Pipping is a Wonderful Part of Homesteading

Pipping is a wonderful site to the homesteader incubating and hatching eggs.

When a baby chick starts the hatching process they pip. But hatching really starts inside the egg. Remember the air sac you saw from candling? As the chick’s lungs develop she takes her first breath around day 19 through the air in that sac. As the egg fills with carbon dioxide the chick begins to need more air. So it takes it’s beak and busts the inner membrane of the egg puncturing through the outer shell. At this point you may simply see a small crack in the shell.

As the chick needs more air she pips a larger hole. What I found was that I could see the birds beak through the whole and the inner membrane (a thin white layer) moving with each breath the baby chick takes.

It’s the bird’s instinct to move around in the shell making larger pips either circular from wear it started (this is known as zipping) or in the same area just making the pip larger.

Now it can take 12-24 hours for the hatch after its first pip. My chicks pipped once and then it was 8-10 hours before they pipped again. It takes a lot of energy to be born, so they rest significantly in between pips.

Also while they are resting, their bodies are preparing for birth. There is still a portion of the yolk of the egg that is present. The chick’s abdomen will absorb this prior to hatching and the nutrients in the yolk will sustain the bird through hatching. Most baby chicks don’t need to eat for up to 48 hours after birth.

This is why it’s important not to rush them. It’s very tempting to want to open that lid and help them out, but there is still so much more going on inside that egg any interruption can cause malformation or even death.

Once they have absorbed the yolk they start pipping more and more, resting for smaller intervals between pips. Gradually the shell will get looser and looser. The chick will then be able to push against the shell and open it the rest of the way.

My baby chicks were pretty active right away. They untangled themselves from that egg and started trying to walk. They were climbing the walls trying to get out of the incubator! Any afterbirth should fall off on its own and the egg shell will be pushed out of the way as the chick moves about the incubator.

Leave the chicks in the incubator until all of the hatching has taken place. That is where I went wrong and had too many fluctuations in humidity levels to sustain a good hatch rate and healthy chicks. I had three that did not hatch properly. So avoid my mistakes and stay in lockdown until all the chicks have hatched.

First Hatch – Day 20- Our overachiever!

Next up we will talk about moving chicks to the brooder!

Pipping and hatching is an incredible thing to watch. Have you seen it? If not, check out my video on my facebook page @thehallheritagehomestead!

 

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Lockdown When Incubating and Hatching Baby Chicks

Lockdown is a common term when incubating and hatching baby chicks.

If you’ve read my other posts on incubating and candling eggs you’re ready to learn what happens after day 17 of incubation.

LOCKDOWN

Now that you have made it to day 17 it is time to quit turning the eggs. The chicks need to position themselves for birth and if the egg is constantly moving they can’t do that.

The first step to getting these girls (I’m being optimistic) to hatch is to unplug the egg turner. Then raise the lid of the incubator and lift the egg turner out careful not to catch the motor on the incubator or let the weight of it cause you to drop the eggs.

Next you need to place the eggs back into the incubator. Learn from my mistakes and put down some paper towel, a tea towel or cheesecloth before placing the eggs. This makes clean up later a whole lot easier!

As you fill the incubator back up go ahead and move the egg turner back to its box. You will no longer need it. Don’t you love the look of all those beautiful eggs?!? Now we are hatching heritage birds to include Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rock, Leghorn and we will have some non-heritage Red Sexlink in the mix as well. All of these breeds are GREAT egg layers! Those of you hatching easter eggers, Americaunas or Araucanas you will likely have blue and green eggs in your mix!

You’re going to need to place a small bowl of warm water in the corner of the incubator and then place a warm sponge in there as well. Doing this increases the humidity so that the eggs stay moist long enough to complete the hatch. On average it takes 12-24 hours for a baby chick to hatch, so staying on lockdown means not even opening the lid to adjust humidity levels.

Close the incubator and watch the humidity rise. Ideally it should be between 65-75 degrees. Now-from here on out you are on LOCKDOWN! Days 18-21 are imperative to a chick’s survival.

The lid is on and the temperature and humidity are rising.

Do not open that incubator even if your life depended on it. It is essential to keep the lid shut and for the humidity and temperature to stay constant during the hatching process. If you lift the lid it can cause all kinds of problems (which I’ll share in a different post).  Should your humidity get too high this particular incubator has two small circular red vent plugs on the lid. You can remove one of these to allow some circulation if needed, but I don’t recall needing to that (not before the hatch). This machine kept a pretty stable temp and humidity level.

…And now you wait…again.

Do you struggle with the urge to stay in lockdown once you’ve sealed up for hatching?

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3 Reasons Why Candling Eggs is Important

Candling eggs is a necessity during the incubation process when hatching baby chicks.

Now a broody hen doesn’t need to do this as God made her instinctively know which eggs are growing and which are not. She will naturally kick out any eggs that are not to her liking. Unfortunately, we don’t have that luxury, so we candle the eggs.

