As most of you know, my chicks have arrived. It’s amazing to see how fast they grow! For those of you ready to embark on this wonderful journey yourselves, here’s Part Two of Hatching Your Own Chicks from my wonderful Chicken Lady! See Part One here.
After 7 days in the incubator, it’s time to candle the eggs to see how they are progressing. You can use a store bought egg candler or a bright LED flashlight for this. At this point, you should be able to see a developing embryo and blood vessels.
You also need to monitor the size of the airsac when candling. If your airsac is too small, decrease humidity; too large, increase humidity. Discard any eggs that do not appear to be developing. Candle eggs at 7 days, 14 days, and 18 days.
On day 18, eggs go into “lockdown”. Three days before the eggs are due to hatch, you should stop turning the eggs and make sure the water reservoirs are well topped off. Humidity needs to be high during hatching, so do not open the incubator once in lockdown. Birth takes time! It could be 24 hours or more from the time you notice the first bump on the shell to the time the chicks emerges all wet and exhausted. So be patient, don’t be tempted to help, and don’t transfer the chicks to a brooder until they are fully fluffed up or they could chill. Your patience will be rewarded with little bundles of fuzzy cuteness nobody can resist.
Do not open the incubator while chicks are still hatching or the loss of humidity could cause the un-hatched chicks to become shrink-wrapped in their shells membrane. If you do have to open the incubator to remove chicks due to overcrowding, toss in a soaking wet paper towel to quickly bring humidity back up.
One word of caution, hatching is addictive, and you could soon find yourself sitting and watching for hours as little chicks pop out of shells!
Once all the chicks are hatched and dried up, you can move them to your brooder. Be sure to have your brooder all set up before the chicks hatch. They will need a heat lamp, food, and water. When it comes to chick brooder designs, the possibilities are endless! Almost anything can be converted to a brooder.
- Cardboard boxes
- Large Rubbermaid tubs
- Baby playpens
- Old cribs
- Large wooden boxes
- Kiddie pools
- The list goes on and on!
A couple of things to consider when selecting a brooder are ease of cleaning and is it big enough to house the chicks as they grow.
Chicks grow at an alarming rate, and you may soon find yourself frantically searching for something bigger to house your chicks! It’s always best to start out with something bigger than you need at the moment!
Be sure to check on your fluffies regularly while they are in the brooder to see how they are doing. I’ve found that the best way to tell if the brooder temp is ok is to simply watch the chicks behavior. If they are all cuddled as close to the heat lamp as possible, they are too cold. If they are all as far away from the heat lamp as they can get and/or are panting, they are too hot. If they are all scattered about the brooder happily doing chick things, then they are just right.
Always provide them with fresh water and food and sit back and watch them grow like weeds!