Thursday, September 16, 2010

Blue Ribbon Bird!

Tuesday September 14, 2010

The chickens have grown and a few went to the Fair.  Molly showed the a Leghorn and an Australorp from the ChickQuest hatch.

One of the Leghorn pullets won a blue ribbon at the 2010 Wayne County Fair Open Chicken Show!

The judge commented on her nice body and tail feathers.

The pullets were in separate cages when we first brought them to the Fair.  The Leghorn was frantic for a day and then we finally put them together in the same cage.  They were MUCH happier together.

Many thanks to all that helped us at our first Chicken Show. Thanks to Laurel for all the advice and help.  Thanks to Logan, Theo and Jenny who helped us bathe and prepare the pullets. Thanks to Ann and Logan who helped us choose the best birds to take to the Fair. The Dalton-Kidron Big 4 4-H Club Chicken group is so supportive!  Thank you!

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Chicks are growing!

3 Day Old Chicks

The chicks are growing like weeds in the sunshine!  They're are getting bigger, starting to get wing feathers and they're hungry.  We could spend hours watching them--and we do!  They_ are_ so_ cute!!

Their personalities are beginning to emerge.  There's the alpha chicks --the ones in charge.  The curious ones--always first to check out something new.  And the shy ones--not wanting to be a part of anything new or scary.

We have them on pine shavings now. They've figured out where the food and water is and love scratching in the shavings.

Here's a video of their busyness and curiosity. . . 

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Hatching Stats

We started with 25 eggs.
12 Leghorn
13 Australorp
14 chicks hatched and lived. (56%)

  • 8 hatched.  
  • 3 were not fertile through candling.
  • 1 did not pip and died, fully formed, in the egg.
  • Most hatched on Day 23. But hatching ranged from Day 22 to Day 24.
  • The one that hatched on Day 24,  required assistance.
  • 88% of the fertile eggs hatched and produced a live healthy chicks.
  • 6 hatched
  • 5 were not fertile through candling or cracking open.
  • 2 died while hatching.
  • Most hatched on Day 23.  Only one hatched on Day 22 and requiured assistance.
  • 75% if the fertile eggs hatched and produced live healthy chicks.

General Observations: 

The hatching was later than we thought.  None hatched on Day 21.  This could have been due to temperature and humidity fluctuations in the incubator.

We thought all of the eggs would hatch at about the same time.  They did not.  They were spread out over 3 days.

The hatching itself takes a long time.  From the pip to the chick, it took about 12 - 24 hrs.

The Leghorns were quicker and stronger at hatching than the Australorps.

This was a fun group 4-H Project!

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Day 24

Thursday June 3, 2010

The hatching is coming to an end.

The last egg to hatch was White egg #6 (my pick for who would hatch first, LOL!).  It hatched at 10:14 am.

This chick needed a little assistance getting out of the shell and seems very weak. Once out of the shell it was very floppy and wobbly.  It kept flipping over and staying on it's back like a turtle that has turned over.  We gently keep flipping back upright.  With some extra attention, it seems to be OK and we moved it to the brooder about 6 pm.  The other chicks are pecking at the new chick :-(

We candled the other eggs and determined no more are alive or viable.

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Day 23 - Evening

Two more hatched ....

Brown egg #6 at 12:20 pm
Brown egg #4 at 2:50 pm

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hatching Video!

This is the video I promised to post of white Leghorn chick #3 hatching at 5:50 pm on Tuesday June 1, 2010.  The entire process took nearly a day....from the pip, until completely out of the egg.  We've clipped that into two 5 minute videos.  These little guys work so hard to get out!

Leghorn Hatch Part 1

Leghorn Hatch Part 2

All hatched out and resting.

Fluffed out and ready to go.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Day 23 - Morning

Morning, Wednesday June 2, 2010

What a night! Between 11 pm and 8 am we had 8 chicks hatch!  All with no assistance.

This is newly hatched chick brown # 5.

Pip and Zip!  Lots of eggs in the process of hatching.

