Poppy’s Summer Clutch – first candling

February 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

Today was the first candling of the Summer clutch eggs.

We had a nasty surprise last Sunday (day 3) – walked past the broody coop, and realised there was the remains of an egg outside the house, just sitting there on the grass. The immediate panic was that something must have got in and robbed the nest and attacked Poppy (as well as rats, there are stoats and weasels in our part of the world). A quick look showed nothing untoward with Poppy or the other eggs, although there was  egg yolk and muck on her chest and in the nest itself. Closer examination of the remains in the run were very interesting – the broken egg was BR3, which had looked a little thin-shelled. As far as we can work out, the egg must have broken in the nest, under Poppy, at some point during the day. But here’s the thing: she had evidently understood that this was a bad thing, and had taken the broken remains of the egg out of the nest and outside by herself.

Maybe that doesn’t seem worth mentioning. But the thing with broody hens is that they don’t get off the nest without some serious prodding (or unless they’re busting for a poo). If something does get them off the nest early on in the brooding, there’s a very good chance they’ll stay off and abandon their clutch. But no, our little noodle-brained Poppy had worked out how to carry this broken, dripping, oozing egg outside and away from her nest. She hadn’t even eaten any of the yolk from the shell (again, very unusual!).

In case you’re wondering why the hen removing broken egg is a good thing: bacteria. Egg is a perfect growing medium for bacteria, and a broody hen is incubating everything at an equally bacteria-friendly temperature. The other thing to remember about eggs is that their shells are porous – there is quite a bit of transpiration that goes on, and bacteria are plenty small enough to penetrate the shell pores. So a broken egg is quite a serious threat to the viability of the other eggs. And somehow, Poppy knew that. Amazing!

Anyway, this meant that we had to (very carefully) clean the eggs, to remove the last traces of muckiness from them. You have to be careful – there’s a coating (or ‘bloom’) on the shells which normally helps protect them against bacteria, and washing removes this. Plus there’s an issue with osmosis. When you wash eggs (and this applies with non-fertile as well), you want to use water that is slightly warmer than the temperature of the egg itself, so that any osmotic movement is from egg to water, rather than mucky water into egg. With fertile eggs this is even more important: you really don’t want to chill the embryo. So we very very carefully cleaned the eggs, replaced all the nest material, and did our best to clean the last bits of (dried) egg from Poppy’s feathers and legs.

As you can imagine, this made us quite nervous about what we would see when we came to candle …

Fingers crossed, but they all look good. There’s no sign of blood rings, and no oozing or anything else to suggest bacterial contamination. One egg (BR2, the very elongated Barred Rock egg) looks like it may be clear, but all the others seem to have the right sort of things growing in them. We’ll keep BR2 under her until the second candling, just in case I’m missing something. But I’ll also make a point of giving the eggs a sniff-test when Poppy has her daily broody-break.

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