Tag Archives: incubator

Unexpected Chicks! Part Two: The Bad and the Ugly

At the end of my last post, I had seven adult chickens in my chicken tractor, and nine new chicks in a temporary brooder.  The brooder is literally just a storage container with a heat lamp hovering above it in my garage – because 1) I’m busy and 2) I’m cheap.  Cheep cheep.

I’ve been planning for some time now to build a glorious permanent coop and spacious chicken run that is split into four quadrants.  I’ll rotate the chickens through each of the run quadrants, so that they’ll eat everything in sight in one section, then move through the others while vegetation grows back.  At the same time, my plan is to allow one quadrant to double as my garden (or a portion of it) because the chickens will fertilize it and because I plant to cover it with netting to keep birds out of the run anyways.  The garden would move through each quadrant as well, so the the chickens could eat the old plants and scratch at the dirt, basically tilling the soil, composting and fertilizing it for me.

But that’s the future plan.  Immediately, I had nine chicks crawling on top of each other with nowhere to go.  To make matters worse, I was out of town here and there, so I was constantly just figuring out what to do with them immediately, rather than long term.

They were ok for a while.  Early on, they need to stay warm anyways, so they would be fairly cuddled up even when they didn’t have to be due to space.  It didn’t take long for them to simply have nowhere to go, though.  And a couple of them figured out how to get out of the brooder (which had some chicken wire laid on top to give the false sense of a ceiling), so I’d sometime find a chick on the outside looking in.  They’re extremely territorial, so even when they escaped, they really just wanted to get back in, which was prevented because of the chicken wire.

My first bright idea was to put them back in the chicken tractor with the adult chickens, since they were a little older and I thought they might be able to fend for themselves.  Not a good idea.

I came back in the evening and two of them were gone.  I assume they ventured too far away from the flock (or technically, the clutch of chicks) and were a predator’s dinner.  But even worse, two of the chicks had been shown who was boss in the chicken tractor…

bald-chick

Yes – you’re looking at that right.  One (or more) of the other chickens took the skin right off of it’s head.  I’d like to think they were just getting a jump on preparing a boneless, skinless chicken breast, but the reality is that they were simply laying down the law.  I found that one balled up in a corner under the ‘stairs’ up to the coop, terrified.  The pecking order is real, folks.

I felt terrible, and wondered if the little guy (or girl – I can’t tell) would make it through the night.  Luckily, it did!  By the next day, its head was fairly scabbed up and healing well.  I frantically searched for another broody box so I could separate the two wounded birds so that they didn’t get sick, then infect the other healthy chicks.

chick-segregation

I found a shelf that I had taken down from the garage, threw some newspaper down, and laid the shelf on the ground.  It gave them probably ten times the space, but they were just chirping at each other, hoping to be reunited.

As they grew, I knew that my temporary pen was still…  temporary…  I kept putting off the eventual permanent coop, and trying to figure out what to do in the immediate timeframe.  I even tried to let them outside again – not necessarily into the chicken tractor with the others, but just outside to roam free.  Unfortunately, the same scalping occurred, and I knew i couldn’t do that again.  But, man, were they stinking up my garage.

disgusting-chicks

I ended up building a step between the brooder and the chicken tractor, which was pretty much just a fenced in run without a coop.  It was a simple frame with chicken where stapled around it, with a piece of wood laid across the top to give them a little shelter.

temp-run

Apparently, I didn’t staple the chicken wire enough, though…  After the first night in their new outdoor home, I found remains of two of them where a predator had pulled them through the spaces between the wire and wood.  Well – one of them had been mostly dragged through the spaces, while the other laid decapitated in the corner.  That’ll teach me to think “close enough.”

I stapled every inch of the chicken wire to the wooden frame, and assumed all was well for the remaining five chicks.

The next morning, however, I came back out to the same sight – the only variation being that two had been pretty much eaten through the chicken wire.  Whatever had done it (I think a raccoon or a possum, because of opposable thumbs.  I’m betting on raccoon.) had grabbed them in the corner and probably munched one what they could, even with the wire separating them.

If I were a chick in this redneck run, I’d be terrified to close my eyes.

I assumed the reason the predator got the chicks is because the chicks gather in the corners of the frame, so it had to be easy for them to reach in their hand for their dinner.  The other chicks would have basically blocked in the victim – and chickens are surprisingly calm at night.  I’ve had very skittish birds allow me grab them with no trouble after the sun went down.

