Well, she finally did it! She's a mom! Peabody has hatched out her little chicks now. I don't want to invade too much into her space, but I am fairly certain all 6 chicks have hatched, as the only intact egg I can find is #7, which is the egg that I was fairly certain wasn't growing. I've caught little glimpses of the chicks, and I've seen up to three at the same time, knowing that there is more under her. They must have hatched last night, because they are dry and fluffy now.
I am so impressed and in awe of this hatching process. Chickens instinctually know what to do. They turn the eggs everyday to keep the chicks from sticking to the sides of the shell. They pluck the feathers from their stomachs to increase the humidity for the eggs. They only get off the nest for short periods of time to eat and drink and go back on before the eggs get cold. They relieve themselves away from the nest, to keep it clean and sanitary for the chicks when they hatch. We've been able to replicate the process with incubators and brooders, but there is something so neat in watching nature do what it was designed to do.
I like that I can be a bit more involved in the process when I use an incubator and I can have a certain amount of control. You get to see, up-close, what is happening at every stage. It was stressful for me to hand over the eggs to a broody hen and relinquish that control. I had to hope for the best, and it wasn't going so well in the beginning. We lost 4 eggs to the other hen before I finally separated them. If I ever do it again, I will make sure that my broody hen is alone. It is also challenging to candle the eggs to check on what is growing and what isn't. In the end, you just have to stand back and wait. And don't count your chickens until they hatch! Cliché, but true.
But there can be down sides to using an incubator too. Power outages are a real danger that I've had to contend with a couple of times. You sure don't have that problem with a broody! The temperature dropped to -22c on some nights and my hen kept those eggs warm without any external heat source, not even a heat lamp!
You have to make sure you remember to add water to keep the humidity just right, another job that nature does automatically.
A mother hen teaches the chicks to eat and drink, but that job falls to you when you use an incubator. You also have to be wary of the pecking order of the chicks.
Broody raised chicks are often hardier and feather out more quickly, as they are exposed to a fluctuation of temperatures. Incubated chicks should wait to be taken out of doors until they are fully feathered out and then it is best to gradually introduce them to the outdoors.
As I am using both methods right now, it will be interesting to see what way I prefer at the end.
p.s. All 7 of my eggs in the incubator are fertilized and growing right now! I've never had all 7 fertilized at once. If they all make it to hatch day, it is going to be mighty crowded in that incubator!