Hatching Chicken Eggs
Rotten Eggs Explode!
Chickens are by far my favorite pet. I raised chickens for ten years and hatching eggs is a rewarding part of it. Hatching an egg isn't as easy as it sounds!
Most of the time, when there is no rooster in the hen house, laying hens will lay an egg and walk away. Sometimes you will come across a brooder, a chicken that wants to sit on eggs, but normally they don't. I had one little Banty (Bantum) hen that wanted to sit on eggs really bad. When she would see an egg she had to sit on it. She sat so long on unfertilized eggs, and fought me viciously when I tried to shoo her away, she could barely walk. I felt so bad for her that I decided to let the rooster into the hen house for a little while to give her some live eggs to sit on. Besides my herd of chickens was running low and I thought I could hatch a few eggs in an incubator.
I let the little, black, Banty hen have a pile of eggs to sit on and I took the rest in the houes to incubate.
How Do They Do That?
Have you ever wondered how the chicks always hatch at the same time (or near to) when a chicken sits on them? They only lay one egg a day, so how do they all hatch the same day?
This question had me stumped. I researched it and found that the chick inside the egg will not start to grow until the temperature inside the egg reaches 99 degrees for an extended period of time. When the egg is laid, the hen goes about her business and comes back the next day to lay another egg, so the egg doesn't warm up for very long, thus the chick embryo lies dormant. Everyday the hen lays another egg. After six or seven eggs have been laid, she will lay a last egg and stay. Once she sits and stays, she won't get up again for three weeks!
The eggs may be laid on consecutive days, but the chick embryo doesn't begin to grow until she sits and stays. Thus, they all start growing at the same time and hatch at the same time.
Twenty one days later the little Banty hen has a herd of chicks following her, I had none.
That first batch didn't go so well for me. I had followed the directions in the books I had to the letter, but they didn't hatch. They started to smell terrible and then they started to explode! Yes, rotten eggs explode into an aweful, sticky, stinky mess. I needed to learn how to hatch eggs and I had to learn it fast because that rooster was busy in the hen house, so I watched the little black Banty hen.
I noticed she turned the eggs far more often than I read to do. Every few minutes she would duck her head into her feathers and move the eggs around. Sometimes she would stand up and carefully roll each one over and then sit back down. So, back at my incubator I rolled them more often.
The next batch hatched but with some problems like the chick sticking to the egg, or the chick not being able to get out of the membrane. Moisture, or a lack of moisture was the problem. The answer was obvious, add more water and make sure it never goes dry.
The next batch did just fine. Every egg hatched with a healthy chick.
Now, ten years later, I can hatch just about any egg handed to me.
Follow my advise and you will have live chicks hatch every time!
Rodent and Bug Control
Did you know that chickens are excellent for rodent and bug control?? If a rat ventures into the hen house it is unlikely to make it back out. The chickens will viciously attack it until it is dead. Rats will kill a chick, so it is in the chickens basic instinct to kill a rat if it encounters one.
Did you know chickens are excellent for bug control? Chickens will eat every bug they come across. Everything from Black Widows to Maggots is on their menu! A Black Widow has nothing on a chicken.
Did you know that you can train your chicken to come to you? When your chickens are still chicks, in their chick box, every time you go to fill their feed dish, call out, "Heeeeeerrrreeee chick, chick, chick". After just a few times doing this you will notice they will come and soon as you say it. Continue doing this and when they are old enough to be put in the hen house they will come RUNNING to you when you call out, "Heeerrrree chick, chick, chick!". It's really fun to have your chickens come when you call. And since they know assume you are bringing food, you can direct them to a Black Widow or Daddy Long Legs and they will eat it. You will find a few chickens that look forward to hunting bugs with you.
No Food or Water for 21 Days
A chicken will go without food or water for 3 weeks (21 days) while she waits for her eggs to hatch! Out of hundreds of chickens I raised only two maybe three hens ever left their eggs and it was to get a drink of water.
Let's Hatch Some Eggs
These are the steps to hatching eggs every time.
- Purchase or make an incubator. It should have a light to produce heat, an area below the eggs for water, a screen or support area for the eggs above the water and a lid.
- Obtain fertilized eggs either from your own herd, a friend or order them from a catalog or online.
- Place water in the reservoir as directed by the manufacturer or a layer across the bottom about an inch deep. Keep this at a constant. The moisture the water produces is important for the chick to stay alive and hatch. Do NOT submerge the eggs! Eggs are porous and the chick will drown if submerged.
- Place the eggs on the support above the water.
- Place a thermometer in the incubator.
- Turn on the light or heat source.
- Close the lid.
- Keep a close eye on the temperature the first couple of days to make sure it remains between 99 and 102 degrees. The cooler the temperature inside the more likely you have roosters hatch. If you keep the temperature closer to 102 degrees the more likely you will have pullets hatch (girl chickens).
- Turn the eggs a SEVERAL times a day. Every time you walk by the incubator give them a turn. Incubators with automatic turners are available. Invest in one if you don't think you will remember or have the time to turn them often.
- Give the eggs 21 days to hatch.
After 23 days, if one or all have not hatched, then they are not likely going to hatch. Review what you may have forgotten or not done often enough and try again. If you follow the steps provided you should have no problem. I can't stress enough how important turning the eggs is. It is vital!
Now go hatch some eggs!! Good Luck!
Incubating Chicken Eggs
Result if Not Done
Keep water in the incubator at all times.
Chicks will stick to eggshell and/or membrane and die.
Turn the Eggs often. Several times a day.
Chicks will die.
Keep the temperature at 99-102 degrees
Chicks will die or you will hatch a lot of roosters.