How To: Incubating Chicken Eggs At Home
What's Fun, Educational, and Beneficial All at Once?
Hatching and raising chicks! Many schools do it to teach their students about life and development- plus it's just really cool to witness.
Raising chicks can be a fun learning experience for children as it teaches them about responsibility and about life cycles.
Not only is this experience beneficial for students, having chickens supplies your family with eggs and meat for many years to come.
So, how do you hatch chicks in you home? Below are the steps to hatching your first batch of chicks!
First Things First...
Before you can even think of hatching and raising the chicks, you need a place to incubate them. Many people opt to buy an incubator that comes with everything you need and makes recording the data on them much easier, but they can be expensive for most people.
Below is a video on how to make your own homemade incubator for only twenty dollars. The supplies and steps are also included below for reference.
Supplies You'll Need:
- Styrofoam Cooler
- Picture frame glass
- 25-watt lightbulb
- Tin tray
- Non-slip netting
- Chicken wire
- Thermometer that reads both temperature and humidity
- Small dish
- Duct tape
- Once you have the supplies, cute two holes in the cooler, one for the light bulb and one for the glass frame. Use the tape to seal the holes once the glass and bulb are fitted so the heat can't get out.
- Set the dish and sponges under the light source and the tin tray as far from the dish as possible. Place the netting in the tray so the chicks cannot slip and fall after hatching.
- Take the piece of chicken wire and fit it between the dish and the tray so that the chicks cannot reach the sponges. Soak the sponges in water and place back in dish.
- Once the incubator is set up, place the thermometer where you can clearly read the numbers, close the lid, and observe for a few hours.
The light and water levels may need adjusting, so do so until the numbers read 99 degrees Fahrenheit and between 40 and 50% humidity, which are optimal readings for hatching. Set the eggs in (make sure to mark them on one side so you know how far to turn them), close the lid. and leave them go!
Note: Be sure to mark your calendar so you don't forget about day 18, which will be covered later in the article, and day 21!
Days 1 - 18: Turning Days
From day one all the way until day eighteen, you will turn the eggs up to four or five times a day, though turning them three or four is just fine. Make sure to record when you turn them so you don't wait too long in between turnings; the developing yolk can stick to the wall of the egg, leading to a lost chick.
Humidity in the incubator should stay between 40 and 50% so the membrane stays loose and the chick can easily break through.
Temperature should stay as close to 99.5 degrees as possible, but fluctuations are normal and fine, so long as they temperature doesn't stay too cold or too hot for long periods of time.
Days 4 - 8: Candling!
As early as day four of the incubation process, you can see the embryo begin to develop! The candling process is done by holding a light source (flashlight or candle) against the fat end of the egg and observing the inside of the egg.
If there is blood vessels around a circle of red towards the middle of the egg, you've got a potential chick growing!
If the egg doesn't develop any blood vessels by day eight or nine, toss them into the trash; undeveloped eggs can explode if left in the incubator!
As you're candling, take a pencil and mark where the air sac is (you'll be able to see it while candling); this is so on hatch day, you'll know that the chicks are pipping at the right places and will be able to breathe!
Days 9 - 18: Development & Movement!
You can continue candling your eggs all through these days. Keep in mind they atmosphere inside should stay as constant as possible for optimal hatching, so record the temperature and humidity every time you turn them and don't mess with the light too often.
During this period, some of them may die for no explainable reason. A ring of red will be visible around the air sac, and the blood vessels will be broken. Toss these eggs as they are no good.
During this time, you may see the embryos moving about as they continue to grow and change! Keep checking on their development daily. Towards the end of incubation, you'll notice the eggs darkening and eventually there will be just black. Don't be alarmed! The chick is getting into position for hatching and is just blocking out the light! He's ready to go!
Day 18: Batten Down The Hatches!
Day eighteen should be marked down on your calendar because it is the day you stop turning the eggs and opening the incubator to check them. This is because the chicks are now developed and readying for their hatch.
On day 18, you will have to up the humidity so the membrane doesn't toughen, causing the chick to become "leather bound", or stuck in the egg. Add more water and adjust the light:water ratio so the numbers read 99 degrees and between 60 and 70 percent.
Once the atmosphere is ready, shut the lid and don't touch it again unless you absolutely have to!
The chicks are not really on a time schedule, so they can hatch anywhere from day 19 to day 23, so be patient and keep an eye (and ear!) on them at all times! If you can hear peeping and see cracks or holes in the eggs (pips), you know they are on their way! The hatching process is long, sometimes over 24-hours, so be patient.
Day 21: Hatch Day!
This is by far the most exciting day of the process: hatch day!
Chicks take a long time to hatch as it is a tiring experience, so keep an eye on them so you can remove the egg shells once they hatch. Be careful not to keep the lid open too long because the chicks are still wet and they could catch a chill and die. Also, leave the chicks in there once they hatch; their cheeping and movement encourages the other chicks still in their eggs to come out.
When a chick emerges and begins moving around, you may notice the shell will go with them sometimes. This is perfectly normal. They are attached to the membrane by their umbilical cord, and as they dry and fluff out, it will eventually fall off. Do Not Try To Pull It Off!
Keep an eye out for any chicks struggling to get out of their eggs. You can't really help them, unfortunately, so just keep checking on them in case they find a way out.
Once everyone is hatched, fluffed out, and unhatched eggs removed, remove the dish and sponges so the humidity won't be so high (this keeps them from drying fully) and the tray they are in. The chicks can stay in the incubator for up to 72 hours without food and water thanks to the yolk, so don't worry about them starving.
Keep the chicken wire in between the light & chicks to keep them from being burned.
So what is the next step?
Time For A New Home!
After chicks hatch, a brooder must be made for them so they can grow into adolescent chickens under the heat of a lamp with food, water, and space. The brooder pen/box is just an area where chicks can live for four to eight weeks before being introduced to the outside world.
Food and water should be set out for them and kept clean. A heat lamp should be available for them since they do not have their adult feathers to keep them warm. The starting temperature should be around 95 degrees, and turned down five degrees each week that passes until they are feathered out and ready to go outside!
Water dishes should be extremely shallow, and you may need to dunk their beaks into the water to teach them how to drink. Food can be scattered over a paper towel, chick grit added in so they can begin to digest older chick food.
That's it! Your chicks will be ready for the outside world around eight weeks old, though you can put them in a coop with a red heat lamp on at night as early as four weeks old. Keep an eye on their development as you'll start to notice who are the hens and who are the roosters after ten or twelve weeks.
Be sure to research laws on roosters and crowing as these guys can be quite loud!
Hens will start to lay eggs after five months, so be sure to check their nesting boxes for eggs around that time!
Congratulations! You now have the start of a chicken farm! And a very cool science project.
© 2017 Caitlyn Booth