Monthly Archives: December 2010

Incubator Chicks Hatched

Barred Rock Chicks

Chicks hatched in incubator March 23-26, 2011.

It is very exciting when you start hearing peeps in your incubator.  I can hardly sleep and I jump up and down all night checking to see if a chick has made it out of the shell.

I have read all kinds of articles about how to hatch out chicks and how to care for them.  I can’t say I have the best hatch rate because I don’t follow all the rules to the letter.

When you see the shell have a hole in it or crack, it COULD mean that it will immediately start trying to get out of the shell but most of  the time, it means you have hours to wait.  Darn it.  I guess it is exhausting trying to use that little tooth on top of the beak to break through the shell.  It really does look like the chick zippered it’s way out.  I love to watch the U-Tube chick hatching movies.

If  you have kept your temperature and humidity correct for 18 days and then put your eggs on lock-down for the remaining three days, you should start hearing peeps on the 21st day.  The humidity has to be higher those last few days, too.  If not, the membrane dries out and the chick gets “shrink wrapped” and will not be able to get out.  I have helped a few chicks out of the shell but it is a difficult decision to make.  Sometimes, the chick wasn’t really ready to come out and dies.  I think I read if the chick is not out in 24 hours after breaking through, then you might want to help.

So, I have 11 chicks hatched out.  One chick was hatched from a white Aracuana/Americauna hen, two were from dark eggs which are from the Barred Rock hens, two from Silkie eggs, and the rest are from green/blue eggs which are also Aracuana/Americuana hens.  I was going to sell them once they were hatched.  That is not happening because they are so cute.

If you just have hens  (no rooster) and they go broody, you can usually buy fertilized eggs in your area (Craigslist, Farm and Garden).  They are normally about a dollar an egg.   You would be surprised how many people don’t realize that a hen will lay eggs even if there is not a rooster.

Once my chicks start hatching out in the incubator, I leave them there for an hour or so though I read you can keep them in there for 24 hours.  I feel sorry for the chick lying on the wire flooring.

I did help a couple chicks out of their shells.  If the humidity isn’t right, the membrane dries out and the chick has a really difficult time getting out of the shell.  I used warm water and Q-tips to carefully push the membrane away from the chick.  Make sure the membrane is really wet and warm.  Also, you can chip the shell and then moisten the membrane again.  Make sure you just do it up near the chick’s head and get enough of the shell out of the way so the chick can emerge by itself.  It is really scary though because sometimes there is blood and a chick doesn’t have to lose much blood before it dies.

I have a plastic container (tub) that has either old t-shirts or towels in the bottom of it.  Then I have a heat lamp set up to get the temperature right for the baby chicks.   It should be around 98 degrees in order to dry the chick and keep it warm.

I put water out immediately though the chicks don’t really seem interested for awhile.  Once one chick starting drinking, the others seem to follow the leader.  The small water feeder is great for the baby chicks.   You don’t want the chicks to drown so make sure you use a water feeder or a lid with water that is not deep. Then I take a lid from a peanut butter container and put water in it and drop some grains of starter in it so it is more water then food.  Kind of mushy.  It is easier for the chicks to eat than the starter by itself.

I believe I read that chicks need about 6 square inches for living space.  I know you are going to think this is crazy but I have two bathrooms and we NEVER use the second tub.  I put a bunch of newspaper down in the bathtub and up the sides for about six inches.  That insulates the tub and keeps the mess down when you clean the tub out.  Then I put old t-shirts on top of the newspapers and take them off in layers as they get dirty.  This tub has the glass sliding doors so I hang the heat lamp over the top.   Then I have the water feeder and food feeder in there, too.  It works great.   I can actually go off for a day or two and not worry that the chicks are going to be eaten by a predator.   As long as you take the layered t-shirts off daily, there really isn’t a lot of odor but I do keep the bathroom door closed and the fan on.   Depending on the time of year, the chicks can go outside in two weeks.  But I still keep a heat lamp on them for a month or so.

Broody Hens in Winter

Hens go broody at the strangest times.  It is Dec 13th and two of my Silkies have decided to sit on eggs.  I know they will keep the eggs warm and the baby chicks, too once they hatch.   But winter is not a great time to have baby chicks outside.

Predators are very hungry and brave during the winter and that is when we have lost a chicken or two over the years.   Our three dogs bark so it helps to keep most animals away.  Lately, we have had a stray cat in our chicken yard.  Hopefully, it is just there for some water but we did lose a little two week old chick about the time the cat showed up.

Hens will sit on their eggs for 21 days and only get off the eggs once or twice a day to eat, drink and poop.  It can take a toll on the chicken’s health especially when they want to go broody again  thirty days later, which is when she starting laying eggs again.  After you take the eggs from under her, it is not unusual to see her remain sitting.   But if you don’t want more chicks, keep taking the eggs away.   She will eventually get the idea.

Silkies are great chickens for many reasons but they are definitely GREAT moms.    I often put some of my Americauna (blue/green) eggs under her to hatch for me.  Silkies are a smaller breed chicken so they can sit on about 8 eggs.

I live in Northeastern Florida and day-old straight-run Silkie chicks sell for $5 each.   Straight-run means you do not know the sex of the chick.   You don’t have anything invested in the chicks if the mom hatched the chicks out, so it’s pure profit.

