Grandpa's Incubator, Aidan, Baby Chicks, and Cake.
Chick hatching is Aidan's project.
He uses his Grandpa Meyer's old incubator. It hadn't seen eggs for decades until we moved to our farm and Bill brought it here. He tried it out once, but it didn't work well, and he didn't have the time to deal with it back then.
So it was, once again, relegated to the shadows of a shed and forgotten for another decade or so until Aidan came along and got interested in chickens.
It took him a while to convince Bill to give the incubator another shot, but he did. Bill's a sucker for a good mechanical challenge -- especially when one of his kids ask!
They dug it out from under the other odds and ends that had accumulated around it and set it up. The electrical heating element still worked, but it had issues. They worked together to diagnose the problems and make the repairs. They got the stiff and frozen up fan to spin reliably again with some tweaks and a little oil. They replaced old light bulbs. They set up humidity and temperature gauges. They found pans to hold water and increase the humidity.
Aidan back in 2017 marking his eggs to help him keep track of which had been turned before putting them in the incubator
In the meantime, Aidan chose the hens from whom he wanted to keep eggs and separated them with the rooster in a pen. He added the extra chore of feeding and watering them to his list and waited for Mother Nature to produce the fertilized eggs he needed. Then when he had enough, he loaded the incubator and waited the twenty-one days it takes for a chick embryo to grow.
We couldn't believe it when some of the chicks started to pip, or peck and crack, the eggshells after the three weeks!
It felt like a success to us all.
But many didn't hatch. Aidan calculated his "hatch rate" and compared it to what one should expect. And while I don't remember what his exact percentage was, I do remember how his excitement faded as he realized his rate wasn't good.
Peeking through the ventilation hole of the incubator at the baby chicks..
I wondered if this was one of those
"Is it done? Did we do it? Is it over? It didn't really work, and I'm not doing it again"
kind of projects.
I mean, we all have them sometimes. You know, the recipe, craft, DIY house renovation that looks fun and cool but ends up being lots of work with an undesired result, and we're ready to move on to something else.
But I was wrong. This wasn't that for Aidan.
He delved in deeper.
He studied and asked questions of anyone he could find that was seasoned in hatching. He tinkered with the incubator mechanisms, searched out ways to increase the humidity, reviewed his records to better track his husbandry skills, and tried again.
And then again.
And then again several more times.
(We ended up with lots more roosters than any farm, or person that wants to sleep past 4 am, wants for a while! LOL.)
He wondered Why? and What about if? and ended up at I'm going to try again.
And then he did and got better.
He took the opportunity to learn instead of quitting because he decided this project was worth it to him.
And every time his hatch rate got better.
He became more disciplined and confident with his practices until he's gotten his rate as high as likely possible with this incubator. He doesn't even pay too much attention to the rate anymore, because he's mastered the skills needed to consistently produce a great one.
I remember when, along the way, Bill and I suggested to Aidan that maybe we should just spend the money on a newer fancy incubator that would be easier to use. He refused.
Aidan turning eggs this year.
He said that when he turns the eggs several times everyday, mimicking a mother hen's actions, he imagines his Grandpa doing something similar in a different era.
And it feels right.
I'm glad because I love watching his once-little-boy hands but now bigger-than-mine grown-man hands open the old wood door and thinking - not of those before him - but of all he's learned working with this incubator.
Not just about hatching chicks but, more importantly, about himself.
And it feels right.
Seeing the fuzzy little heads as he slides the tray out is just icing on the cake for me.
Enjoy the video below of when we find the first chick. And after it there's another from the next day when lots more chicks have hatched that you can watch also.