Learning eggs-actly how to hatch some hens

It would be safe to say it has been a long winter for many people this year and Spring has been taking its sweet time to arrive as well.

Yet, the days are now in the plus temperatures and the nights aren’t getting as cold, the cottonwood buds are swelling and smelling sweet in the ever warming sunshine and we just put the clocks ahead so the season is at least upon us.

With Spring in mind, the boys and I thought it would be a good time and a lot of fun to start hatching a few little chicks this year.

Upon searching for an incubator I was quite surprised that the only two local options were, $30 for a four-egg system or $400 for a 40 egg facility with nothing in between. After deciding on the smaller, affordable one, I was graciously lent a great clear top Styrofoam incubator that held 35 eggs and came with it’s own device to rotate the potential babies to make the whole process that much easier. Or so I thought.

First, we set it up, read the instructions and set our eggs. However, by day four I had a nagging feeling to check the thermometer to make sure it was accurate. Needless to say, it was not and I had all but boiled the eggs at a stifling 105 degrees appose to the suggested 99.5. Not a good start.

Yet I decided to keep things going and see what happened.

Little did I know that the extreme initial temperatures created harder shells with dry membranes, but that was a lesson I didn’t learn until this past weekend. We marked the due date on the calendar and three days before they were due, which was Friday, we removed the little eggs from the turning device and laid them on the wire as instructed.

Now to my complete surprise, within 30 minutes of laying them out I heard a lot of little peeps and low and behold, two beaks were soon peaking out of two eggs. I quickly re-read the instructions — nothing mentioned early arrivals.

All night I lay in bed listening to their sounds and wondering what the morning would hold. Yet, when we awoke, nothing had changed with the two early birds and five more eggs had little holes in them now.

Perplexed, we headed out for our Saturday adventure and when we returned, sadly, nothing had changed. This became the beginning of one stressful night for this mother hen!

I read what I could online and discovered that if they had not succeeded in hatching in 12 hours, one needed to help! Ugh!

So with my dad and Elaine on Skype and the boys by my side, we started project “save our babies”.

Nothing could have prepared me for the next four hours. First there was blood which of course freaked all of us out. Then we spent time carefully pulling off the shells and moistening the three membranes, allowing the blood to stop and then peeling them back.

Finally, what seemed like hours later we had two little baby chicks.

Both exhausted, both looking quite icky and both worrying the lot of us. Ironically the instructions online said it was now time for all of us to take a nap. Good advice.  The long and short of it, finally at 2 a.m. Saturday night we had two little half fluffy chicks wondering what all the fuss was about.

Fortunately by Sunday, we now had eight little wonders, all healthy and happy and two little boys decorating a box for them to call home.

Myself, well, I still feel like a stressed out mother hen, I have a few more grey hairs,

I desperately need to take a nap and there are still 11 eggs left.

Shannon Hurst is the Three Rivers Report correspondent and write the weekly My Town column.