He also got an automatic turner so he wouldn't have to mark and turn the eggs daily. The turner holds about 40 eggs, but he only put 14 in for the first experiment (now we wonder why we didn't fill it up...). Basically you plug it in and adjust the heat until you have it at 99.5 degrees and place the eggs in, small side down (the head develops in the big end). You keep water in the incubator so the air is humid. You make sure the water level stays constant and that's pretty much all there is to it for the first 19 days.
You're supposed to "candle" the eggs to see if an embryo is forming, but since we have dark brown eggs, we really didn't have much success with that. Thankfully we didn't have an exploding (rotten) eggs. As it turns out, we had two eggs that didn't develop. Next time we will try harder to candle them to make sure we don't have any accidents.
I marked the calendar on the day we put the eggs in the incubator and counted 21 days (or so I thought). Actually I miscounted. Thursday night we heard a strange - chirping - sound and ran to the incubator and saw this:
I looked at the calendar and realized I had miscounted.... Three days before the eggs hatch you're supposed to take out the turner so the chicks can position themselves for hatching. I hoped I hadn't screwed it all up! We quickly moved the eggs onto the wire (after placing muslin on the wire to catch any nastyness) and waited. The first chick came out about 1-2 hours after we first heard the chirping. I could hardly go to sleep that night, it was so exciting.
We figured we'd get about 1-2 chicks out of the deal, but we have 10 chicks. We would have had 12 but we learned, too late, that you're not supposed to open the lid until all the chicks hatch because the humidity drops. But even so, 10 out of 14 is great. Now if only all of them would be hens!!
We have a huge brooder cage in the shed, but it seems like a lot of work to set that all up for 10 chicks, so Marc put a plastic tote in the clawfoot tub and clipped a heat lamp on and that's where they'll stay for a week or so. Aren't they cute?