It has been VERY exciting around here! Two hens have gone broody for Mother’s Day weekend and are crammed into the same nesting box every night helping share egg warming duty. And I have seen three viable embryos squirming around in their shells (in the incubator). Merlin is assuming his fatherly role with great seriousness, too. I try to linger at the coop during tuck-in so I can talk sweetly to Jersey (the broody hen) and commend her. But Merlin leans way over and looks upside-down under his roost to check on the two hens crammed into the nesting box. Seeing them there, he then glances over at me and hops right off his roost, landing with a thud on the floor (because he is so big) and comes over to the coop door and sharpens his beak menacingly while glaring at me sideways from under his floppy comb. I back up and start closing the door, assuring him I am just looking after the food and water. Then I go to the other door to check on the food and he ker-thunks his way over there to glare at me until I close the door. I am going to start wearing my chaps down there because it’s getting warm here and if he decides to use that beak on my bare legs it won’t be fun! He has small claws on his feet but they are growing, too. As is his spur. Funny guy – such a real character! It is so interesting to watch!
I’ve already had a wonderful breakfast made by Dave – as he always does here – and the boys are all outside playing or working in the sun. I wanted to get these pictures up for family far away, but near to our hearts, so you could be part of the day. I hope you’ve enjoyed your Mother’s Day as well and know we are thinking of you! I had fun talking to Mary and my mom this morning, with the loud racket of boys in the background. And I’ve left a few surprise Mother’s Day calls to dear friends – and fellow mothers 🙂 Love you all!
UPDATE UPDATE! Dave just reported in that there are BABIES now in the robin’s nest (not sure if she is a robin) and the kids just found TADPOLES in their little tub they’ve been watching for over a month! BIG tadpoles swimming around! It’s magic here!
Last night when I candled the eggs (with a new contraption I made from a flashlight, a box, and a piece of wood, and a lot of tape – see box at right of this photo) I got to see some embryos MOVING AROUND! It was like holding a piece of the Creation moment right in your hand. Or watching an alien on a space ship. It was so cool! I am so excited to see some life in there at last. My candling efforts had been difficult the last few days – it has to be pretty dark, and you have to block out almost all the light from the candling source so your eyes can focus on the egg contents only (otherwise they’re too stimulated by the contrast between light and dark and your rods can’t help you pick up the subtle movements). It is getting really exciting here!
We are on day 7 of our incubation adventure and we saw the vitelline vessels were visible on about half of them (at least) when we candled the eggs last night! So exciting! It basically looks like a little spider sitting on top of the egg yolk. We are not sure how many of our eggs were fertilized by Merlin, so we don’t know how many of the dozen will hatch. I have them marked X on top and O on the bottom so I know if I’ve turned them. You need to alternate the overnight sides so they don’t spend the overnight on the same side each night. The hen turns the eggs about every 35 minutes, but in an incubator you shoot for at least 3 times a day, always odd number of turnings (to alternate the side exposed to the heat source each night). I also keep water in the incubator to ensure humidity levels are about right. I don’t have a hygrometer, only a thermometer, but these incubators have been around a long time so I’m hoping for the best. And this time I AM actually following directions! Ben will hopefully have a peep or two pip out on his birthday May 21! I will try to attach a picture of candling this evening so you can see. Here’s a link to what we saw just in case I can’t get a good shot: http://www.giffsfarm.com/candledeggs.html