So – I stapled feed bags all around half of the frame, so that the chicks could gather in a safe, covered portion.  No way anything would happen now!

temp-run-closed

Wrong.  The predator returned and literally peeled back the corner of a feedbag as if it were tupperware, keeping his leftovers fresh from the evening before.

temp-run-escape

I was down to two chicks.  I then thought I was losing them because chickens generally roost at night to avoid predators, and I had no roost.  I figured I could add a roost so that they would stay away from the corners, and the predator wouldn’t be able to reach them.

temp-run-roost

Nope.  The next morning I was down to one chick.  For some reason, the newly deceased chick was drawn to the edge of the frame instead of the safe metal pipe in the middle of their covered shelter.

I decided I need to completely rethink my temporary run.  And for the time being, because the other chickens had been around the chicks for the last few days and had gotten used to them, I figured it was time to put the last remaining chick in the chicken tractor.

This worked.  It was obvious that he was an outcast, but there were no blood-drawing fights. Anytime I went out to check on them, the others were out and about, enjoying the cage-free, free-range, non-GMO bugs that were available to them.  The chick, however, would be pacing inside the coop, wondering when the monster’s claws would find  him.

A few days into him integrating into the coop, I thought I would help nudge him outside to enjoy the benefits that the others already knew.

That was the last I saw him.

But hey – I’ve got a couple chicks going broody again!

Unexpected Chicks! Part One: The Good


Taking eggs from chickens is a little strange when you think about it.

Obviously, an egg forming in a chicken’s body and then ending up on our plate is magical or whatever, but I’m talking about the actual experience of getting the egg.

My small coop has three nesting boxes, so anytime I swing by, I lift the little roof I made over the boxes to see if there are any presents for me.  There’s always a lot of poop, often some eggs, and usually a chicken screaming at me.

Think about it…  It’s as if you’re minding your own business, sitting in a public restroom, when the entire ceiling lifts up and a giant peers in each of the stalls.  I’d scream, too.  Creep.  But the screams don’t seem to deter him – he awkwardly keeps looking, completely disregarding your personal space.

Even weirder, the giant grabs something that others have left in the stalls.  And you know that he’ll come back for what you leave as well.

Sorry – this is simply where my mind goes.

I’ve had a number of chickens go broody over the summer, which I did not anticipate.  If I haven’t already said it, a broody chicken is one that simply wants to sit on eggs for the purpose of hatching them.  They’re quite determined to stay there once they start – you can pick them up and move them (as long as you’re not deterred by their screams) and they’ll go right back to the nest.  They will forego eating and drinking for the sake of sitting on the eggs.

At first, I only had one broody chicken.  For a week or two, she sat there by herself, staring at the wall.  I looked up how to ‘break’ a broody chicken and found that it’s difficult, because it’s a hormonal stage.  Basically, the underside of hen heats up, and when she’s not sitting on eggs she wants to be.  In one video I found, a family dunks the belly of a broody hen under chilly water for a few minutes, lowering her body temperature.  Apparently, when the temperature of her belly is lowered, she just forgets that she was broody.

No such luck for me.  After sincerely freaking my hen out (she got me as wet as I got her), and finally getting her mostly under water for five minutes or so, she makes a bee line right back to her nest.  I tried this multiple times, and it never broke her.

Not long after that, other hens went broody.  I only have three nesting boxes, but I’d sometimes peek in to see two or even three hens in one box – totaling four or five broody hens at a time.  Though I don’t know if all of them were truly broody, or if a couple of them were faking to be part of the ‘in’ crowd.  Apparently – like sneezing – broodiness begets broodiness.  Some farmers put curtains over their nesting boxes to prevent non-broody hens from seeing their broody sisters – that way they’re not tempted to join in.

Anywho, eggs need to incubate for twenty-one days before they hatch, and as I was strolling by the coop one day, I heard a few tweets from the coop.  And since they don’t have access to my wifi (#TwitterYolk!), I opened up the nesting boxes to find a cute chick tucked under a hen’s feathers.  The hen was even more scream-y than she was before the hatching.

new-chick

Right before a chick hatches it eats the yolk, so it doesn’t need food or water for a couple of days.  Because of this, and because I figured the hen knew what to do better than I did, I just left it alone.  One hatched chick can encourage the other unhatched chicks just by moving around and tweeting.  Well – as long as the other chicks are following its tweets.  (#AnotherTwitterYolk!)

