Tuesday 5 August 2014

21 Days Later

Mr and Mrs Buff, suppliers of DNA and 8 of the eggs
Regular readers will recall my post of 15th July, where we had just set in the incubator, 17 Buff Orpington eggs, 8 from our own 'Mrs Buff' hen, plus 9 from Mentor Anne's Buffs. Well, time flies and 20 and a half days later we were delighted to see the dogs suddenly taking a keen interest in the incubator; they could presumably hear the first, almost inaudible cheepings of baby chicks starting to 'pip'. Obviously the poor dogs get evicted at this stage except under supervision. The incubator is in the Living Room, so we can sit in there in the evenings keeping an eye on dogs, reading books and listening to the ever louder commotion in there as eggs break open and chicks start moving about, steeling ourselves not to peek too often in case we let out the heat and humidity. We are still new enough chicken 'breeders' to be as excited as kids at Christmas watching the tiny cracks appear and the first tiny flakes of shell to be thrown off.

Just hatched this second - still wet and unable to stand.
Well, it's going extremely well. Over that night just 2 chicks hatched (one of Anne's eggs first and then one of ours) but several more started pipping. We are amazed by the speed that these babies burst out once they are pipping; the membrane around the blunt end of the egg seems to tear rapidly right round the egg starting at the pipping 'hole', as compared to the Guinea Fowl eggs where the babies seem to have to laboriously chip their way all round the circumference. 6 more babies 'fell' out in quick succession so that we had 8 hatchlings by mid afternoon of day 21.

First 8 are out and drying. 
The plan is to rescue them to the brooder box (but see also more on this later on) when they have dried out and got up walking about after 24 - 48 hours - they hatch with enough reserves of yolk in their fat little abdomens to go that long without food or water. I was going to leave them till tonight (Day 21 evening) but this morning we had our only failure (so far), one failed to make it all the way out and died half-emerged. I noticed the chicks pecking at the broken shell, and when I put my hand in to rescue this baby, they also tried a few tentative pecks at me - they looked hungry! I decided to rescue the 8 dry ones into the brooder where I could feed them and give them water, leaving a wet, just emerged, noisy one to encourage the remaining pippers and non movers.

A lettuce spinner bowl to transport the chicks.
Now it is 8 o'clock at night, Day 21 and we are still going strong. Anne was delighted to know that of the 13 we now have emerged safely, 9 were from her 9 eggs - a 100% fertility and hatch rate which is quite something in the chicken rearing world; we are both enormously impressed too by this little, reasonably priced (€190 several years ago), unsophisticated incubator for the loan of which many many thanks to Charlotte of the Mini Horses. Last time I looked there were numbers 9 through 13 drying and cheeping noisily in the incubator and at least one more of the remaining 3 eggs maybe starting to pip.

Buff Orpington chicks only hours old.
We will leave all this running through the night after which we may candle any remaining eggs and if they are fails, we will call it a day. What ever happens it has been a very successful incubation and hatch. Not so successful, the other half of this cunning plan. You will recall that 2 days before we set these eggs our 2013 Hubbard hen, Miss White went broody for her first time. We put half a dozen less vital eggs under her and dreamed that she might go full term, hatch them and then adopt, in addition to her real clutch, any Buff chicks we might be able to hatch in the 'incy'. Well she went full term and is actually still sitting there on her day 24, but in the process she managed to lose or break 5 of her real eggs, so she has been sitting for the last week on just one real egg plus 2 dummy (rubber) eggs. We toyed briefly with the idea of swapping the 2 dummies with a couple of pipping Buff eggs so that she might 'hatch' them, but there is a risk she will freak out and kill the intruders, especially if they smell or look different. So, No, we'll 'hand rear' these babies and leave Miss White be, sitting on that last egg for a few more days.

Feta cheese and courgette cake
Meanwhile, not satisfied with being able to cook other people's recipes really well, Liz had a go at inventing a new recipe for using up some of the current mini-glut of yellow courgettes. She took our standard recipe for Dorset Apple Cake, subtracted apples and sugar and substituted in equal weights of feta cheese and grated courgette. She baked it as you would the apple cake and it became our 'carbs' in a meal which included lamb's liver in creamy onion sauce and broccoli. It was gorgeous and will now go into the home 'cookbook' for further uses. We also think you could do any number of versions of it, maybe fishy ones, different cheeses, a bacon/lardon one and so on.

Bee hive 'smoker'
Tonight I am self-catering as Liz is at 'Knit and Natter', and I have used up the left overs (actually that piece I photographed on the plate above) with a thawed out portion of shepherd's pie and some steamed black kale and more yellow courgette. I can vouch for it's deliciousness and texture a second time round.

More news on the Buffs in the next post.


Anne Wilson said...

Great results, so pleased that our Mr Buffy has proved his fertility yet again.

Matt Care said...

Go Mr Buffy! On that one, Anne, what's likely to be the reason for our relatively low fertility (62.5% this time - we have now candled the three non-movers and they were infertile; they were dated 10th, 12th and 14th if that helps) Too many hens for our boy? Diet? Young rooster/hen?

Anne Wilson said...

How many hens do you have Matt? I would have thought with a large breed five or maybe six hens per cock. Mr. Buffy has three.

Matt Care said...

That's almost certainly our answer then, Anne. Our Buff Orp rooster is sole boss-cock over 9 hens (and our Guinea Fowl!) He does well, but we certainly can't swear to have seen him tread all of them every day. We'll bear that in mind in any future attempts.