DARK BROWN EGGS

Incubating Marans Eggs

I HOPE I AM NOT TEACHING MY GRANDMOTHER TO SUCK EGGS- but in case you would like a little information this is some of what I have learnt over the years

Unpack your eggs carefully. Make sure when cutting any adhesive tape that you do not damage the eggs inside the box. Unwrap your eggs from the soft tissue wrapping. (I do not like bubblewrap and sellotape round the eggs as it is difficult to remove and can result in damaged eggs).

If your eggs have come through the post place the eggs upright with the broad rounded end uppermost to allow the air space to re-form after being shaken around in transport. To further help the eggs to settle, rest your eggs for a few hours in a coolish place (not the fridge) then bring in to a warm room to gradually increase the heat. After they have rested for a minimum of 20 hours, but preferably not more than 36 hours ( as you want them to go into the incubator or under your broody as fresh as possible) set them to hatch.

If using a broody  ( go to the Hatching with Broody page for more information) it is traditional to set an odd number of eggs, ie 7, 11, 13. I always like to introduce the eggs after dark. Just gently put the eggs up against her breast and she will soon tuck them in. Also make sure she can easily cover all her eggs, for if not, as she moves them around in the nest each egg will get chilled and warmed in turn, resulting in a completely lost clutch. If when using a broody you find she rejects an egg after a few days, bow to her superior knowledge and take it away. If she is sitting very tight, after a couple of days you may have to take her off the nest so she can have something to eat and drink, and defecate. If you put food and water by her she may not get off the nest at all and will "poo" on the eggs. The bacteria in the poo after 21 days at body temperature can result in the death of your chicks. When lifting her off do so gently, and make sure she is not holding any eggs under her wings. If there has been an "accident" and she has broken an egg or messed in the nest try cleaning the eggs gently with wire wool or very fine sandpaper rather than washing them, as once an egg has had its protective bloom washed off bacteria can gain access, and may result in dead embryos

If you are using an incubator it is best to have it running for two or three days before the eggs go in to allow the temperature to stabilize and to give you time to adjust the temperature. It is always best to try and have the incubator in a room where the temperature does not fluctuate too much i.e. hot in the daytime sunshine and cool during the night. By the way, too much fluctuation in temperature during hatching will mean many losses. You can check if your incubator is functioning well with a properly calibrated thermometer, and don't forget to check it in different places as there may be cool or warm spots. Follow the manufacturers instructions, presumably they have spent many hours testing their machines so they should know how best to run them, and if you have lost the instructions go to the manufactures website, where you should be able to download them.
 
Hen eggs should take 21 days to hatch, but this will vary on the size of the egg, smaller eggs take less time and larger ones, such as mine can take 23 days or even a little more. If you are unsure whether there is a live embryo or not give the egg the benefit of the doubt. Use a proper candler with a cool light, and as the shells of my Maran eggs are very thick and dark I generally candle in a completely dark room, otherwise it is impossible to see anything. If you can candle in the trays that is best, but if you have to pick the egg up handle it very gently and don't shake it about. Try not to candle too often as this can affect the eyesight of the chick and may even cause blindness.

They are not the easiest to hatch as the shell is so thick and waterproof, probably from their originally having been bred in a marshy area and needing to have extra strong waterproof eggs. The eggshell when formed is white, but as it passes through the oviduct the brown pigment is applied layer by layer, with the darkest eggs having the most coats of pigment. That is why the first egg of a 3, 4 or 5 day laying cycle is always darker - it has spent longer being coloured. Each coat of colour increases the thickness of the shell making it that much more difficult for oxygen to reach the developing embryo, and for sufficient room to build up to in the "airsac" to allow the chick to move around when it is due to pip, and also making it more difficult for the chick to escape the shell. Also those hens which lay the very darkest of the eggs can retain their egg so long in the oviduct that the cell developes past its critical stage, and when the egg is finally laid it cannot stand the temperature shock, and will show as an infertile egg - wheras it is actually an early death, obviously the darkest of eggs are the most susceptible. One of the biggest and best French breeders in Marans who hatches 1000's of eggs a year reckons that a 75% hatch rate is an excellent success!