Brown #9,  white #7 and  brown #5 waiting to dry off and fluff up.

White #11 just hatched.  This one is exhausted and look at those huge feet!

Nine chicks in the brooder getting dry and fluffy.

Chick white #2.  It hatched in 10th place. (Ramona's pick for the hatching contest!)

Here's a list of who hatched when last night:

11:40 pm ( late Tuesday night): Brown #5
12:33 am: White #7
12:37 am: Brown #9 
12:44 am: Brown #10
1:20 am: White #8
3:30 am: White #2
6:20 am: White #11
8:41 am: White #4

There are currently two more eggs piping and zipping...stayed tuned!

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Day 22 - Evening

Tuesday June 1, 2010


We feel as if we are continuous chick midwifes.  It's fun and somewhat stressful at the same time.  So much going on with 25 eggs that are taking a long time to finish hatching.

Happy Birthday to 2 Leghorns!
White #3 hatched at 5:50 pm.  Molly has named this one Nugget.  It's WILD!  Climbing all over everything and cheeping constantly. We have a great video of this chick hatching and we will post it tomorrow.

The second Leghorn hatched at 7:00 pm.  This chick is very big! It hatched very quickly once it got going.
Here are the two newly hatched Leghorns in their "play pen" in the incubator.  The play pen is a small square Rubbermaid dish that keep the chicks contained in one area.  This prevents them from falling over, turning over and pecking the other eggs that are trying to hatch. They stay in the play pen till they are fluffed out and ready for the brooder.

Sad News
Two of the Australorp eggs ( #11 and #2) failed to hatch after they pipped and they died this afternoon.  We think that while the first chick was in the incubator drying off, it turned these two eggs over and they couldn't continue to "unzip" their eggs and get out because they were upside down. We feel so bad about this.  So after this happened, we came up with the play pen idea to keep the other hatching eggs safe.

Most of the other eggs are in some form of piping or unzipping. So look for more chick updates!

Here's the first chick that hatched (Australorp #3), happy and curious in the brooder this afternoon.  Molly named this one Pip.

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We finally had our first chick hatch (with assistance) this morning about 6:45 am!

This little chick began hatching yesterday--Monday morning about 5 am. It began strong, but slow, as it pipped away at the shell.  But as the day wore on, the pipping stopped as well as the loud peeps. At 11 pm all activity stopped. We checked on the egg through the night and feared it may have die. The shell that had been broken by the chick had not changed in size for more than 12 hours.  There was no movement or peeping.

Finally at 6 am Tuesday morning June 1, 2010 we decided to take the egg out of the incubator and see if it had any life. It peeped a few soft peeps. The chick seemed "stuck" in the shell--not very much moisture and the membrane had dried.  We decided to gently help it get out of it's shell.  

Once it was out,  we gently put it back in the incubator. It laid for a while then slowly began to move around. After an hour or so it was loud and active. YAY!

So, Happy Birthday Australorp Egg #3!

Please note: we don't recommend helping chicks hatch except as a last ditch effort to save the chick.  The chick had gone way beyond the expected hatch time and movements had stopped for a long time. We didn't want this little one to die.

Update on the other eggs:
Pips on the following eggs have begun: White eggs: #2, #7, #8 and Brown #10. There may be others, but the little chick has moved all the eggs around as it's drying off in the incubator. 

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Day 21 - Piping video

Monday May 31, 2010

Here's a video of Brown Egg #3 piping on Day 21 in the early afternoon.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Day 21 - 10:40 pm

Well, it's been a long day here.  No chicks have hatched YET.

Brown egg #3 , who pipped this morning at 6 am is still going.  The little chick stalled out for a while and then began pipping again in earnest about 2 pm.  The pip hole is now about the size of a nickel.  I've read that they pip, then "zip"--meaning they zip open a line in a counterclockwise circle around the egg, then push the two halves apart and hatch.  Well, nobody told this little chick! I am beginning to feel sorry for it as it seems to be getting tired.  We'll see what happens through the night.

We have increased the humidity to 75% in hope of making things easier for the chicks.

