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Thanks to lwescott for this fab hatching guide.

 

 

What will I need to hatch some eggs?

An Incubator with a thermometer and hygrometer; a Brooder for the chicks to go into afterwards with a heat source such as a ceramic, infra-red or red fireglow bulb (and a spare) with a non-slip mat in the bottom; a feeder and drinker with marbles in; Chick Crumbs; housing for the chicks and most importantly, eggs. You could use a broody hen if you have one and she will also care for the chicks but have things in place should she decide for any reason not to.

 

Where can I source fertile eggs from?

Eggs can often be found for sale online, in poultry magazines as well as from poultry farms or breeders.

When the eggs arrive, store them eggs pointed end down for 24 hours before setting them. This allows the contents of the egg to settle before incubating and improves the chances of a successful hatch.

 

How long do eggs take to hatch?

The day the eggs are set is day 0, Large fowl chickens take 21 days and Bantams take 18 days.

Others such as Ducks take 28 days and Quail take 18 days. Chicks often hatch a few days either side of this window.

 

How often do I have to turn my eggs?

Eggs must be turned to make sure the chick doesn’t stick to the inside of the shell. Write an X and an O on opposite sides of the egg in pencil, eggs must be turned an odd number of times a day (3 or 5) to ensure a different letter is facing up each night.

Many incubators have automatic turning mechanisms.

 

What temperature and humidity should my incubator be at?

The temperature should be set at 37.5 oC or 100oF/101oF and humidity should be 50/55% relative humidity. To increase the humidity, put a bit more water in the bottom of the incubators water trays. Humidity should be increased to 65% relative humidity for the last 3 days of incubation.

 

How do I candle my eggs?

In the dark, use a candler, torch or mobile phone light held up against the shell to illuminate the inside. If the egg is fertile you should be able to see veins developing on the inside of the shell, and also see the outline of a chick. Candling should be done on around days 10 and 18.

 

When do I stop turning my eggs?

You should stop turning your eggs 3 days before the eggs are due to hatch (day 18 for large fowl, day 15 for bantam eggs). It is important not to open the incubator during the last 3 days of incubation, as vital humidity will be lost.

 

Hatching

Hopefully on the day they are due, the eggs will start to pip. The chick has an “egg tooth” on the end of its beak which it uses to crack the inside of the shell - it makes a small hole in the shell, and then works its way around the shell in a circle until it meets back where it started – this is called “pipping‟. The chick will then attempt to stand up inside the shell, which forces the two halves of the shell apart, allowing the chick to get out. This can take 12 hours to complete.

You should never try and 'help' chicks out of their egg, however tempting it may be. It does take several hours for the chicks to hatch out of their eggs.

The inside of the egg is covered in blood vessels, seen during candling, and if you try to help a pipped chick out of its egg, you risk breaking one of these blood vessels and killing the chick as it may bleed to death.

The effort of breaking out of the egg strengthens the chick, and any that do not hatch are likely to be the weaker or ill chicks.

 

When do I put my chicks in the brooder?

You must leave the chicks in the incubator for a few hours until they become dry and fluffy. The chick does not need any extra food or water for the first 48 hours, as it absorbs the egg yolk which provides all the nutrients the young bird needs so they can stay in the incubator for a few extra hours, once in the brooder food and water should be provided. If there are eggs which have not hatched the incubator can be left on for a few extra days to give them a chance. A normal hatch rate is around 60% successful.

 

What can I use as a brooder?

Often an indoor rabbit hutch, old fish tank or a plastic storage box lined with a non-slip mat can be used as a brooder, and a red fire glow light bulb can be used to provide a source of heat for the chicks, or a more expensive ceramic bulb can be used – these provide heat without light which is useful for getting chicks used to natural lighting of day and night if you are intending to have them outside after a few weeks. You will need a thermometer to check the temperature. The height of the bulb will adjust the temperature, and the chicks will indicate if the heat source needs to be raised or lowered by moving away from the bulb if it is too hot, or towards it if they are cold.

 

 

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What will my new chicks eat and drink?

Place a small saucer or jam jar lid of water in the brooder with marbles in to prevent the chicks from drowning in it.

Chicks will eat Chick Crumbs off a small saucer for the first few days, then put it into a suitable feeder.

 

My chick’s legs look like they are dislocated, what can I do?

The floor of the brooder needs to have a non-slip mat on the floor which the young birds can grip onto to prevent them from “doing the splits‟ which leads to ‘splayed legs’. If they do get splayed legs you can use a plaster or transparent medicinal tape to tape the legs together which stops the legs from splitting apart, and keeps them close together. This must be kept on for a few days until the legs have come together and gained strength.

 

When can my chicks come out of the brooder?

The chicks will need to be kept in the brooder under heat for 4 to 6 weeks, by which time the lamp can be raised to reduce the temperature gradually. They can then be moved outside into their own eglu or coop, keeping a close eye on them.

 

When can I introduce my chicks to my older chickens?

Be careful when introducing new birds to an existing flock. Only introduce them when the chicks are at point of lay (around 18 weeks old) or are the same size as your existing hens. You must take it slowly and allow the flock to see the new birds in their separate accommodation, so they get used to them and do not see them as a threat. After a weeks or so, allow all of the birds to free-range together – watch that they do not attack each other, if they do and one is bleeding, separate them again, spray the wound with Terramycin or similar and try again after a few days. Make sure there are many feeders and waterers so that all birds are able to access them. Have a look here and here for more information on introductions.

If you are hatching using a broody hen, then you can introduce them earlier as she will protect them, but you will still need to be vigilant.

 

Do I need to vaccinate my chicks?

In a back garden situation this isn’t really necessary, the vaccines are sold in doses of 100 and aimed at commercial hatcheries, they also need to be used within 6 hours of opening. Some breeds are susceptible to certain diseases, such as Silkies and Mareks disease, if you are worried speak to your vet.

 

When can I worm my chicks?

You can start to worm chicks from around 10 weeks old. Have a look here and here for more information.

 

What do I do with the cockerels?

In a domestic situation, it is often not possible to home cockerels and you are likely to get 50% cockerels and must be prepared to deal with this before you start incubating eggs.

There are many places you can try and re-home these birds to, including local children’s farms, breeders looking to introduce new bloodlines, private homes and friends or relatives. You will find it easier to home pure or rare-breed cockerels over mixed breeds or hybrids.

You could consider rearing and culling your birds for meat, you will need to be able to do this yourself, if this is your choice, there are courses which you can go on which teach you how to kill, pluck and prepare your birds, or you will have to find somewhere to take your birds to be prepared for you.

 

Some useful links to hatching guides:

Brinsea Handbook -worth a read with some good pictures and info about different types of incubation. Good troubleshooting information.

R-Com Hatching Guide

Wheatcroft Poultry Incubation Sheet - good to fill in as you go along the hatching process.

Cobb Hatchery Management Guide - a commercial hatchery guide, with a lot more detail needed compared to a home incubator but still with interesting information. Good detail on chick development with pictures.

 

OMLET SHOP: HERE

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