Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Embryology 101

Because I know you are clinging to your seats with anticipation like we are, I thought I'd share a little bit about the party going on inside the incubator. A little Embryology 101 so to speak.

Before the egg is even laid it is fertilized. (If you don't understand how that works, go ask your Mom.) Right after that, cells start to divide and grow. Between laying and incubation growth stops though and nothing else happens. This gives mother hen a chance to lay more eggs as usual while the first egg just sits there waiting for her. Once she feels she's got enough eggs she settles down on the nest. Or in our case, we put the eggs in the incubator. Not until this point do the embryos start to develop so they will all hatch at the same time. Cool huh?

During incubation the embryos grow like little maniacs, the whole cycle only taking 21 days. If you use a technique called candling, you can actually see inside the egg. A basic high intensity flash light will work. You just hold the flashlight up to the egg while your in a dark room and viola truly live entertainment! Here is a good egg starting to develop at day 4. Photos courtesy of University of California.

Candling also gives you an idea how many eggs won't hatch. We found five last night that have the dreaded blood ring, meaning they're not going to develop. Here is the blood ring.

As we were doing this the guys were either cheering for live ones or giving disappointed "that's a dud" comments for the others. Right now we're down to 27 possible chicks, but 12 of the eggs we were not able to candle because the dark brown egg shells are too hard to see through at this stage. By Saturday the embryos will be starting to put on feathers and we should be able to see something then.
When you incubate shipped eggs, you tend to have lower hatch rates. Getting tossed around at the Post Office can wreak havoc on the poor little buggars. If we get 50% of the chicks to hatch, we'll consider this experiment highly successful. The fact that we've all learned something along the way... well that's just a bonus.


LRC said...

Still waiting for our invite to the Grand Chicken Hatching Party!!!

Renee said...

That is truly fascinating. And despite my usual demeanor, I am NOT being sarcastic. So cool! I'm going to buy a farm (ok that might be a wee bit sarcastic.)