Sunday, April 22, 2018

Chicks & Exploding Eggs

Spring is the time for hatching eggs. As you'll see from our previous blog we have chicks and lots of eggs in our incubators.Have you ever thought about how amazing it is that a chick can develop from an egg in just 21 days? Or a few more if it's a duck, turkey or emu. This short video is really interesting and definitely worth a view or two, I really liked it and it's suitable for kids.

This morning we have a lot fewer eggs though because I noticed quite a bad smell coming from the living room and that's saying something because I have a sinus cold! Well, I'm deeply grateful for my decreased sense of smell because when I got everything sorted out I had several rotten eggs that had exploded and made a horrific mess. Luckily, I was a bit suspect of the eggs because they were VERY dirty so I'd kept them all together and had a cover over them just in case. Well, it took a couple of hours but I got 54 eggs out of the incubator and out of the whole lot I think I kept 7 to see if they'll actually hatch though I suspect 2 are not good. I'm trying to be optimistic. My other incubator is doing great. We've got the next batches coming along nicely. The big one is now all cleaned up and the second batch of eggs (from the same person) is now in, but this time I'll candle them more frequently and I washed half of them with hydrogen peroxide as it's supposed to increase the hatch rate. I'll keep track and let you know. Well there you go, I always said I'd let you know things NOT to do, having exploded eggs is something I'd not care to repeat. So I recommend that you candle your eggs at days 10, 15 and 20. I use a phone App called Hatchabatch that you can follow development and it will send you reminders for candling and when to set up your brooder. I find it very helpful.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Freeze, Bake, Freeze, Rain ... Spring Weather

The weather has been crazy recently making growing just that bit more difficult and time consuming. Things are freezing at night, overheating during the sunny days, and it's been windy and snowing intermittently. I'm headed out soon to open all the greenhouse vents and put the plants out to get some sunlight and tonight I'll spend a half hour or more putting them all back away in their heated sprouter so they don't freeze. It's frustrating. But, things are growing so that makes me very happy. Soon it'll be time to transplant seedlings, fill the nursery greenhouse and start selling for the season! I can hardly wait.

This afternoon my plan is to begin bagging up strawberry, raspberry and blackberry canes and get them ready to sell. Then it's cooking supper (vegan shepherds pie) and lots of household projects including making marmalade. Definitely a busy afternoon and evening ahead so this entry will be brief.

Plans are still in the works to dig a pond this year and to landscape the front of the property but as usual, the vegetable garden comes first. With our manure piles ready to be applied there's no shortage of work and we're hoping to find a couple of willing wwoofers to come and help us out for a couple of weeks. Fingers crossed.

Our chicks are all doing well, I'll add another video in the next few days for you to see their beautiful colours as their feathers are coming in. 

What are you all doing to get ready for Spring?

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Hatching, Sprouting and Snowing, March at Humblebee.

We've been enjoying a very mild and relatively snowless Winter in 2018 but today it's snowing with a vengeance and mazingly the schools are still open despite very slippery roads. My guess is that the school authorities thought this would turn into rain before long but it hasn't. That's okay, it's not quite Spring yet. I had a nice hot breakfast of fried potatoes, egg foo yong and onions so now my tummy is happy and warm.

Regardless of the current weather we have to be thinking ahead to planting season and especially we have to think about having plants ready for sale in the nursery in a matter of weeks. It's tricky because each variety takes a different amount of time to germinate and grow, plus once they are starting to grow they need light and the greenhouse is still getting down to below freezing at night. So what are we going to do?

For the young plants we are going to have a partition in the main greenhouse that's got a heat source for those days and nights when it's cold. That's a project for next weekend. But the unit for getting the seeds germinated is built and officially called the Sprouter. It's far bigger than the shelf unit we had last year. We had an issue with it maintaining the temperature last year, cool at night and too hot during the day so the changes we made this year are that it's a wooden box and we've insulated it with fibreglass not just to keep it warmer but because it will also help control the airflow and shade it from overheating on sunny days. Helping to even out the fluctuations in temperature will really assist in germination.

Along with the seed sprouter we have a home made incubator full of eggs that’s scheduled to hatch at the beginning of April so stay tuned! Life is returning to the farm so Spring must be coming.

Hatching Eggs & Homemade Incubator

Note to readers, this was written in March and updated April 3rd, 2018.

It's another -15c freezing cold morning out there. Hard to believe in January it was +15c. Still, the march towards Spring 2018 continues with planting galore, and new life in the incubator. So much new life that Steph has actually built me a much larger incubator so now I have room for many many more eggs and a hatcher and brooder inside as well.

Incubators are essentially mimicking the warmth, humidity and movements of the mother bird so re-creating them isn't terribly difficult. You need an environment that has approx 99.5 degrees f (37.5c) about 50% humidity, and you must turn the eggs regularly until a few days prior to hatching. If you've followed us for  while you will  have seen our styrofoam cooler made into an incubator using a thermostat and a lightbulb. It worked reasonably well but had a limited capacity. Our newer model is a small fridge that we picked up in a junk pile at the side of the road last spring. It has two headlight bulbs from an old car as the heat source, fans that already existed in the fridge, and Steph put on a digital controller that maintains the temperature between 99 and 100 degrees so that the average is 99.5 and the fans circulate the air. The unit is overloaded with eggs right now so the airflow isn't ideal but we are still seeing growth inside the eggs so we are excited to see how our hatches go over the next few weeks.Oh, there is a little piece of insulation on the back to cover the wiring but not to restrict the airflow.

The cost for the fridge conversion is:
Fridge body
Insulation ........$1                      Total Cost $26.   Capacity 4-6 dozen.
Controller .......$25

Our next model is similar to both the incubator above and the giant seed sprouting unit that we have for our plants. It has an electric fan heater as the heat source, a digital controller that turns the heat on and off, and various shelves inside at different levels for incubating (trays full of growing eggs), hatching (trays of eggs that do not get turned) and then two areas for brooding where the newly hatched chicks go to dry off, stay warm and learn to eat and drink for the first week or so. We used one sheet of 1/4" OSB, one 2x4 cut down into 2x2, some drywall screws, hardware cloth to provide airflow space around the insides of the box, hinges and a latch, plus a heater we already owned and of course the requisite $25 controller. The box measures 2'x2' and is 4' tall and has R-12 insulation around the outside and vapour barrier, plus a door seal make out of a piece of vapour barrier plastic.

Total cost for the bigger box is:

Box .....................$15                  Capacity 20 dz incubating + 10 dozen hatching
Hardware ...........$ 6                   + 20 dozen in the brooder compartments
Insulation ...........$10
Heater (new).......$22
Hardware cloth...$ 4                  Total value new = $72.00 Cdn.
Controller ...........$25

In reality, we already had the OSB, panels that got cut to make the ends and the shelves, the heater and the hardware cloth. I bought screws, hinges and a latch for a grand total of $6 and the controller for $25. We may also put a fan in there similar to the one on the sprouter to help circulate the air from top to bottom and they're $12 each. All-in-all it's a great and simple project. I'm going to ask Steph to put together a video or an e-book so that you can go ahead and build your own for  fraction of the cost of buying a unit new. You should get a hygrometer to measure humidity and a couple of good thermometers as well and then you’re all set. Ours works very well and hatched chicks on April 2/3 2018.