Hatching Your Own Chicks Part Two

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.

Hatching Your Own Chicks Part 2 - IdlewildAlaska

Hatching Your Own Chicks

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.

Candling Eggs - IdlewildAlaska

Candle your eggs to see your chickies grow!

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.

DIY Hatching Chicks - IdlewildAlaska

Don’t forget to check the airsac!

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.

Hatching Chicken Eggs - IdlewildAlaska

Here they come!

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.

Hatched Chick - IdlewildAlaska

And more to come!

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!

Hatched Chicks - IdlewildAlaska

Ready for the brooder!

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.

The Brooder Box - IdlewildAlaska

The brooder box with room to 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!

Growing Chickens - IdlewildAlaska

See how they grow!

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!

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Hatching Your Own Chicks Part One

My chicks have hatched! I asked my “Chicken Lady” a.k.a my cousin, to write a post on how to hatch your own chicks, as it is something I know nothing about (yet!). Thanks to her, my seven little chicks are quite happy, chirping away in their brooder box in my loft above the kitchen.

Hatching Your Own Chicks - IdlewildAlaska

Hatching your own chicks.

One of the excitements of raising chickens is hatching your own fluffy baby chicks.

There are lots of things to consider before deciding to hatch your own chicks. I was honestly terrified when someone offered me hatching eggs to start my flock and decided to go with already hatched chicks. Since then, I have hatched 2 batches of eggs, and it is not as scary or hard as you might think!

Your 1st step is to choose a good incubator.

Incubators have come a long way, and now you can purchase a good quality small incubator to hatch 7 to 10 eggs for $70 to $130. An accurate temperature control is key to a successful hatch, so be sure to read lots of reviews on any incubator you are thinking of purchasing so you can be sure you are purchasing a reliable one.

There are many styles and models to choose from. I prefer the plastic models to the Styrofoam for ease of cleaning after hatching. There are also still air and circulated air models. Basically, the circulated air models have a little fan that blows the warm air around ensuring the whole incubator is evenly heated. You can also choose between incubators that will automatically turn your eggs and ones that you manually have to turn. The automatic turners are a bit more pricey, so it’s up to you to decide if you want to remember to turn the eggs at least 3 times a day, or have it done for you.

My 1st hatch I used the Brinsea Mini Advance that I borrowed from an aunt. This model comes with digital controls and is very easy to operate. The auto turner did not work, so I had to open the incubator 3 times a day and manually rotate the turning disk.  The mini holds 7 eggs, and all hatched with no issues. This is a very good incubator for first timers.


Eggs in the Incubator - IdlewildAlaska

Chicks in the first incubator.

My 2nd hatch I upgraded to the Brinsea Octagon 20. This one holds 24 eggs, and it’s octagon shape allows you to simply tilt the incubator from side to side for egg rotation. This model comes with no digital display and has a simple, old school thermometer for reading temps. I did have to adjust the temp on this model almost everyday to try and keep it in the needed temp range of 99.3 – 99.6 degrees. Of the 24 eggs I started with, 20 hatched successfully with 3 that did not develop and 1 that didn’t manage to hatch out.


Hatching Chicks - IdlewildAlaska

Brinsea Octagon 20 incubator with 24 eggs.

Both models come with water reservoirs for humidity, which is key for a successful hatch.  Once you have your incubator. it is time to start gathering eggs for hatching.

When selecting eggs, be sure to choose eggs that are not misshaped or excessively dirty. Store eggs in a cool, dry place until you have enough gathered to put in the incubator. Eggs can be stored for up to a week before their chances of hatching start diminishing. Be sure to tilt the eggs to different sides at least 3 times a day so the embryo doesn’t get stuck to one side. Eggs flats work well for this. Be sure to always store eggs fat end up and pointy end down.

Eggs ready to hatch - IdlewildAlaska

Eggs all ready to hatch!

Once you have all your eggs gathered, it’s time to get them set in the incubator.

Before setting the eggs, turn on your incubator for a few hours to allow it to get up to temperature. Once it is up to temp, go ahead and add your eggs. Make sure their fat end is higher than their pointy end. Add water to the reservoir and close the lid and you are ready to go!

Hatching Eggs DIY - IdlewildAlaska

And the waiting begins!

Subscribe below for Part Two! What happens once they’re in the incubator? Find out what’s your next step!


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Touring the Chicken Coop

Chickens in Alaska have it tough. Not only does it drop well below zero degrees every winter, but they are also on the bottom of the food chain for black bears, fox, grizzly bears, ermine, eagles, hawks, coyotes, wolves, owls, and the good ol’ neighborhood dogs and cats. Our chicken coop is now on the level of Fort Knox. Come join me touring the chicken coop!

Touring the Chicken Coop - IdlewildAlaska

Come tour our coop with me!

My parents’ house is on the side of the mountain at the end of a well used game trail. Chickens would have been “sitting ducks” at their house. So we’ve decided to go in on chickens together and keep them at the homestead. We get the chicks; Dad built the coop. It may or may not look just like a miniature of his garage/ wood shop…

Chicken Coop Design - IdlewildAlaska

The chicken coop and run.

As Dad grew up with chickens in Alaska, I’m thrilled with the design he came up with and loved that all I had to do was help move it from his house to ours and paint it. The coop is completely insulated and will have a light bulb in the winter, along with a heated water dish; with this, the chickens will be perfectly warm all winter. The inside is lined with vinyl, which makes for easy clean out. Five nesting boxes make sure there’s plenty of room for everyone.

Inside the Chicken Coop - IdlewildAlaska

Nesting boxes for the girls.

Dad also added a  built in feed bin.

Inside the chicken coop - IdlewildAlaska

Dinner time!

Now for my favorite part. I’m not a bird person. Never have been. A sparrow got caught inside the greenhouse the other day (by way of an open window). Freaked me out badly enough that the hubby had to be the hero and guide the sparrow out the open door. “Aren’t we getting chickens?” was the hubby’s question, to which I explained chickens are different. I really have no clue, but am going to force myself to make it different. With that said…

Easy Access Chicken Coop - IdlewildAlaska

The back of the chicken coop makes life easy.

For me to get my wonderful, delicious, fresh eggs every day, all I’ll have to do is go around the back of the coop and open up the door to the back of the nesting boxes. To refill the feed bin, there’s another little door on the back. No having to enter the chicken run or the coop to get what I need or feed the girls. My mom will occasionally be helping too, and this is her favorite feature too.

Chicken Coop DIY - IdlewildAlaska

Easy access chicken coop!

My uncle has and has had in the past chickens, turkeys, and other birds. He’s also had a black bear inside his chicken coop (he made the newspaper!) and a grizzly bear snooping around. On his suggesting, we’re using a chain link dog kennel for our chicken run. As much as I would love to have totally free-range chickens and let them run the yard, it’s just not safe or practical. The coop and run are inside our garden fence, so our girls are double fenced. Today we finished it off by laying chicken wire across the top of the kennel, to protect from the predators overhead. Like I said, Fort Knox.

Fort Knox Chicken Coop - IdlewildAlaska

The girls’ run, in the kennel and under the coop.

I know the girls won’t be 100% safe. That’s pretty hard to do, but we’ve done our best. Our chicks are hatching this weekend and will be coming home with us and into the brooder box for several weeks. Once the feathers all show up, the coop will be occupied.

Touring our Chicken Coop - IdlewildAlaska

Every coop needs a rooster!

Subscribe below to stay updated on our chicks as they grow!

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