The next day, I found this!

two-chicks

The order of events is fuzzy at this point because it was a few months ago, but another hen hatched two more eggs right within the next couple of days.  Around the same time, I started putting chick feed in the broody boxes, because there was really no other way to get them to eat.  (Side note – the other hen had apparently stopped eating while broody, because its beak was elongated and pointed down.  I put food right in front of her and she had a hard time eating, but the next day her beak was back to normal size.)

The chicks started jumping out of the broody boxes, which caused the hens to also jump down to protect them.  Because there were four chicks and two hens (and one “aunt” – a hen who stopped going broody and was basically trying to act like the mother of the first two chicks), there were some fights.  At one point, I noticed that one of the chicks was bleeding, most likely because the rival hen wanted to show it who was boss.  Because of this, and because I was hoping that the hens could show them how to scratch and eat from the ground, I put them all outside.

chicks-outside

They did pretty well – they were always close to their respective hen, and it was really interesting to watch the hen act out what she wanted the chicks to do over and over.  (By the way, I keep simply saying “hen” rather than mother because the hen who hatched them isn’t necessarily their biological mom.  Whoever is sitting on the egg when it hatches is identified as its mom.  So I might use “mom” from here on out to make things easier.)

All of the truly broody hens had completely abandoned the unhatched eggs because they had to take care of the chicks, so I put the rest of the eggs in my incubator, just in case some were on the brink of hatching.

Because I had to put them back in the coop each night (the chicks specifically – the hens would follow), and then put them outside again the next morning, it wasn’t necessarily the best situation.  There was a little bit of chick feed in the coop, but the adults kept eating that quicker than their own feed, so the chicks were having to fend for themselves.

On top of that, because they’d be awake in the morning well before I let them out, there were still some rivalries and fights that I couldn’t stop.  I ended up putting the chicks in a little brooder box so that I could keep them safe and fed.  And not long after that, two more chicks hatched in the incubator!

brooder

Over the next week or two, three more chicks hatched in the incubator, totaling nine chicks!  I definitely didn’t anticipate having that many…  Heck – I didn’t anticipate even one hatching, because I still only have the one chicken tractor.  I’ve been planning on building a stationary coop for a while, but just haven’t had the time or motivation.

So – I figured as these nine chicks started growing, I’d quickly need to find the time and motivation.  And you’ll have to wait until the next blog post to see if that happened!

Bee Aggression, Chicken Detective

A lot has happened since my last post – here’s a quick list:

  • I was away from the real world at Camp Loucon for a week
  • My band shot a video (we’re actually not appearing in it, and I was just the guy holding a sweat rag for between takes)
  • We realized out that our construction loan was expiring in August, so we scrambled to get everything in order to refinance the loan to a normal mortgage.  (Don’t worry, Dave Ramsey – it’s a 15 year, and we have more than 20% equity in it!)
  • Part of what we had to get in order was the house.  So, we quickly tallied up what we had to get done to have an appraiser come by.  Another list!
    • We had to pour the concrete for our front porch and sidewalk
    • We had to fix the septic tank cover that broke when the concrete truck drove over it while pouring front porch and sidewalk (which involved me pouring a literal ton of concrete – yes, over 2,000 pounds – after my uncle helped me form a new tank lid)
    • Putting all the hardware on the kitchen cabinets
    • An immense amount of painting, staining, and polyurethaning
    • Lots and lots and lots (and lots) of general fixes around the house
    • Cleaning
    • Anything else not mentioned above that might make a big difference in an appraisal
  • Multiple trips to various county government buildings to pull or file forms needed for closing, requested from my bank AFTER they needed them, which has resulted in pushing back our closing date twice.

On Friday we got our final inspection from the county, and the day before we had an appraiser come out.  So – barring anymore stupid requests from our bank (we’ve not had great experiences with them, so I won’t link them or give their name – ask me if you want to know who to avoid), we’re DONE!

Back to what I know all of you have come to see…

My Bees are Trying to Kill Me

I guess it’s only fair that my bees are ramping up their venomous attacks on me, considering I kill a few of them each time I move their homes…  When I first got stung, I had fairly minor swelling (not to mention a fever and convulsive shaking), so I assumed that future stings would give me less of a reaction.  On the contrary – I’ve been swelling way more.

