It’s the 18th day of incubation for your chicks, and one of them is beginning to hatch from its shell! You may even hear peeps coming from the eggs. What do you do now? Here’s a quick guide to hatching chickens.
When an egg is freshly laid, its temperature is 105 degrees Fahrenheit. A chicken begins to develop at 88 degrees Fahrenheit. The chicken does not develop from the yolk of the egg white but from a small segment of cells called a blastodisc.
First, try not to move the egg because the chick is already in a position to hatch. Moving the egg means the chick has to move back into the hatching position, and this causes them to expend energy and weaken them.
After 2 more days of incubation, the chick will more than likely begin to pierce the egg’s membrane with its beak. This lets in outside air for the chick. Then, the chick must chip away at the shell, and it does this in a circular pattern. It may take up to a few hours for a chick to complete chip away the shell so that the top pops off. After this tiring process, the chick may lie there for a while to rest and dry off.
While it may be tempting to help chicks come out of their shell if they are having difficulty, it’s actually not a good idea. Hatching is a prolonged process, and patience is key. If the shell’s membrane has dried out too much around the chick, you can slowly and very carefully help the chick with tweezers.
So what should you do if the eggs hatch late? (FYI- If the eggs hatch early, the incubator temp was probably too high, or you miscounted the days. If the eggs hatch too late, the temp was probably too cold, or you didn’t store the eggs properly before incubation.) If any of the eggs fail to hatch by day 22, pull some out and open them. It is important to keep an eye on the proper temperature for hatching chickens. They could have improperly formed embryos or no embryos at all. If you find some living embryos, put the unopened eggs back for more time in the incubator.
Many problems are associated with incubation temperatures and humidity level. High temperatures can result in malformed chicks, and too low temps can result in chicks hatching with egg goo on them. If chicks have bad legs, it may have been caused by hatching them on a slippery surface.
There’s much more to learn about backyard chicken care…