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.