Two adorable little chicks joined our menagerie Tuesday evening. These are the very first we've ever incubated and hatched ourselves and while I know I didn't really make them, it was such an exciting feeling to know that these were chicks we helped bring up. They weren't purchased from the hatchery. We did it.
Here are a few photos and an explanation of the process. I'll warn you, in case you're having your breakfast and morning coffee, that there's a little bit of blood when they first hatch. It's normal and natural of course but just in case you're squeamish...
I candled the eggs at 8 days and thought there were at least two that were developing. I really couldn't tell with most of the other eggs and I couldn't see through the blue eggs at all. I figured we'd leave them all to chance and put them all in the incubator to see what happened. So while 2 chickens out of a dozen doesn't sound like much, it's about what I was expecting.
The eggs were in the incubator with an automatic turner which slowly rotates the eggs, mimicking what a momma chicken would do, for 19 days. At day 19, 3 days before they're to hatch, we removed the turner, allowing the eggs to sit still, preparing to hatch. We've had to maintain a constant temperature and humidity level during the incubation time which means checking the levels and adjusting a couple of times a day. During the last phase of incubation the humidity is between 70% - 80% and the temp is at 99.5F. Sweltery! The humidity helps keep the emerging chick from sticking to the inside of the egg.
The baby chicken starts pecking thousands of times until it pokes a hole (called pipping) in the eggshell and starts to breathe air. They slowly rotate inside the egg, pecking and "zipping" the inner membrane to prepare for their big push into the world. The entire process can take up to 24 hours. That's a lot of work for a tiny little chick.
Hubby had a live feed set up so we could watch the hatching on our TV, which was awesome. We watched as the shell swelled and rocked with the chick's efforts and finally...pop! Out he came! It was truly amazing to see. Tiny feather still wet, wobbly and weak, he started flopping around the incubator like he was playing soccer with the other eggs. I worried about his brother who was emerging on the other side of the incubator but he managed just fine.
We let them dry off in the incubator overnight and then put them in the brooding box under a heat lamp. The kids kept checking in, announcing when they felt the chickens were fluffy enough to hold. (not yet, boys)
They've started running around in short bursts, drinking a little, eating a little, standing in their food...
We'll keep them under the heat lamp for a few weeks until they're able to move into their coop, separated from the big chickens.
We'll try another batch next week and with luck we'll have even more success.
If you've read this far, thank you for putting up with my chicken obsession.
Have a great day.