First – how I got stung:

A few weeks ago, I was inspecting my hives like any normal computer programmer does.  It’s been a surprisingly cool summer in middle Tennessee, but that’s not to say it’s cold, but rather low 90’s.  When I do my hive inspections, I wear long sleeves, long pants, long gloves and a bee veil.  As such, I get very hot.  And I sweat.

There have been a number of times that I have mistaken sweat slowly dripping down my leg as a bee, and had to calm myself down at the thought of a tiny stinger zeroing in on my nether regions.  “That’s sweat moving down, David,” the inner dialogue usually goes, “bees would start at the bottom of the pant leg and move up.”

But this time…  This time the sweat was moving up.  Wait – not sweat.

I honestly didn’t know what to do.  At first, I just thought I’d leave it alone – it crawled in, so maybe it will crawl out.  When it got to my inner thigh, however, I knew it was time for action.

I swatted my leg out of sheer terror.  No plan, just swat.  It’s obvious what the outcome of that would be (though I didn’t think of that at the time), but I’d much rather she sting me on the thigh while waltzing up my leg than pretty much anywhere north of there.

After I had sat the box full of bees down, I ran through the woods trying to get far enough away to…

…take off my pants.

Well, not all the way, but enough to get the stinger out of my inner thigh and allow the dead bee to roll out onto my sock.  It had to be a funny sight – a guy completely covered from head to toe except for the exposed underwear.  Or creepy, at least.  Good thing my neighbors aren’t too close.

I finished the rest of the inspection after tucking my pant legs into my shoes.  I’ve heard other beekeepers suggest wrapping duct tape around your pant legs, but I was always under the impression that it was to prevent ticks.  I will soon add duct tape to my beekeeping equipment.

Immediately, the sting was just annoying, but not too swollen.  The next morning, however, it took up my entire thigh.  I drew a sharpie line around it to keep an eye on the swelling.  I popped benadryl and used a topical antihistamine cream for the next few days – and eventually it went away.

So, on my next trip out to the hives, I started out by tucking my pants into my shoes.  (Still need to get that duct tape)  All went perfectly during the inspection, but when I was taking off my gloves I didn’t realize I had a bee in my elbow pit.  When I bent my arm, it knew of its impending doom and went out in a blaze of glory.

Day One:

beesting1

“Arm Selfies” are a thing, right?

 

Day Two:

beesting2

Sheesh – looking at them back to back makes me think I might have actually had a bad reaction.  I haven’t learned my lesson, though – luckily.  At least it takes a day to swell, and not a few minutes.  That’ll give me enough time to drive to the hospital if needed.

Again, benadryl and antihistamine cream, and I’m right as rain.  Though I have discovered that non-drowsy benadryl causes me to sleep for a very, very long time in the middle of the day.

CHICKS!

teenage-chicks

Er – wait…  Not really chicks anymore.  These are like…  Chickens.  Or at least fowl teenagers.

They’re not full grown yet – they hatched about a month ago, and it could be a couple of months before the hens start laying – but I’m amazed at how fast they have grown.  Before I left for camp, they definitely had grown since the furballs hatched – but when I got back, it seemed like someone replaced them with larger, feathered creatures.  I wish I got a better picture – but hopefully you can see just how huge they’ve gotten compared to the feeder.

I had to give them a bigger box and put a bit of chicken wire on top because they would flap their wings anytime they’re nervous.  A couple of days ago, I went out to the garage (where they’re staying now), and one of them was standing on top of the box.  Luckily, I think it was scared of its newfound freedom, and was just walking around above the other chickens, not wanting to let them out of its sight.  There was a fairly small opening on one side of the box where the chicken wire was too short, so I had to cover it.

I’m not a Murderer!  …I think…
[***Warning – pictures of dead chicks ahead***]

After the remaining eggs sat in the incubator a day or two after they should have hatched, I decided to play detective to see if I could find out why they didn’t hatch.  What I found was a fairly interesting progression of chicken development.

dead-chick1

Ok…  So – I might have killed this one.

It’s pretty much fully developed, and I think it died just before eating the yoke (which busted when I cracked it open).  Heck – the picture looks like it’s ready to chirp.  But it won’t chirp.  It will never chirp.  I blame myself for opening the incubator too much.

