Earlier this week, I drove a couple of hours to fetch my long expected 7-week-old hens.
While we were parting, Roberto said, “Here are half dozen eggs for you. By the way, they are fertile, you may try to hatch them if you wish.” A bright light turned on in my head, almost literally, I could see little chicks breaking out of their shells.
“You need to keep them in a warm and humid place, turn it three times a day and after 21 days, you may have some chicks,” he added off-handedly.
If things were THAT easy. I would have preferred to sit on them if I were a hen.
Obviously, purchasing an incubator that would cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars at this point would be completely foolish. After all, it’s not a new “career” I wanted to choose. It’s a “try out”. I may turn out a lousy “mother hen”. So I looked around “Doctor Youtube” and “Professor Google” and found some brave souls who built their own incubators, which look as good or perhaps better than the cheaper ‘bators in the market (cheap means between $100-$300 in the world of ‘bators).
The concept is simple:
One has to keep the temperature and humidity steadily at certain levels and one has to turn the eggs at least a few times a day (3, 5 or 7, something like that: “real” mother hen turns them up to 52 times daily, one study claimed). The reason you may want to turn them in odd numbers of times is because at night, when the interval may be lengthier than the day time as you may want to get some sleep, each side would get approximately the same length as the opposite sides face the nights as days go by. 🙂
Some skilled in electronics rigged from old computer fans for forced air and hooked up a light bulb with a dimmer switch in order keep the temperature steady and humidity at proper level. I have no such skills. So I opted for a seedlings heat pad and its companion thermostat. And after my complete “failure” with a cheap inaccurate hygrometer, I buckled down and bought one that may manage not kill the “life-to-be” by providing false readings.
The items needed are easy to find:
A styrofoam cooler or a cardboard box (insulated with cut up styrofoam pieces from old shipping containers)
A seedlings heat mat
Thermostat for the heat mat
Some toaster oven racks from my kitchen
Some rocks from my gardening supplies in the shed
A couple of loaf pans from the kitchen
A clean rag that one can damp in distilled water for humidity if/when needed (some use diapers successfully)
A kitchen knife and some duct tape
One humorous blogger wrote that with homemade “manual” incubators, one might as well just sit on the eggs oneself as for 21 days, there is no way one could leave for an evening or go out of town – it is not complete “madness” that mother hens fuss on their eggs.
I gladly take on the adventure even if I may turn out a “mother-to-be” that could kill the “unborn birds” for lack of skills and experience. But no matter, all will be revealed in 21 days and if no chicks will come to life, my pigheadedness will most certainly lead in the search for another set of fertile eggs.