If the chick is not a specialty breed, you can expect to get $3 a chick.  I have heard that the Black Cooper Maran chicks sell for $20 each.  They lay the real dark chocolate colored eggs.

Again, go on Craigslist under Farm and Garden and find out what your local area charges for chickens.   Read up on chickens and determine what kind best suits your needs.  Some chickens are known for being good egg layers and some for their meat.

“Broody” hen

This means the hen is ready to be a mother.  She will sit on the eggs and not eat or drink or poop except maybe once a day.   She will turn the eggs with her beak and even help get the chick out of the egg if it needs help.   Much better than an incubator.

You can add eggs under her but do it the first couple days.   I mark the eggs with an x or the date so if another hen lays eggs in the broody hen’s nest, you can tell which ones to take out.

A couple times, I found that the broody hen will only hatch out a couple eggs and then toss the others out of the nest.  Once I took the ones she pushed out and put them in the incubator.  One hatched so I gave it back to her and she accepted it.   The eggs were cold so I really didn’t think any of them would hatch.

I really worry when my hens go broody weeks after they hatch chicks.  My broody hens start laying again when her chicks are about 4 weeks old.  The hens can look pitiful if they sit too long.  Not enough food and water.  So if my hen goes broody again, I take measures to get her UN-broody.

I have tried a couple ways that I read about but there is one that works best.  Put the hen in a cage with food and water on the ground.   No hay or anything that will make her want to sit.   After a couple days, she will give up that urge.  If she goes back to the nest to sit, put her back in the cage for awhile longer.

I read you can dunk the hen in cool water to lower her body temperature and it will break her broody cycle.    I was amazed at how warm her body felt.   I took a five gallon bucket and filled it with water from the outside hose.    I dunked her rear end and kept her there for a couple minutes.   I did it a couple times.   I got wet and the chicken got mad.  Don’t care to do that again.


This means that the chick has broken through the egg shell and will start pecking in a round circle around the egg (like a zipper) until it has enough broken shell that it can push it’s way out.  The chick is born with a small tooth on top of it’s beak which is used to get out of the egg.

Chicks Hatching

Incubators are so great, especially if you have an egg turner.  In exactly 21 days, chicks start hatching  out.  You have to keep the temperature and humidity correct but other than that, it’s a breeze.  Just read the information that comes with the incubator.

I have two still air incubators.  One is for hatching and the other has the egg turner in it for the first 18 days.   You don’t have to have two incubators but I wanted to put eggs into the incubator on various days.  If you don’t get many eggs a day, it is nice to have the two incubators.

Be sure and wash your hands before handling the eggs or the newborn chicks.   It is best NOT to handle the newborn chicks anymore than necessary.

You  collect your eggs and DON’T wash them off if you want to hatch them.   You can save them up for a few days…up to ten, I have been told.   I don’t save them for more than five to ensure better hatching rate.  You need to put them in an egg carton with the fat side up and move them side to side twice a day.  What I do is put a book under one side of the egg carton and switch it to the other side and then back again later.  I read it keeps the embryo from sticking to the side of the egg shell.  Yuk

Then once you have the temperature and humidity correct and it stays that way for at least 24 hours, you are ready to put the eggs in.  Again, fat side up.  The egg turner does a great job and all you really have to do is check the temperature and humidity a couple times a day.   The still air incubator says it should have 99.5 temperature and the humidity should be at 75 per cent. Things I have read say you can have the temp between 99.5 to 102.   My incubator did not come with a hygrometer but I bought one at Walmart for less than 10 bucks.   It has temp and humidity on it.

After 18 days in the incubator, you need to stop turning the eggs and put them into “lockdown”.    This means you lay them down carefully in the incubator and stop moving them.  You leave the incubator closed and just add water through the holes on top.  It is a good idea to put a sponge right under the hole so you can pour the water onto the sponge.   The humidity needs to be higher when they are being hatched so they don’t stick to the white membrane inside the egg.

You can actually hear the baby chicks chirp before they hatch.   You will see a small crack in the shell and then the chick will zip (peck) the shell apart and fall out of the shell.  You can leave the chick in the incubator for twenty-four hours but I don’t do that.  I think the wire rack must be uncomfortable.  lol  I leave it in the incubator for maybe an hour or if it hatches out overnight, until I get up.  Then I put the chick in a box with either a towel or old t-shirts under a heat lamp.  You want something absorbent so the chick will dry quickly and you need to keep the chick’s air temperature at about 100 degrees.

Chicks don’t have to eat or drink for three days but I put water and food in immediately.   I take a peanut butter lid and put some feed in it with add water to make it a mush.  It is easier for the baby chick to eat that way.   If I don’t see them drinking, I dip the chick’s  beak in the water to show the chick where to drink.

In my neighborhood, you can sell day old straight run chicks for $3 and specialty chicks for more.  I have Aracuana/Americana chickens (green egg layers) and Silkies (fluffy hair chickens) and then the black and white chickens (Barred Rock).   I told myself I will sell these as day old chicks and make some money but it is so hard to part with chicks.  They are so adorable.

Time to go see if the second chick has pecked it’s way out yet.