It is common to candle eggs multiple times throughout development. I choose to candle twice. Once on day 7 and once on day 17. Remember it only takes 21 days for chicks to grow and hatch.

It helps to candle at night or in a dark closet. Take a high quality flash light in one hand, and in the other gently cup the egg placing the flashlight beneath your hand. This allows the light to shine through the egg giving you a glimpse of the inside. Take special care to not drop the egg!

As a chicken farmer, hobbyist or small homesteader candling is beneficial for several reasons.

  • Fertilization: The only way to determine if an egg is fertile is to crack it open and since we are growing baby chicks, we don’t want to do that. If you have roosters it is likely most of your eggs will be fertilized, but that is not always the case. When candling you should be able to see blood vessels if development has been successful. Any eggs that have not developed are not fertile and need to be thrown out. If unfertilized eggs are left in the incubator, they may begin to rot and cause unhealthy bacteria for the growing embryos.

 

Non fertile egg

Fertile egg – You can see the chicks eye if you look closely!

 

  • Stage of Development: Candling also allows you to see the size of the embryo. This gives you a good indication if they are on target for their hatch date. Baby chicks are like any other creature they develop different parts at different intervals of the incubation process. If you are candling later in the game (day17), this will also tell you if a chick is not the size it should be for hatch (indicating it has died or stopped growing). Some homesteaders choose to throw out the less developed eggs at this point, but I do not. Miracles do happen!

Baby chick – Day 7

Baby chick – Day 12- You can see the air sack (the light part) and the baby chick are about the same size)

 

 

  • Check for the Air Sac: Within the egg is an air sac. This is how the chick breathes before it is born. As the chick gets larger, the air sack gets smaller. The air sack is typically at one end of the egg. Remember we set the eggs for 24 hours before incubation? That was to help the air sac develop at the end of the egg (its proper location). If the chick is large and the air sack is small, all is as it should be. When the air sac is larger than the chick, it likely will not hatch because the chick is no longer viable.

Baby chick -day 17-Air sac is the light area on the top egg. The dark area is the baby chick.

 

Once you have completed candling each egg, place it back in its space in the incubator. Remove any unfertilized eggs. Place the lid back on the incubator and make sure the temperature and humidity levels rise (99.5-100.5 degrees and 55-60 percent) to insure a good hatch rate.

Do not worry about having the lid off of the incubator while you are candling. God made momma hens to get down off of their eggs once a days (for roughly an hour) to stretch their legs and eat and drink. As long as you work within that time frame your baby chicks should be fine!

Have you tried candling your eggs? Why or why not?

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5 Steps to Incubating and Hatching Baby Chicks

Hatching baby chicks is quite the experience!

There are two ways to hatch baby chicks. The first method I prefer is letting the mamma hen do all the hard work. God made her to instinctively know what to do. She keeps them warm, turns them, let’s them breathe a bit and protects them after hatching showing them how to eat and drink. As long as she remains broody the entire time just let her do her thing.

But what if your momma hen gets off her eggs (ask me how I know this)? Or what if you don’t have a broody hen? You can lose the eggs or you can swoop in and save the day with an incubator.

Incubating chicken eggs is a great way to hatch baby chicks!

Some homesteaders choose to set up a homemade incubator. I am not that smart. My first thought to buy one easily became secondary when I priced them. As I’ve mentioned before we are growing our homestead the old fashioned way – debt free – so I borrowed one.

The one a farmer friend handed us is the Farm Innovator 4250. This is a fancy one. It has a digital thermometer (to measure heat), a digital hygrometer (to measure humidity) and an electric egg turner (it holds 41 eggs).

Here are 5 steps to incubating and hatching baby chicks.

  • Choose Fresh Fertile Eggs: I’ve read you can use fertile eggs that are up to ten days old, but I have learned the fresher the fertile egg, the higher chance you have for growth and development. When candled (we’ll get into this on the next post), the older eggs stopped growing before the hatch date. So choose fresh eggs.

 

  • Set Eggs for 24 Hours: Setting eggs in a carton 24 hours before incubating helps the air sack inside to move to the end of the egg. Babies use this air sack to breathe, so if it is not at the end of the egg it decreases the chances of survival. Place the egg in the carton pointy side down and wide end up.

  • Preheat Incubator: I plugged in the incubator for a full 24 hours (while the eggs were setting) to make sure it worked properly. There is a small learning curve with setting the temp, but nothing you smart people can’t figure out. This step insures it’s keeping the temp up and regulated before you put your eggs in. An egg needs to be kept at 99.5-100.5 to insure growth.

 

  • Place eggs in incubator: I know this sounds simple, but move slowly and carefully. Dropping an egg or two can inhibit development. Place these in the egg turner just like you did in the cartons, narrow end down.

