The chickens are finally laying well now that the days are lengthening again and the geese are starting to court each other.  Spring is on the way!  And that means one thing.  Babies!!!

The best part of farm life is the babies.  Baby chickens and baby geese and adorable little baby ducks and baby goats and baby pigs and even baby wild animals like quail and Killdeer.  I can’t wait to see baby killdeer even if they ARE shorebirds that aren’t supposed to be in the desert.  How much cuter can a baby get?

photo from www.birdcanada.com

Anyhow, we have the incubator turned on and heated up in preparation for putting eggs in tomorrow.  It’s important to prep the incubator and make sure everything’s working and that it’s holding the temperature (and that the incubator thermometer is working).  We also cleaned it really well by using vinegar and sunshine.  I used pure vinegar, which did a doozy on my hands let me tell you.  Ouch!  Use gloves if you do that, otherwise water it down.  The incubator was really dirty though so I wanted to use overkill.  I say “we” cleaned the incubator because my arms are too short to reach the back wall so I had to get Thomas to do it lol.  Then I let it sit in the sun for a couple days until rain threatened and we brought it back inside.

The sunshine is really the best sterilization you could ever use in my opinion.  The ultraviolet rays are excellent at destroying bacteria and viruses which is why we have so few disease problems in the desert.  But hydrogen peroxide is also very effective, maybe even moreso.

In one study,

“four trials were conducted to evaluate the efficacy of hatcher air sanitation utilizing ultraviolet light (UV), ozone, or hydrogen peroxide on bacterial populations, the spread of Salmonella, and hatchability of broiler eggs. The UV light (254 nm, 146 mu W/s) and ozone (0.2 or 0.4 ppm) treatments were continuously applied through the last 3 d of hatch, the hydrogen peroxide treatment (2.5%) was administered 1 or 2 min of each 10 min at rates of 500 or 100 mL/h. Hatchability was not significantly reduced by sanitizing treatments when compared with the untreated control (94 vs 95.6%). As compared to controls, all sanitizing treatments reduced 75 to 99% of the total bacteria, Enterobacteriaceae, and Salmonella in the hatching cabinet air samples. The use of hydrogen peroxide resulted in greater reduction of bacteria than ozone or UV light. Only hydrogen peroxide significantly reduced Salmonella levels on eggshell fragments. Significant reductions in the number of Salmonella-positive chicks occurred using the ozone and hydrogen peroxide treatments. Hydrogen peroxide significantly reduced the magnitude of Salmonella colonization in chicken ceca. These trials demonstrated that the spread of bacteria can be effectively reduced in the hatching cabinet by air sanitization using UV light, ozone, and hydrogen peroxide. The potential to reduce bacterial cross contamination in the hatcher is achievable without depressing hatchability.”

It’s also important to put clean eggs into the incubator.  The best way to keep eggs clean is by keeping clean straw in the nest boxes so the eggs don’t become filthy.  Never wash them as this forces bacteria into the egg.  Commercial hatching facilities often use formaldehyde to fumigate their eggs.  This does work, but yuck.  First off, that’s what you use to preserve dead bodies and second, it’s carcinogenic!  You don’t want to use that.  I recently found a research article that says 5% hydrogen peroxide spray (or dipping eggs in a 6% solution) works just as well as formaldehyde and increases the hatch rate by 2%.  We’re going to give it a try this year and see!