It’s been three long weeks since we put the eggs in the incubator to hatch, and two weeks since we candled them for fertility, which brought the numbers down from 17 to 8.

I haven’t messed with them since then, and just let the incubator do its work. Every hour the eggs were turned, to the accompaniment of a little happy egg turning tune. Then on Tuesday evening, the incubator switched into hatching mode. The egg turning mechanism switched itself off, the temperature dropped half a degree, and the humidity rose to 60% to emulate the conditions for hatching under the broody hen. Friday (today at the time of writing).

Thursday evening, a day ahead of schedule, this little chap was born.

We put him in the brooder this morning, all by himself since no more eggs had hatched during the night. By lunchtime he’d fluffed up quite a lot, and was confidently eating and drinking.

I went to the allotment this morning, and stayed until about 11:30. When I got back, to my delight (and relief) another two had hatched. I was beginning to have visions of raising a single lonely chick in the brooder; he was already cheeping loudly at his reflection in the brooder walls, so desperate was he for company!

Several more eggs were by now showing signs of life. Small pieces of shell were dropping onto the incubator floor as the chicks created their first air hole. A cup of tea was called for, and I planned to settle down and watch. I’d dearly like to see the hatching process itself. It took me perhaps ten minutes to return with my tea, and (you’ve guessed it) another chick had hatched in my brief absence.

I was just writing a post on Allotments 4 All about the chicks when I realised that I was indeed going to see a hatch. First the chicks clustered round the egg as if to encourage their new sibling …

… then the small hole in the shell extends, and suddenly the chick pushes his way out. The newly hatched bird looks a bit bedraggled, since he’s still damp from the egg, but the warm moist air from the incubator very soon has him looking smart.

As I finish this post, we have 7 chicks, with just one still in the egg. I’ve photographed three of them as they hatch, so I’ll do a separate blog entry with a further selection of pictures showing them emerging from the shell.

And at the rate the chicks in the brooder are growing, I’d better prepare the next size up in feeders and drinkers!

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