  • Insert Moist Sponge: Before you close the lid, run a small cleaning sponge under warm water. Squeeze a bit out and place in the tray of the egg turner. The warmth coming out of the sponge will naturally increase the humidity levels. You want humidity levels between 55-60 degrees for embryo development. If you use hot water your humidity level will be too high, if you use cold water your humidity will be too low.

Eggs take a full 21 days to incubate before hatching. Some can take as long as 24-26 days, but most will hatch after day 21. What I love about this particular set up is that you set your eggs and just check them twice a day. Every night I put a new sponge in and every morning I put a new sponge in. Then I leave them alone and let them do their thing.

The egg turner turns them for you so you don’t have to worry over that. If you do not have an egg turner you must turn them yourself. Typically an ‘x’ is drawn on one side of the gg, and an ‘o’ on the opposite side. This helps you to know at a glance if you turned them. The catch is you must turn eggs 3-5 times A DAY. So that’s why I appreciate the egg turner.

…And now you wait.

Are you hatching baby chicks? What is your favorite method?

Today I’m linking up to the Cape Coop! Go check them out here!

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Preserve Green Beans from your Garden by Canning

I love green beans. It is one of my all-time favorite vegetables.  They come in all shapes and sizes and there’s nothing better than opening a can of green beans from your very own garden. Beans you started from seed, watched grow and picked just at the perfect time.

There are a couple of ways to preserve green beans. Some like to freeze them, others like to can them. It doesn’t really matter which way you preserve your beans. I personally like to open my cabinet doors and see jars and jars of green beans lining the front row!

Two schools of thoughts are used in canning green beans.

Raw packing and hot packing.

Raw packing means you pack the mason jars with the raw bean, add salt, pour boiling water over the top, remove the air and cover with lid and ring. You must still place a raw packed can in a pressure canner to complete the canning process.

Hot packing means you blanch the green beans before packing them in the jars. If you don’t know what blanching is continue reading, I’ll explain.

This post is going to focus on hot packing green beans.

First thing to do is wash those green beans! Give them a couple of good washes as the dirt likes to stick.

Next, you need to cut off all the ends. Also take this time to snap your beans in half or simply cut them in half if that’s easier for you.

Once you have them cut you’ll need to blanch them. Blanching is a fancy way of saying you cook them in boiling water. Each vegetable is blanched for a different length of time as they all have different physical properties. Green beans you boil for a full 5 minutes. Blanching does two things. It partially cooks the bean making them tender and shortening their cook time later when used, and it also kills any bacteria on the bean that might be lingering. When the timer beeps, pull the green beans out of the pan and immediately put them in an ice bath. This stops the cooking process.

Meanwhile, your pressure canner should be on the stove boiling 4 quarts of water and 2 tbs of white vinegar and your mason jars. The white vinegar will keep your pressure canner from browning during the canning process. I also throw my rings and lids in too, to sterilize them.

 

Take your jars from your canner and add 1/2 tsp of salt to each jar (If you’re using quart size jars use 1 tsp of salt). Fill your jars with those beautiful vibrant green beans! Leave one-inch headspace. Carefully ladle boiling water into each jar. Again leave one-inch headspace. Slide your plastic spatula between beans and jar pushing the beans toward the center. Do this all the way around the jar. This pushes the trapped air bubbles out.

Wipe the top of the jars with a tea towel and place the lid and ring on. Tighten ring fingertip tight. Place jars into canner.

Cover canner with lid.

Gently slide the lid turning it until the arrows line up. You should hear and feel it click into place. Make sure your burner is on high. You should let the canner vent (without the weighted vent cap) for a full 10 minutes. Once the steam starts coming from the canner set your timer.

Now that your pressure canner is closed and venting, place the weighted vent cap on and watch the pressure climb. Green beans need to reach 10 pounds of pressure.

Please note: if you live at an altitude 1000 feet above sea level your pressure and times will be different.

Start your timer. For pints process for 20 minutes. For quarts process for 25 minutes. Keep the pressure stable. If your canner pressure drops below the 10-pound mark, you have to get your heat back up, pressure back up and then start your timer over again once you’re back at 10 pounds. You’ll find pressure climbs fast so watch your gauge and adjust your heat accordingly.

Finally when your timer beeps, turn your burner off. DO NOT remove the weighted pressure cap. DO NOT open your canner. The pressure is too great and it is dangerous. Allow the pressure to decrease on its own. When the gauge shows zero pressure, then you may remove the weighted cap. Open the lid by turning it and lift it from the canner being careful to not burn yourself from the steam.

Pull your jars out and set them on a towel to cool. Let them cool for 24 hours and smile every time you hear them ping!

Line your cabinets with beautiful jars of green beans and take pleasure in knowing you are growing your own food, eating healthy and living the old way.

What is your best tip for canning green beans?

 

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