Good news....two more pips tonight!

Brown egg #5 pipped @ 8:30 pm
White egg #8 pipped @ 8:56 pm

Brown egg #1 may have a pip--we're not sure yet.

I hope we have some chicks in the morning!

To the 4-H'ers in our group....stop by to see the pips and hopefully chicks!

Day 21 -- 7 am

WE HAVE A PIP! And.....we can hear chirping!

Brown Egg # 3 is the first to pip!  Molly was the first to discover this about 7 am this morning.

Emily was the first to hear the chirping last night about 1 am.  Molly heard it this morning again too. We're not sure which egg is chirping.  

Molly also saw brown egg #10 rocking/moving, but no pip yet.

Stay tuned!

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day 20

Sunday May 30, 2010

Temps  ( 99° - 100°) and humidity (65%)  holding steady.

Day 20 Embryo Development: Yolk has been absorbed. Embryo becomes a chick, breathing in the air cell. Pipping begins.

We add  1-2 ounces of water to the sponge tray about once a day in the evening to keep the humidity high.  The windows on the incubator are beginning to fog up.

We also got the brooder ready.  The brooder is the "nursery" for the baby chicks once they have hatched.  The chicks stay in the brooder about 4 - 6 weeks.  Molly was a big help by helping clean the brooder container, and the feed and water trays.  Then, she helped set it up this afternoon in our garage.

We're ready!

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Day 19

Saturday May 29, 2010

Day two of lock-down. Temps are 99° - 100°. Humidity 65% - 69%.

Day 19 Embryo Development - Beak pips into the air cell and chick begins to breath. Yolk sac begins to enter body cavity


We keep looking through the windows of the incubator to see if we can see any pips.

A pip hole is a small crack or hole which is made in an egg by a chick as it prepares to hatch. The appearance of pip holes is generally viewed as a sign that chicks are on the way, as the chicks generally fully emerge within a day or so of creating the pip hole. The process of breaking out of the shell is known as pipping.

Don't forget to cast your vote on which egg will hatch first.  See post on Day 18.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 18

Friday May 28, 2010

It's Lockdown Day!
Today's the day we stop turning the eggs, stop opening the incubator and increase the humidity - thus called a "lockdown".  This is so the chicks can get in position to hatch.  The humidity is increased so the shell stays soft and they can hatch out.

Getting the eggs and incubator ready for lockdown.

I arranged the eggs, added sponges and a mug of water.

How can you add water to the incubator without opening the lid?  A straw!  We positioned the butter dish with sponges right under the hole.  We can use a long straw to direct the water into the dish.

Before I closed the lid, I made sure to write down where all the eggs were so we know which ones are hatching.  

Which egg do you think will hatch first?

The viable eggs are:
White Eggs: w2, w3, w4, w5, w6, w7, w8, w9, w11
Brown Eggs: b1, b2, b3, b4, b5, b6, b7, b9, b10, b11, b12, b13

Disclaimer!  Even the most experienced people who incubate eggs, don't have all the viable eggs hatch.  Plus, we really couldn't candle most of the brown eggs, because of their brown shell.  Our goal is to have 50% of the eggs hatch, so don't be sad if your egg doesn't hatch.  It's mother nature!

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Day 17

Thursday May 27, 2010

Day 17 Embryo Development - beak turns toward air cell

Incubator Temperature: 99°
Humidity: 50 % - 60 %
Turning Eggs:
O @ 7:15 am
X @ 4:00 pm
O @ 11:00 pm

Comments: Lockdown is tomorrow!  

Also, the Elett's brought over their brooder kit and Laurel dropped off a big back of chick starter feed. THANK YOU!  

The brooder is like a nursery for chicks.  Once the chicks hatch and dry off in the incubator, we will move them to the brooder to grow until they start to feather out.  We are going to clean and disinfect the brooder.  Then we will set it up in our garage so it will be all ready for the chicks!

