Springtime in the countryside, with its greenery, brings new adventure and a promise of a new beginning. It’s a time when life is blooming all around us and to some degree we don’t see it like we used to.
Being raised in the city, my husband and I didn’t experience “real nature” in our daily lives other than city wildlife (if you can even call it that). While my husband was transitioning out of the military, we started going on hikes two to three times a week with our children. They were never more in their element than when they were uncovering funny looking bugs, looking at beautiful flowers, and of course, tromping through any mud puddle they could find. It was then, two and a half years ago now, that we decided to transition from city life to a home in the countryside to live a more sustainable way of life.
Living our first summer in our, then, cabin in the woods, we worked side by side as a family gathering wood, growing plants, building a chicken coop, and exploring our native edibles (which included whole lot of blackberries). That first summer was full of us teaching and learning life skills together. Fall and winter had quickly settled upon us and while there are still things to be learned, everything we tried just didn’t excite them as much as our summer adventures had. I missed seeing their childlike wonder and readiness to learn, so in February of 2020, I decided to purchase an incubator. Who doesn’t love hatching eggs? I had no experience hatching eggs, but I remember when I was little hearing other children excitedly talk about their class projects and being jealous because I wished our class had done it too. I knew that would be a way to get their attention.
Once our incubator arrived, we set it up and put some of our Sebastopol goose eggs in and waited. We candled the eggs, more than we probably should have, and the kids (and I) were so excited to watch them grow. Each time we looked inside, there was something new–the goslings developing hearts, little webbed feet, and their big eyes always left my boys a little awestruck. They loved it so much they would ask me multiples times a day to look at the goose eggs.
As they were growing, the boys had so many questions, many of which I didn’t have answers for. I started doing some research, so I could answer their questions and feed their growing curiosity. I was able to find some online groups to help us in our hatching journey, but when I went looking for books there weren’t a lot of options on geese. Instead we found some books on hatching chickens. The book we all enjoyed most was How to Speak Chicken by Melissa Caughey. My children were absolutely convinced by the end of that book that they would be squawking right alongside our hens.
A short 27 days later, our eggs began to crack. In March 2020, while everything around us was shutting down, we were all surrounding the incubator waiting for those eggs to move. Every time an egg would peep my boys would peep back, and so it went, back and forth, between them and the goslings like a conversation. Once they were hatched, they were waited on hand and (webbed) foot; my children were in love. The memory of hatching those eggs will be with them forever, all the magic and the excitement. It was exciting for me too, not just watching those goslings grow, but watching my boys learning and their joy over these little lives we had helped nurture together.
You never know where these simple life experiences might take your children, what spark it might ignite for them. My hope is by loaning out the incubators and by sharing our books with schools and homeschoolers that other children will get to experience the joy of hatching too. That they will be captivated, like we were, by the swirling little embryos inside and we can cultivate their love for not only hatching, but their desire to continue to learn and explore.
My geese have started laying this season, my incubator is running, and we’re excited to start the adventure all over again.
If by chance you are now curious about hatching your own eggs at home here are some guidelines.
First, you need to start by getting access to fertilized eggs of your choice. After you get your fertilized eggs, you will need an incubator with a fan and an automatic egg turner. I also suggest a bright flashlight so you can candle your eggs, a hydrometer to measure your incubator’s humidity, and a thermometer to measure the temperature. Some incubators make this easy by having them all built in.
Plug in your incubator 24 hours before you plan to set your eggs, so you can make sure your humidity and temperature are right; they both play key roles in this process.
Humidity is a major factor in successfully hatching eggs; you need to make sure that your incubator has 35-55% humidity during the incubation period and 60 to 80% humidity during the hatching period. The hatching period is commonly referred to as lockdown, that is because, during this period, the egg turner should be turned off and the incubator should remain closed.
Your temperature should be at a constant 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit or 37.5 degrees Celsius.
While you’re waiting for your incubator to acclimate, it is a good time to set your hatch timer on your incubator or write it down on your calendar. Set your hatch timer for 21 days for chicken eggs or 28 days for goose eggs.
Once your incubators hydrometer has evened out, you may place your room temperature eggs inside.
Now it’s a game of hurry up and wait. If you candle your eggs around day 4-5 you should be able to see the little chicken embryo develop, or about a week if your hatching geese. If you read that and wonder what the term “candle” is that is when you hold your egg to a light source to see the embryo inside. Candling is our favorite part; its where all the magic and wonder started for us.
On day 18 for chickens or 25 for geese, you need to make sure your humidity is up around 60 to 80% and that your egg turner is turned off or removed. It is hatching time! Watch out for wriggling and cracking eggs, if you’re lucky you might even hear some peeping. Make sure you keep your incubator closed until the chicks are outside of the egg and are dry and fluffy. Opening the incubator before that could result in something called shrink wrapping which is where the hatchling gets stuck in the eggs membrane. It also could result in pasty butt or give them a chill, since they can’t regulate their own body temperatures yet, that could be deadly.
Hopefully by the end of this you feel confident in your ability to hatch eggs at home. I hope you find it both captivating and educational, maybe even inspiring.
photo credit: Dele Oluwayomi, Unsplash