Thursday, February 28, 2013

Adding to Our Flock Through Incubation

 A friend gave us a still air egg incubator last year because I wanted to try to hatch out some chicks this spring.  Surprisingly it was much easier than I thought it would be!

This is the way I did it:
  • I gather the eggs from each day while they were still warm.  In pencil, I marked an X and an O on opposite sides of the egg and I noted the date it was laid. 
  • Then I placed it in the incubator.  I had set up the incubator on my bathroom countertop because it suggested a "humid" and centrally heated location was best for optimizing incubator hatch rates.  Our incubator also had a shallow well that we had to keep filled with water to keep the inside humid, but some incubators are different. 
  • I turn the eggs one to three times per day to ensure the chicks would develop properly. 
  • I continued adding eggs until I had about a dozen in the incubator. After about 10 days, we went in a night and shone a bright flashlight under the eggs.  If there was a "dark spot" where we could tell blood vessels were forming we put it back.  This meant it was in fact a fertilized, growing embryo.  We pitched the unfertilized ones.
  • Then after another week, we looked again with a light.  Those fertilized eggs had become completely opaque so that the only light from the flashlight we could see was through the chicks "air hole" at the large end of the egg. 
  • At this point, we stopped turning the eggs allowing the chicks to be able to orient themselves in preparation for hatching. 
  • Then we started LISTENING!  Day 21 is when they are supposed to hatch but I have found that it is a bit more variable than fixed.  The first sign of life should be the chicks weak peeps coming from the shell.  Once this starts, your chick should start "pipping" out the shell with its beak in about 24 hours.  If it takes longer than this I would consider gently helping break out a piece for it, but I have not had this happen yet. 
  • With about an hour of "pipping" the chick will start "unzipping" itself by pecking the sides of the shell out until it can free itself. 
  • Once the chick is out you should let it dry itself in the incubator for another 8 hours or so. 
  • Then take it out and place it under your warm grow light in the brooder with fresh food and water. 

Now you just keep them warm and fed and water and in a clean cage and they should grow like little weeds!