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Day 16

Wednesday May 26, 2010

Day 16 Embryo Development - scales, claws and beak becoming firm and horny

Incubator Temperature: 99°
Humidity: 7:30 am : 30%, 11 pm : 50%

Turning Eggs:
X @ 7:30 am
O @ 4:00 pm
X @ 11:00 pm

Comments: We decided to weigh the eggs as another way to check how much moisture is being lost in each egg.  All eggs have lost between 5% and 10 % of their original weight. This is more reassuring than candling and looking at the air sac size.  So we decide to bring the humidity up to around 50%.  If too much moisture is lost, the chicks can't get out of their shell when hatching.  How does the hen do all this??!!

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Day 15

Tuesday May 25, 2010

Incubator Temperature: 7:30 am: 100°, 11 pm:  99°
Humidity 7 am: 57%, 10:45 pm: 40 %

Turning Eggs:
O @ 7:30 am
X @ 3:00 pm
O @ 10:45 pm

Comments: worked on reducing the humidity today.  Added no water to reservoir, took off air hole plug.

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Day 14

Monday May 24, 2010

Day 14 Embryo Development - embryo gets into position suitable for breaking shell

Incubator Temperature: 98° @ 7am, 99° rest of day
Humidity 63%

Turning Eggs:
X @ 7:15 am
O @ 3:00 pm
X @ 11:00 pm

Comments: the air sacs seem small.  We will try and reduce the humidity.  The air sacs should gradually get larger as the egg looses liquid.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010


The second kind of egg in our incubator are Leghorns.  These eggs are white and they came free from the Wayne County Extension Service.  A big thank you to them!

The Leghorn is a breed of chicken with origins in Tuscany, central Italy. The first birds imported to North America in 1853 were called Italians. By 1865 the breed was named after the Italian city of Livorno, on the western edge of Tuscany, which in English is also known as Leghorn.

Leghorns are excellent layers of white eggs (around 280 per year) with a superior feed-to-egg conversion ratio. Leghorns rarely exhibit broodiness and are thus well suited for uninterrupted egg laying. The Leghorn is a light breed that matures quickly to only 3 or 4 lbs and is not considered a viable meat producer. Leghorns are active and efficient foragers. They typically avoid human contact and tend to be nervous and flighty.  (from Wikipedia)

Leghorn chicks

Leghorn rooster

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We have two kinds of eggs in our incubator. 

The brown eggs are Australorp eggs.  They came from the Hange Family.  The Hanges have 20+ Australorps at their farm.  They have 4 roosters and the rest are hens.  Also, Logan has some young Australorps for his 4-H project this year.  They like the Australorp breed because they are calm, friendly, hardy and lay lots of brown eggs.

This breed originated in Australia developed from Black Orpingtons imported from England; and the emphasis of the breeding program was on egg production without sacrificing too much in size and meat quality. Some sensational results were made in the Australian program, and one hen set a laying record of 364 eggs in 365 days. Introduced into this country in the 1920's, they have become useful and popular and are certainly one of the best layers of light brown eggs of all the heavy breeds. (info from McMurray Hatchery)

When the eggs hatch, the chicks should look like this:

picture is from My Pet Chicken

Full-grown Astralorp trio

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 13

Sunday May 23, 2010

Day 13 Embryo Development - appearance of scales and claws

Incubator Temperature: 99°
Humidity 60%
Turning Eggs:
O @ 8:00 am
X @ 3:00 pm
O @ 11:00 pm

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Day 12

Saturday May 22, 2010

Incubator Temperature: 100°
Humidity 61%
Turning Eggs:
X @ 8:00 am
O @ 3:20 pm
X @ 10:00 pm

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Stages in Embryo Development

I found a really neat website that explains the stages of development in a chick embryo.  The info below is from the Mississippi State University Extension Service.


