look at her babies or she'd show them her wrath, and she talked constantly to the chicks.  So on Thursday we moved 6 of Bella's eggs under Mama Charlotte.  (We call her Mama Charlotte because there's 2 other hens that look identical to her and they all started with the name "Charlotte".  Since then one has been renamed "Singer", so now we are left with a bird named "Mama Charlotte" and a plain "Charlotte".) 

The only problem with 2 broody hens sitting on eggs is the constant interruptions they receive.  Other hens constantly push Bella out of her nest box and lay their chicken eggs in the guinea egg pile.  Often I find Bella sitting on the wrong nest because she was pushed out.  Who knows how long she was away from her nest.  So far I haven't noticed Mama Charlotte being pushed around by other hens, but this morning Jade was sitting on top of her in the nest box.  Somehow Jade had already laid her egg and it made in underneath Mama Charlotte, but Mama Charlotte wouldn't allow Jade to sit on the eggs, so Jade unhappily sat on top of Mama Charlotte!  Of course there were 7 other nest boxes available at the time.  So every day I have to go remove the chicken eggs from the 2 broody hen/guinea egg nest boxes.  I'm glad guinea eggshells are hard like rocks, or for sure they'd have been broken already, with all the interruptions they've been getting.
I can't help but compare the 2 incubating methods ~ the sterile and dead-silent environment, or the busy chicken nest boxes, with the eggs being shuffled and stepped on by other hens, where the temperature and humidity surely isn't constant.  Screaming laying hens are all around, broody Mama Charlotte screams all the time at everyone who enters the coop.

I wonder which eggs will do better?

Bella and Mama Charlotte sitting side-by-side on guinea eggs.  Mama Charlotte is sleeping.


Something To Crow About said...

I do hope they all hatch! The nests are full here, but no one is in the mood to sit and hatch them out, however, the shed is full, 18 exact, of baby hens, not quite big enough to join the barn yard. Good luck with your incubator!

Country Girl said...

This is so interesting to read about! You are going to have A LOT of chicks! I wonder how sociable the incubator chicks will be. What will you do with them after they hatch? Put them in with the other chicks?

Country Girl said...

This is so interesting to read about! You are going to have A LOT of chicks! I wonder how sociable the incubator chicks will be. What will you do with them after they hatch? Put them in with the other chicks?

LindaG said...

Good luck! I hope they all hatch for you. :)

Terry said...

Never a dull moment!

robin said...

I hope they all hatch out. :)

Razzberry Corner said...

STCA - You sound like you've got a busy place!! Sounds great! Lots of babies!

Barb - We'll have to put all the chicks together at some time after they hatch. We just don't have the room to keep all these keets separated! I think we are going to give both Bella and Charlotte more than 6 eggs, maybe give them both 12, so we will have less in the incubator. And maybe another hen will become broody in the next 3 weeks.

LindaG - Thanks for the luck, we need it! This is the first time we've hatched guineas!

Terry - so far, so good!

Robin - I hope so, too, but I doubt they all will hatch. We'll see. It will be exciting when their due date is close! Can't wait to hear them peeping inside their shells!


Chai Chai said...

I am getting guinea eggs now and so want to hatch a few. No broody hens here so I'm thinking of getting an incubator myself. I am going to follow this story very closely!