When the scales fell from my eyes

I’ll explain why later in this post, but as part of our poultry keeping kit I felt the need for a very precise set of scales. Something like a laboratory balance. And indeed I eventually found exactly what I was looking for on eBay.

But imagine my surprise when I first did an eBay search to find around two and a half thousand sets of precision scales for sale. There couldn’t be that high a demand for weighing jewellery, lab samples, and suchlike, surely?

How naive I was. To be fair, I did eventually realise as I browsed the many offerings to find first a balance disguised as a cigarette packet, and then one disguised as a soft drink can, including a handy “herb grinder”. As in the screenshot below:

At last I understood! Of course, herbs and spices! How else can the aspiring chef get exactly the right balance of flavours when following Indian or Thai recipes?

With my mind set at rest, I continued my search, coming up with this bargain, which was designed for school or college use. It reads to one hundredth of a gram, gives consistent and repeatable results, and can be calibrated with a test weight.

And why did I want such a thing, if not for “herbs”?

Well, we’ve now done three hatches in the R-com 20 incubator. Of the fertile eggs, the first hatch gave us 8 out of 8 chicks, the second only 3 out of 10 ducklings, and the third 6 out of 9 chicks.

The question is, how could we improve? As the embryo develops, the egg loses weight by transpiration through the shell, and an air cell forms where the chick’s head will eventually lie. The egg should lose weight steadily by 2% every 3 days (for chickens).

At the moment, we’re trusting that the humidity in the incubator is at the right level, and that the digital gauge is accurate. But if it’s too dry the developing chick will be dehydrated, if too humid, the chick will be too wet. Either way, a number will fail to hatch, and those that do may be weakened.

So next time, I’m going to use my new scales to plot very precisely how much weight the eggs are losing, and we’ll increase or decrease the humidity accordingly. And, I hope, we’ll improve on our rather sad 30% hatch rate for the ducklings.

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