Before Egg Laying:
Division and growth of living cells
Segregation of cells into groups of special function (tissues)

Between Laying and Incubation
No growth; stage of inactive embryonic life

During Incubation:

First Day
16 hours - first sign of resemblance to a chick embryo
18 hours - appearance of alimentary tract
20 hours - appearance of vertebral column
21 hours - beginning of nervous system
22 hours - beginning of head
24 hours - beginning of eye

Second day
25 hours - beginning of heart
35 hours - beginning of ear
42 hours - heart beats

Third day
60 hours - beginning of nose
62 hours - beginning of legs
64 hours - beginning of wings

Fourth day - beginning of tongue

Fifth day - formation of reproductive organs and differentiation of sex

Sixth day - beginning of beak

Eighth day - beginning of feathers

Tenth day - beginning of hardening of beak

For the remainder of the days, I'll post the development on that day's post.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 11 - Video!

Friday May 21, 2010

Incubator Temperature: 99°
Humidity 60%
Turning Eggs:
O @ 7:00 am
X @ 3:00 pm

Today we decided to take a video of one of the eggs while we were candling.  The chicks are moving now and it's so fun to see them wiggle around.

Check out our video!  Watch in the upper right of the video screen for the wing flap!

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Day 9

Wednesday May 19th
6:30 am
Incubator temperature: 102° !!!!
Humidity 30%

Yikes! What happened?  We came in early Wednesday morning to to turn the eggs and found that the incubator temperature had risen to 102° overnight.  The humidity level was very low at 30%.
We quickly opened up the incubator to let the heat.  This should decrease the internal temperature inside the eggs.  Then we took a sample of eggs to candle to make sure the embryos were OK.

We checked white eggs : #8, #6 and #2 and brown egg #4.  All had some movement.  Whew!

Once the temperature had reached 99°, we added warm water to the incubator reservoir, and closed the lid.  We closely monitored the temperature all day.

So, why did this happen? 

Our prediction: during the night, the water evaporated in the incubator and the temperature rose.

What can we do to make sure this doesn't happen again? 
1) Make sure we have water in the reservoir at all times, especially before bedtime.  During the night the incubator doesn't get checked as often as during the day.
2) Make sure the temperature of the incubator is at 99° before going to bed.  If it's running a little high (100°), turn down the thermostat a little.
3) Check the incubator in the middle of the night.

Go to next day, Day 11.
(There is no day 10)

Day 8

Tuesday May 18th

Incubator Temperature: 99°
Humidity 64%
Turning Eggs:
X @ 7:15 am
O @ 3:00 pm
X @ 11:00 pm

Go to next...Day 9

Day 7 - Candle Party Part II, the brown eggs

Monday May 17, 2010

After being frustrated trying to candle all 25 eggs yesterday, we decided to hold off and candle the brown Australorp eggs today.

Brown eggs are really hard to candle.  Brown shells block the light shining through.  Some of the lighter brown ones are easier to candle, but many are darker brown and are hard to see much of anything.

Candle results for the brown Australorp Eggs
Eggs positive for growing embryos: #3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 13
Eggs with no signs of life: #1, 8, 12
Eggs where we can't tell for sure: #2, 7

# 8 brown egg shows a blood ring.  It's a sign of a dead and probably abnormal embryo from a fertile egg.

We'll candle all the eggs again on Day 14 to confirm our results.

Go to next day (Day 8) here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 6 - Candle Party

It's Sunday May 16th.  Today's the day that we're candling all the eggs.  We're so excited!

After washing our hands, Molly, my egg helper, gets all the white Leghorn eggs quickly into a clean egg carton.  We close the incubator leaving the brown eggs behind to stay warm.  We hurry off to the dark closet with flashlight in hand, and our notebook.

We work quickly candling the eggs starting at #1.  As we shine the flashlight into the egg, uh, oh #1 looks like a dud.  No veins, just a light colored yolk.  We move on to #2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.  They all show an embryo growing!  # 8 is a favorite as it's so easy to see the baby chick growing.

# 10 and #12 are also duds--with no signs of life.

#11 has an embryo too!

So out of 12 Leghorn eggs, 9 are growing and 3 are duds.  So if we do the math, that's 75% of the white eggs are growing embryos and 25% are duds.

#11 Leghorn egg showing great growth!
See the eye behind the X ?