After that, in the order I opened them, they get smaller and less developed.

dead-chick2

dead-chick3

dead-chick4

dead-chick5

They might have died for any number of reasons, but one reason could be that the temperature wasn’t perfect, and that I didn’t have anything circulating the air in the incubator.  But this is speculation, which I’m probably not even close on.  Some detective…

It’s probably good that only five hatched, though – because I’m definitely running out of space in the current brood box.  I started building a chicken tractor on Saturday, and I’m fairly close to finishing it.  (I wanted to finish this post before adding anything about the chicken tractor, so that I have two blogs rather than one at 5000 words)

Because of everything that’s been going on my world, I probably wouldn’t have been able to build the chicken tractor sooner, which means they’d all be sitting on top of each other right now.  Currently, they’re merely sitting very, very  close to each other.

[Actually, I’ve already moved them into the run on the chicken tractor, which is unfinished, because it’s taken me almost a week to finish this post…]

So – next time you tune in, I’ll have a bunch of fun pictures of building a chicken tractor.  I promise, no pictures of dead chicks.  Well – unless one of my chickens dies and I feel like it’s worth posting a picture.  But even then – not a chick.

But I’ll leave you with a teaser on the chicken tractor production:

wood

chick-banner

I’m Officially a Farmer

It took every ounce of willpower in me not to make a title like “I’m Surrounded by Hot Chicks” or the like.  I mean, that would probably get more hits from search engines…  I’ve already warned my wife that I’ll be using puns like that often from here on out.

I’ve got chickens!

Late Friday night, I thought I started hearing chirping sounds from my incubator – which I found a little strange, because none of the eggs had hatched…  I checked and rechecked, and each time I stood silently by the incubator I heard nothing.  As soon as I left the room, though, the little high pitched sounds drifted around me.

I thought I might be crazy, because hearing chirping from inside an egg would be a lot like hearing a baby crying while still in the mother’s womb.  Maybe that’s happened before, but I’m not aware.  And it would be very weird.

Around 3am, I was still awake, and checked on the eggs one last time before going to bed, and I did indeed hear the chirping coming from the incubator while my ear was right beside it.  I’m not crazy.  *whew*

I then woke up at 6am to the lively chirping of a definitely hatched chick!  (I don’t think I’ve mentioned before that the incubator has been in my dining room, much to my wife’s chagrin)  I tiptoed out of my bedroom and found this little guy (or girl) wondering what in the world was going on…

first-chick

My brother had told me not to open the incubator once they started hatching because any drastic change to the temperature or humidity could kill the unhatched chicks (either drowning them because the air bubble inside gets too small, or shrink wrapping them with the shell membrane), and I had confirmed it from websites that I’d been reading.  But in that moment, my excitement trumped any logical thought I had in my head.

I started freaking out because the humidity gauge was reading a little high, and I was scared that the open egg was – well I don’t know why I was scared of the open egg.  I opened the incubator without thinking, and put him in my temporary brooder and grabbed the broken eggshell.  I then had a thought that the egg might need to stay with him (because before they hatch, they eat the rest of the yoke, and I had the thought that maybe they continue to nibble on it), so I googled it.  I would be lost all the time if not for Google.

Google shamed me for opening the incubator, and reminded me that I needed to leave all chicks in the incubator until they were dry and fluffy.  As you can see from the above photo, it was definitely not dry and fluffy.  So I again opened the incubator and put it back inside.  Surely I learned my lesson, right?

I stared at the little guy (girl?) for a while, and then realized it was barely after 6am, and I went to bed at 3am, so if I didn’t go back to bed I would probably collapse soon.  I could survive on three hours of sleep in college – and did often, sometimes resulting in the best test scores of my college career – but I can’t do that anymore at 31.  I’m getting old.

So after a few more hours of shut-eye, I bolted out to the dining room to see what else had occurred.

Not much.

I did see a few eggs with some tiny cracks, which my brother informed me to be called “pipping.”   Basically, the chick inside is pecking at the shell and makes a tiny little hole, and they could hatch anywhere from immediately to 48 hours later.  So, I did what any rational person would do: I stared at the eggs for a very, very long time.

The day before, I had decided that I was going to get a lot done on this day, so I motivated myself to get on with my pre-determined projects.  Literally every 20 minutes or so, I’d hover over the incubator to see if anything else had happened.  Around noon, the second one emerged, and the first knew it was time to establish the pecking order – which I now know to be a very literal phrase.  Kind of the oldest-child syndrome to the violent extreme.

In no time, both of these little dudes were dancing around and climbing all over the other eggs, rolling them around like they were playing a game.  I’d probably be freaking out again, but I’d read that that’s ok, and it, along with chirping, actually inspires the other chicks to hatch.  It took a while longer (while I was busying myself with other projects), but a total of four eggs hatched that day.

