Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Don't count 'em before they hatch

Just last week Mike was asking what we were going to do with "all these turkeys." At the moment, we didn't have turkeys, just a lot of eggs in two incubators. About 30 eggs were due to hatch last Saturday. Four poults pipped their eggs in the morning, and by night, not a single poult had made any progess. Typically that means there is not enough humidity in the incubator. The bird has to spin around inside the egg, to continue pipping all the way around, so they can basically pop their top.

Everything written about hatching eggs will tell you not to intervene, but I knew from experience that they could very well die in the eggs at this point. I'd seen it happen before. "They" say that the babies need the experience of pecking their way out. It supposedly builds up some kind of muscles or perseverance or something that is necessary for life. "They" also say that if the baby bird can't make it out of the egg, it isn't strong enough to survive. I am perfectly content to let nature takes its course in a natural situation, but an incubator is far from natural. So, after 12 hours, we made the decision to help the poults. We picked off about half of the egg shells from the point that each one was pipped. The poults still needed to kick themselves out of the egg and learn to stand, walk, and be a turkey.

When we went to bed Saturday night, one poult was out of the egg. The other three were laying there looking exhausted. When we got up Sunday morning, there were five poults in the incubator hopping around. One more hatched Sunday when we were gone, but it died.

So, we have five little poults now. The next batch is due to hatch in about three weeks. I think there were probably several problems with this last batch. They were the first eggs laid by the turkeys, so perhaps not all of them were fertile. We probably should have candled the eggs earlier, so we would have had a more realistic expectation of hatch. Second, it was quite cold when they were laid, so some may have been chilled to the point that it destroyed the embryo. And finally, the humidity was definitely a problem. After we picked up the incubator to take it outside and clean it, we discovered it had been leaking, which is why the humidity inside was too low, even though we kept adding water.

Now, I just love this picture! The one little guy in the lower left looks like he has some deep thoughts about the little mess that someone made. And the one on the right looks like he has something important to say. So, what do you think they're saying?


Katherine said...

Polt looking at the mess: "How do you think that tastes?"
Polt #2: "I don't know, let's try it!"

Caprifool said...

I don't count polts until after 6 weeks :-) But i do hold my hand out, like a wing and let them all scurry underneith or snuggle them under my nose to let them know who's "mama". I peck att yummy things with my beak (index finger) and they all come running. Turkey and quail babies are my favourits.

Susan said...

I'm so nervous about our first hatch next week.
We have 15 chickens that should pip next week, and that humidity thing is a pain. I have thermometers and hygrometers all over the place. The homemade wet bulb was a definite learning experience. We candled at 7 days, thought one was non-viable, opened it up and there was a tiny chick. ughh..
We made an incubator and bought a little giant foam incubator. Was yours store bought, Deborah?

Deborah said...

Yes, both our incubators are store bought. One is a Little Giant, and the other is a Hova-Bator. The Little Giant was given to us by someone, and it didn't have the plastic liner in it. We've used it without problem before, but now we know that the styrofoam can leak, even though there are no obvious holes.

melanie said...

"Dude, don't look now, but that guy behind you is seriously going to peck at turkey poo."

Nikki said...

I have the litle giant inc also. We hatch out chicks (RIR) every month. Another blogger suggested that we spray the eggs with warm water for the last 3 days. It has helped. I always keep the humidity up really high. I have helped some of my litle guys out of their eggs. Some times they are healthy and live fine and others I have to cull. They are too weak. Good Luck!

Em said...

Aww... they're so cute! I think "they" can sometimes be wrong, as I have had fully developed chicks die after halfway unzipping, and then the ones that I helped were healthy and grew great! It's so hard to leave them alone, and I think that you did the right thing! I wish I could have some turkeys too... I just hav chickens though!


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