We quickly return the white eggs to the incubator and take about 4 of the brown Australorp eggs to candle.  Wow!  The brown eggs are much harder to candle!  Do you know why?  It's their brown shell.  It doesn't let the light through as easily.  After a few minutes struggling to see inside the brown eggs, we decide it's taking too long and we're worried the eggs are cooling off.  So we decide to candle the brown eggs tomorrow.

Go to next day (Day 7) here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 5

It's Saturday May 15 and it's Day 5 of the hatch.  We know from our ChickQuest book that we should start seeing some signs of life in the eggs if they are fertile.  

We decide to candle a few of the eggs.  Candling eggs allows you to keep track of the progress of your egg incubation. First we wash our hands, then we take an egg into a dark room.  Then we shine a bright LED flashlight at one end of the egg.  This allows us to see into the egg.  

 Yay!  #4 white egg shows a beautiful spider pattern of veins that tells us the embryo is growing!

Here's a great site that has lots of info about candling eggs: 4-H Embryology 

Got to next day (Day 6) here.

Days 2-4

It's all about temperature, turning and waiting.

The temperature in the incubator seems to fluctuate a lot.  Too cold, the embryos won't grow, too hot and they will die.  We are fine tuning the temperature by turning the dial on the incubator. We turn the dial ever so slightly to increase or decrease the temperature.  Having a thermostat would make things much easier.

Turn, Turn, Turn. We turn the eggs 3 times a day so that the embryo doesn't get stuck on one side of the egg shell.  We are careful to wash our hands before touching the eggs.  They can pick up bacteria and die.

Waiting.  It's hard to wait and wonder if anything is growing in the eggs. 

Go to next day (Day 5) click here.

Day 1 of ChickQuest

Welcome to the Douglas Family's blog about the 4-H ChickQuest project. We are incubating 25 chicken eggs in an incubator in our home. This is the first time we have ever done follow along to see what hatches!

The Cast of Characters . . .

The incubator.  This is a forced air Little Giant that we borrowed from our friends, the Hanges.  The eggs will incubate in here for 21 days.  We will turn them by hand 3 times a day and closely monitor the temperature and humidity.  We're finding how hard it is to imitate a hen!

The eggs!  We have 12 white Leghorn eggs that were  donated to our 4-H club by the County Extension office.  We also have 13 Australorp brown eggs.  These eggs came from the Hange family.

Thermometers.  In order to maintain a constant temperature of 99.5 degrees  we have 2 thermometers in the incubator.  The one on the left reads the air temperature.  The one on the right is set up in a "water wiggle" that we made.  The water wiggle is a ziplock bag filled with water and rolled up.  We placed the temperature probe inside so it's very similar to what the temperature is inside the egg.  

This is the hygrometer.  It measure the humidity inside the incubator.  We calibrated the hygrometer and found it runs about 7% high.  So we make sure to subtract 7% when we write in our log book.  We can increase humidity in the incubator by adding small amounts of warm water to the incubator base where there are a number of channels that can hold water.  We usually add about 2 - 4 ounces of water each day.

This is the ChickQuest 4-H project book. Read more about the project here: 4-H Science Alive: ChickQuest

Inside the ChickQuest book. This is where collect the data each day on our incubating eggs.  It tracks the day, how many times we turn the eggs, the temperature and humidity.  It also has cool pictures of what's happening each day as the chick develops.

Day 1:  Tuesday May 11, 2010

The eggs have arrived!  We're ready to start ChickQuest!

With a soft pencil, we carefully numbered each egg and marked an X on one side and an O on the other.  This is so we can keep track of which side we have turned.

We weighed each egg and recorded that on a piece of notebook paper.  The white eggs weighed less on average than the brown eggs.  The smallest eggs weighed 2.0 oz and the largest was a brown egg ( #9) that weighed 2.5 oz.

We loaded the preheated incubator with the 25 chicken eggs on Tuesday May 11, 2010.  We were nervous and excited.  We felt like a surrogate mother to 25 embryos.  The temperature was 99 degrees and the humidity was 65%.  Here we go!

Go to next