I won’t lie.  I opened the incubator a few more times.  I was still freaking out about the humidity, and was terrified that the unhatched chicks were going to die because it was 1% off.  I also got impatient, because one little guy worked on breaking out for hours and hours, and I helped him along a bit.  At first I thought that I hurt him, because when he got completely out he was still connected to the egg by his bum.  I did some more googling, and found out that his umbilical cord was still connected – which happens occasionally – and it would fall off soon enough.  I couldn’t help but think that it was because I tried to step in…

After a lot more checking and rechecking, I went to bed that night.  This morning, I woke up to another chick!

Nothing else really happened – we went to church and when we got back they were all pretty much fighting as siblings do.  Except day old human siblings don’t peck at each others’ faces.  Maybe they would if they had beaks, but luckily they don’t.

Yesterday evening, I moved all five (yes, I know…  I opened the incubator again!) to the temporary brooder because they were all fluffy and dry at this point.  I quickly saw that my brooder is going to be too small if any other eggs hatched.  I’m very afraid that no others will hatch, though, because of my constant overbearingness.  And if they don’t hatch, I’m confident it’s because I killed them.

I started with fifteen, and I’ve still got five eggs left in the incubator, but I feel like hatching five of them is an accomplishment.  And next time, I’ll keep the incubator closed.

Ok, I probably won’t.

candled-egg-banner

You Win Some, You Lose Some

A lot has happened over the last three weeks!

First – The Bees

At the risk of sounding confident, I’m actually getting a hang of this whole beekeeping thing…  I guess about two weeks ago, I decided to remove the top feeders in both my hives, because both hives had a decent amount of “honey” stored up.  (I put quotes around honey, because a lot of the honey was made from my sugar syrup rather than nectar)  I figured that, while flowers were blooming, it would be better for them to go out and gather rather than lazily assume that food will always be raining down over their heads like manna.  That way, when I put my first medium honey super on, I’ll get pure honey rather than sugar water.

I put my second deep brood boxes on both hives about three weeks ago, before removing the top feeder.  The last time I poked my head in, they hadn’t drawn much of the new frames out – just starting on the center frames – but there were a good amount of bees exploring it.  I’m going to be checking in today – so it probably would have been better for me to wait to post with a fresh update, but I just wanted to post everything that has happened lately.  (Or I won’t – because it started raining as I was writing this)

Two deeps deep!

Two deeps deep!

I also removed the entrance reducers for both hives, which are used to simply reduce the size of the entrance so that a small hive can defend itself.  If they have a wide entrance, then robbers (bees from other hives that are low on honey stores) could come in and steal honey without encountering a lot of bees.  The first hive (the one with only one mark on the entrance, and the one that I thought had no queen for a while) pretty much immediately covered the entire entrance board, which proved that the reducer was getting in their way.  Later that day, the second hive, however, only had a few bees around where the entrance used to be, and seemed even less active than when I took the reducer off.  I put it back in, but somewhat awkwardly diagonal, so that bees could get in almost half of the whole entrance.  I checked on them a couple of days ago, though, and removed the entrance reducer at that point, and they’re defending like champs.

Strong defense of second hive entrance

Strong defense of first hive entrance

You can kind of see how I awkwardly placed this entrance reducer

You can kind of see how I awkwardly placed this entrance reducer on the second hive

The picture is above is fairly late in the day, so there are a lot more bees hanging out than mid-day.  I saw both hives bearding the other evening, and I thought I took a picture, but apparently I didn’t.  “Bearding” is basically when all the bees are home for the night, and a whole bunch of them cover the front of the hive because it’s hot inside – way more than the picture above.  If they’re bearding mid-day, then you’re probably about to have a swarm (half of your bees will leave, if not all) – or at least that’s how I understand it.  If I’d seen a hive of bees bearding before I learned all of this stuff, I probably would have assumed they were plotting to kill me.

Here’s a little zen bee moment for you…  Their buzzing is actually calming to me these days, because I’m continually in awe of them, and of the design that they are following perfectly (that results in honey for me!).  Around 1:40-2:00 you can see the queen (bottom right at the beginning, then bottom center when I turn the frame around.