Don't forget the hatch may not all be exactly on the day you expect, especially if your incubator is a fraction of a degree under or over the correct temperature, or if it has been fluctuating throughout the hatch (which some models will do)

The chicks will start to "peep" in their shells before they begin to hatch, this is does not mean they are in distress. It is a good sign as it means they are calling to each other to synchronise the hatch, which if your incubator has cool or hot spots may mean that some of the chicks will have to attempt to hatch before they are fully formed. Nature wants all the chicks to hatch within a day or so, as the mother hen would need to take the earliest hatchlings off to feed after a day or two, which means that any chicks which have not made it out of their shells will have to be abandoned to die, if not the earliest hatched will expire from starvation.

When the eggs are put in the hatcher make sure that the surface the hatched chicks will stand on will not allow their feet to slip about, as if this happens at such an early stage it can affect their joints and make it difficult for them ever to stand up (called Splay Leg ) Sometimes a piece of old towelling on the hatcher floor is good, and if you think the humidity needs boosting it can be dampened with warm water when the eggs are put in the hatcher (or the turner stopped in the incubator). Some Marans breeders recommend a humidity of around 60 during the actual hatching days, and also say to reduce the temperature by one or two degrees when hatching is due to start, but again follow your machines instruction manual if you are unsure.

Any hatched chicks can easily survive 24 hours and even 48 hours, without food or water as they will be living on the absorbed egg sac, but after this they need to be moved to a suitable brooder. If some of the eggs have still not hatched I give them a little more time, just in case.

The hatched chicks should be offered clean water in something they cannot fall in and get wet or even drown - a saucer with a few pebbles or bits of gravel in is fine, and of course ad lib chick crumbs, preferably put in something which makes a noise when pecked, such as a cardboard egg tray, as the noise encourages the chicks to peck at the food, something their mother would normally teach them. After a few days they will also love fresh chickweed from the garden, or a little lettuce, and they should always have chick grit on offer or a little sprinkled on their chick crumbs -without grit they cannot digest any food. If you want to tame them as pets make suitable clucking type noises when you offer them food, and they will soon get to know your voice.

If you are a novice I do hope the above may be of some use, and remember most beginners with little knowledge and no worries get wonderful hatches, and if you are more experienced and have any hints or tips about hatching I would love to hear from you, as I think one can never have too much knowledge. I find the older I get the more I realise how little I know about anything! And I wish you a very successful hatch and I hope you have as much pleasure as I have had from my Marans over the years.

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This is a useful link to a commercial hatchery site which lists possible causes of non-hatching eggs and shows the development of the embryo within the shell from day 1 to day 21

http://www.cobb-vantress.com/contactus/brochures/EmbryoFlipChart.pdf

Useful links on incubating Marans eggs
Dry Incubation Techniques

I have sold up and am travelling If you want to see where I am and what I am doing now follow the link below, which opens in a new window

www.thebusphoebeandme.us

email for altenative egg/bird
suppliers and I will try to help

Purchasers Comments....

Big thankyou for the eighteen eggs that arrived safely and all intact. My eyes nearly popped out when I saw just how big and chunky they were.......easily the biggest i've ever received.........and what a colour, definite wow factor and so looking forward to hatching.Many many thanks.

......A huge thank you for the 100% fertile hatching eggs, 11from 12 hatched, they are very large and very strong chicks! Thank you for all your advice, it is appreciated

...Just to let you know i have hatched 7 lovely chicks including 1 from your 2 best eggs and 10 out of the 14 eggs ...so very pleased ..... they were worth the wait, they are massive!

... the eggs arrived safely this morning - "eggstra" early 9.00 delivery from my lovely postman who recognised a very important parcel (normal delivery is around 2.00pm!). The eggs are real beauties ...If anyone is looking for marans, I'll certainly send them your way!

....I received 12 gorgeous dark brown eggs yesterday - I have never seen Maran eggs like that before in my life. ... Was the best of packaging...

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