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Hatching - Important Information

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One or two of us have hatched eggs recently and may have prompted others to think about it as well. Whilst this forum is mainly about keeping hens as layers we thought it might be a good idea to have some basic information on here about hatching so that anyone is contemplating hatching eggs for themselves, they will know where to start looking for further information.


Hatching eggs, whether using an incubator or a broody is a fantastic experience, but not one to be undertaken lightly.


Just like breeding any other animal, please think long and hard about the consequences., and consider how you will house all the resulting chicks, and what you will do with the inevitable cockerels. It’s hard to find homes for excess male birds, especially if they are mixed breeds. Please also consider that you may need to despatch them yourself for the table if homes can’t be found. Another point worth bearing in mind is whether you’d feel able to deal with any chicks that might hatch malformed, or become ill, and need euthanasing. It can cost around £15 at the Vets to have a chick put to sleep.


It’s far easier to hatch eggs under a broody hen – she will provide the ideal conditions for hatching and will also raise the chicks once they arrive, teaching them what is good to eat and how to forage. Chicks hatched in an incubator will generally lag a little behind the development of those hatched by a broody, but they soon catch up after a couple of months.


Hatching using an incubator can be a costly business. Some items can be bought second hand to keep costs down and it is worth looking on Ebay or Freecycle.

The main cost is the incubator itself, see www.domesticfowltrust.co.uk , Incubators in Omlet shop , www.hatchitincubators.com or www.ascott.biz for an idea of prices. There are many other places to find them as well. You will also need to source some fertile eggs. Be wary of Ebay - there are good and bad suppliers on there - and read all that you can to find good sources of fertile eggs. Try not to use eggs from pullets or young hens - this results in a high proportion of cockerels.


There is an excellent pdf format booklet on hatching using an incubator which is produced by Brinsea - here


You will need a brooder to put the chicks into after they have hatched. You can buy a purpose built one or use a big cardboard box. There is a lot of mess and dust from chicks in a brooder. They are growing feathers which results in a lot of 'dander' from their skin and as they learn to scratch around straight away, there will be dust from the bedding used. These few weeks are VERY messy and dusty!


Chicks will need to be kept under some form of heat for at least 4 weeks. This is usually a special heat lamp. You will need to check the temperature as well so a decent thermometer helps.


Other equipment required is a small feeder and a small drinker. These are different to the ones you would use for large hens because you must make sure that the chicks don't drown - but they are generally not too expensive.


Lastly, you will need feed for the chicks. You can buy special bags of Chick Crumb from your usual supplier.


After 4 weeks of fairly intensive care, you can start to introduce them to their permanent home. They go out in the day and are then brought back in at night for a couple of weeks. If the weather is particularly good then you may only need to do this for a week.


All this work is time consuming and costly -but it can also be very rewarding. We do not have room on this forum to provide comprehensive advice on hatching but there is very good advice to be found on more specialist forums.


Practical Poultry forum is an excellent source - you will be able to read others experiences and make decisions based on those. The main sections to browse in that forum are Utility Birds and Eggs to Growers.



Candling eggs


Hatching chicks


Hatching under a broody article


Bronze has a spreadsheet about controlling humidity when hatching - please send her a PM if you'd like the information.


I will add a book list shortly....... If anyone has a book which they have found helpful then please PM Lesley with the details

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