Second – The Chickens

Two weeks ago Holly and I went up to Kentucky to see my family for Father’s Day, as well as go to Hasting Plants (my aunt’s greenhouse) for her annual season-end blowout.  (If you’re in the southern Indiana/Illinois area, you should check them out.  But – next year.  Season’s over!)  My brother was originally planning on giving me some eggs from his meticulously bred Delaware chickens, but the roosters up and died not too long before he started breeding them, so I got a mix of 15 Delaware, Ameraucana, and Black Copper Marans eggs.  I promptly put them in my incubator upon getting back home, and they’ve been sitting there for almost the entire time since.  I’ve opened it a few times to add water to keep the humidity up, but I’ve been trying to simply leave them alone.  For the first day or two, I constantly looked in on them – as if my eyes would make the process any faster…  I’ve calmed down since.

Chicken Incubator

I candled the eggs a few days ago, which is taking them in a dark location, and putting a light behind them to illuminate the inside of the egg.  A few of the eggs are blue-green, and I couldn’t see through those shells at all, and I think I need a few flashlight because the others still didn’t give me a great look.  The image at the top of this post is what a candled egg looks like – though that is not my image because I could barely see inside even when I wasn’t trying to get my camera ready.

I candled them again today, because there were a few that looked to me like they weren’t developing.  I didn’t take them out of the incubator early in the week, because I didn’t want to make an assumption and throw away good eggs.  When I did it today, though, 5 eggs still looked completely undeveloped, so I pulled them.  I cracked them open to confirm, and four of them looked like they never started developing, most likely because they were jostled too much during travel (all of those yolks were broken).  The last one started developing, but died probably on day 7, based on how the embryo looked.  I couldn’t tell at first, because the eggs had a large shadow ring inside it, which I thought might be a big crack in the shell messing with the light.  I called my brother and he told me it was probably a blood ring, which basically is a sure sign that the embryo died – and that was confirmed when I cracked it open.

I’ve still got about a week before they start hatching, which means I need to get on the ball in terms of preparation.  The first living arrangement won’t be too difficult, but building their long term home will take some time.  I figured if I actually got the eggs first, I would have some hard deadlines to make sure these things happen!

NewBee Mistake: She’s Alive!

Last time on our program, our hero discovered no signs of a queen in one of his hives, so he took measures into his own hands.

Whelp, I checked the frame of brood that I transferred into the “queenless” hive a few days after I placed it, expecting to see a queen cell.  No luck.

I checked again a few days later, and still no queen cell – but I magically saw a bunch of eggs!  And upon further inspection, I found my queen!  I don’t know why I was having so much trouble finding eggs or the queen previously, but she seems to be doing her job.  There I go trying to be in control, and they let me know that they were just fine on their own, thank-you-very-much.  I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that they know about what they’re doing a lot more than I do…

I was planning on opening up my hives today to get a picture, but it started raining just as I went outside.  I’m going to have to actually start paying attention to the weather, since it directly affects the things I do now.

In other news, though, I’m ready for chickens!

incubator

 

Well – maybe not completely ready – but I’m ready for eggs.  (At least in this case, the eggs are coming first)

My father-in-law’s college roommate gave the above incubator to my mother-in-law to give to me, and I picked up an egg turner from some folks on Craigslist last night.  Also got another heat lamp while I was there.  (I asked them why they were getting rid of all their hatching gear, and they said they went vegan.  Yup – it would make sense to get out of the chicken game if you won’t eat meat or eggs…)  I thought about doing without the egg turner, but my brother wisely encouraged me to get one – otherwise I’d have to turn them manually at least twice daily.  I told myself it wasn’t a very big commitment, but he shed light on the fact that for three weeks I would not be allowed to be gone for a day or two.  Plenty of people have friends feed their dogs/cats while they’re on vacation, but I’m not sure folks would understand the need if I said “Hey – can you swing by on Saturday morning to turn all the eggs, and then come by in the evening and put them back to how they were originally?  And Sunday, too?”

I’m hoping that I’ll be getting my eggs this weekend from my brother (some from him, and some from another farm that he orders from).  I’ll then have 21 days to figure out exactly what I’ll be doing for their different stages of life after that.  The immediate need of a space for the chicks is not a concern – there are a hundred options for that.  The thing that will keep me working is building a coop and run.  I’m also considering trying to build a chicken tractor (small movable coop/run), that would both buy me a little time on the big coop, and could act as a quarantine if I’ve got some sick birds.  And it would also allow them to eat some of the goodies in my yard.

I’ll have some land flowing with eggs and honey soon enough!  Though, I’m not sure I really want to see eggs flowing through my land…