Hatching chicks is an easy process, but it is a matter of patience and timing. The primary tool you'll need in breathing life into your eggs is an incubator. Above all, chicks need heat in order grow inside egg, and you'll be providing that for them.
Eggs are most ready to hatch within a seven day time frame of being laid. After 10 days, the chance of nurturing them drops even further. The entire hatching process should take 21 days, but some eggs may hatch a few days early.
For incubators with fans, the temperature needs to be anywhere from 99 to 99.5 degrees. Those without fans should be anywhere from 101 to 102 degrees. And purchase either a thermometer or hydrometer in order to gauge humidity. Humidity should be anywhere 40 to 50 percent for the first 18 days and 65 percent for the reaming incubating period.
Humidity, Humidity, Humidity
Managing humidity will be one of the most important factors when hatching chicks from an egg, because you're trying to prevent large air bubbles from forming. When an egg is first laid, a small air bubble is formed at theend of the egg. This will be essential, since the chick will need the bubble to breathe. But with dry air, these bubbles grow larger and deprive vital fluids to chicken. These air pockets will also be vital in allowing the chick to peep its beak through the membrane wall in order to breathe. If the holes are too large, the added fluid may drown the hatchling as it looks to breathe through the air cell. But if the humidity is too low, it will make the air cells too large, preventing the chicken frombreaking through the shell. Keeping all this in mind, you're ready to begin the incubation process.
Let the Birthing Begin...
The eggs should be laid with the wide end slightly more upward than the pointed portion of the egg. If it is positioned the other way around, the head may become situated towards the narrow end, and the hatchling could drown when trying to breathe through the air bubble.
Take a pencil or non-toxic marker to mark each side of the egg, using A or B or X and Y. You're going to be turning the eggs for a few days before hatching. Anywhere from day 19 through 21 are days to stop turning. Before that, the 14 days and onward will be crucial, and you'll be doing it three times a day. With turning, you'll be mimicking what a mother hen would normally do with her young. Not doing so will cause the embryo to stick inside the membrane wall, causing abnormalities.
Keep an eye on the incubator until they hatch. When they do hatch, allow the chick to dry itself off in the incubator. Chicks will be able to survive from the yolk nutrients, but begin offering them food and water immediatelywhen they need it. Once fluffed and dry, take them to a brooder. Ensure that water dishes are shallow; chicks can drown in them.
Begin feeding your chick medicated chick starter feed. This will prevent coccidiosis, an intestinal disease that can be contracted by animals and humans. Even with the chick starter feed, the chicks can still get them.But chick starter feed is your best chance of preventing that from happening.
Unfortunately, there is no way to tell which eggs will hatch before they enter the incubator. For white eggs, you can use candlelight to see how an egg has developed. If the egg is undeveloped after ten days, then chances arethe egg is a dud. With fresh eggs, expect a 50 to 75 percent hatch rate, but these rates can also be anywhere from 90 to 100 percent. Eggs that can shipped will amount to just over 50 percent. I lost chicks while raising them, and even commercial farmers lose some, too. If using shipped eggs, always check for damage.
Keep a lookout for my next article on nurturing your baby chicks during those first few crucial months.
Good luck and Happy Hatching!