I finally got to candle my incubating chicken eggs last night, and unless we missed something, it appears 27 of the 30 eggs I brought over for incubation are fertile! My friend normally gets about a 50% hatch rate so I brought twice as many eggs as I really want to hatch, thinking I'd end up with about 15, of which I'd keep a dozen. Well, if 27 actually hatch and live, I'll be brooding 27 babies and selling all but a dozen!
To candle, he removed each egg one at a time from the incubator and shined a flashlight through it. Unfortunately my flash obscures the result, but fertile eggs show a slanted air space near the top (the big end) and a darker band, about 1/3 the length of the egg, around the middle. Infertile eggs tend to have a dark cluster near the middle, sometimes with blood vessels showing, like a tiny little explosion. One of the eggs had an airspace smaller than the others, leading us to believe the egg is either infertile, or the chick will experience hatching problems and won't make it.
Today I ran out for supplies, included medicated chick starter crumbles (hatching so many chicks during this warm time of year means they're highly susceptible to coccidosis, which is very contagious and fatal), a long trough-style chick feeder and a thermometer to keep tabs on the temperature in the brooding box. I'll borrow a big wooden brooding box from my friend, along with a custom-made lid that covers part of the top and houses the warming light bulb. I have a plastic gallon waterer that I will sterilize. We'll set the brooder up in the insulated room in the garage. With its shaded windows and door that shuts tightly, it'll be a secure home for their first several weeks. Within six weeks or so we'll need to move them to permanent housing.
That'll be the next project: choosing a style and location for the new chicken coop and run (we want the whole barn for hay storage), and building it. We're not builders, and we need to be very cost effective so will be using recycled and cheaply-obtained materials. This should be interesting!
Since the eggs didn't go into the incubator until a few days after I brought them to my friend, hatching should commence over the weekend instead of this Thursday like I expected. This is good, as it buys me a few more days to mentally and physically prepare for our new arrivals. The garage should be filled with the sound of peeping chicks by Monday!
Inside the incubator, a fancy thing with automatic tilting tables. My eggs are in the top row, with my friend's Sumatra and banty eggs in the two trays below.