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Friday, August 5, 2011

Its Eggsciting! Incubating Chicken Eggs!

I was thrilled To note that out of my 8 eggs, 6 had embryos!
those 6 were the smaller type, 'kampung-chicken' eggs, while 2 others were larger, with thicker shells. With my poor candling abilities, I'm afraid I won't know whether the large ones are fertilized or not till much later down the road. And sadly, one of large ones cracked... and mom used it for cooking -.-''

(at least you can convince your parents nothing goes to waste in this experiment... if the whole brood fails, well.. you get a huge omelette for your efforts!)

The thrill came because at the start, all of the eggs registered null and void on "ultrasound", and mom said all are duds.. better use them for cooking while they're still fresh. I persevered, hoping that the little ones inside will grow fast and show themselves.. or else I may abandon the project by Day 5 , not wanting to waste good eggs...

But suprise, Suprise!
On the 4th day of incubation, an egg held in hand, I really scrutinized the whole egg surface while candling, and a black dot showed up. I tot it was a shell artifact, but WAIT, the black dot actually moves around when I turn the egg.... Its an embryo!

egg candling

A Closer look will reveal that it is a round silhouette with tentacles spreading in all directions.. The embryo with blood vessels.

Chicken Embryo

And 6 of them had this!
My Homemade incubator actually works! Yeeha!

Reading online tutorials on incubator making was kinda frustrating actually,
They looked fancy, with detailed instructions, but they do not provide the principles behind the construction. With princicples in mind, we can choose what modifications are necessary to cater to the Malaysian Climate. Many had parts which I felt was unnecessary (leading to unnecessary cost!), and I skipped those in my construction.

A breakdown of an incubator would be like this, with the following accompanying precepts. I hope my explanation cuts it, :-) I had to sieve through lots of information before a whole picture was seen

egg incubator

1) You want a box of any sort (RE-use where you can)- an unwanted ice box, a discarded polystyrene box, a A4 paper carton (or in my case, B5 (=^.^=). The main thing is you need something that can keep the heat in.

2) You need a heat source, to bring up the temperature to about 38Deg celcius or 99.5 Fahrenheit. Eggs Start to develop overseas when temperatures are above 30 degrees (some sources say 20 degrees.. but in malaysia, 20 degrees is considered cold!, my room temeprature averages at 32!!!) at low temperatures, eggs develop too slowly.. and you don't know whether they have stalled, or quit the race altogether. Too high, >40 degrees, and you'll get quarter boiled eggs, the embryos will die.

[did you know that low temperatures make boys and higher ones make girls in Turtle eggs? So, essentially BOYS are COOL and GIRLS are HOT!!!!]

3) Humidity is provided through evaporative methods- and 50-60% RH (relative humidity) for the first 18 days, and 70-80 for the last 3 days. Maintaning humidity is important because moisture is burnt off by the heat. if it gets too dry, the eggs dessicate and the young chick gets plastered to the wall with no room for movement, and deformed chicks result.

4) you want the whole box to heat up evenly, and a fan is used to distribute the heat.

5)Eggs need to be rotated 3 times a day, so that the embryo doesn't get stuck..
the number 3 is arbitrary, so long as you rotate them an odd number of times each day because there will be a period (night) where they will be untouched the longest, and we want the eggs to be in a different position thruout this long period, everyday.

[you may think I'm silly, but I think handling the eggs fosters a bond, which will help with the imprinting process later}

6)Ventilation: fresh air is needed. So making holes on your box near the bottom (heat rises, drawing air from lower areas allows good transfer) does that.

Those are the main points in constructing an incubator of your own.

If you reuse materials-, paper boxes, old light bulbs, your mum's decorative cups (oops!), .. the cost will be below RM5! if you don't go for the gadgets..

Here's what my incubator looks like, on the inside

if you notice from the covered incubator picture, There's this window on the left lower corner for me to see the readings without opening the box. you can make this using thick plastic (or from scrapbook covers/ glass/ or even salvage from those room-with- a- view envelopes).

Inside, Eggs are arranged in 2 rows.
eggs need to be on their sides (natural position), and not in egg cartons(upright) because the embryo may develop upside down and drown when exiting the egg. I made this mistake initially.. so you see the carton at the side, now serving to block off direct heat.

  • The computer fan is mounted on a cardboard cover, and stabilized with four bikibi-s.
  • between the heat source (a 60W lamp) and the eggs are a salvaged wooden lid and the cardboard cover. This is so to prevent direct heat from the bulb.. in which the front eggs will be heated up too quickly, the back eggs too cold.
    [heat is distributed by conduction/ convection/ evaporation/ radiation. We only want number 2 and 3 here. The boards prevent number 4.
  • there are glass cups with tissue paper extending out to increase the surface area for evaporation
  • The Thermo-hygrometer measures the temperature and humidity. I couldn't find a cheaper electronic one other than this.. Which cost RM45 at T.S electronics. If you have a mercury body thermometer at home, maybe you can use that to save cost. There are analog humidity monitors which may cost much less available.
  • Hmmm... what is this black plug thing? Does it look strangely really familiar?DC converterIt's to power the fan! As The fans come in various sizes, you need to adjust the Voltage with a DC converter (direct current, from alternating current). Usually old handphone charges will do the trick. In my case, this is a salvaged fan I kept for 7 years!!! knowing that someday I will use it.. MUAHAHAHAHAHa... :p

    It's a 12 volt fan, but my charger is a 240V down to 6V converter.. half the amount of required voltage... but hey, It works fine!

In this picture below, you can see the carcass of a massacred darlie toothpaste tube.
Because of using a cardboard box, there was a worry that when left unattended at night, the whole box will catch fire, and bring my 70 year old shop-house down. (we sleep at another house at night) So I needed some aluminum thingy to conduct the heat away quick enough.. mum pointed to the toothpaste tube she salvaged.. Hehe.. Family of hoarders!!!!

computer fan, incubator

Ok, part A is done... the next post, will be about candling your eggs!

candling an egg


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