The other day I told my husband that hatching and raising chickens is kind of like raising children–there are a million different opinions about the best way, and everyone thinks theirs is right.
For us, we’re figuring it out as we go. We read a lot about raising chickens, but really actually incubating and hatching is the best way to learn the process. We’ve had a few successful hatches now, and each time have made some tweaks to the process. Our goal is that by spring, we’ll have it down to a science. There are 17 eggs in our incubator right now…we are expecting a Christmas Day hatch! (Merry Christmas to us!)
Here are 5 things we’ve learned so far:
1. Some chicks just don’t hatch. They aren’t strong enough for whatever reason. This doesn’t necessarily mean there was user error during the incubation process. We are quick to blame ourselves when a chick doesn’t make it out, but really that is just nature.
2. Resist the urge to help the chick out of the shell. We want to help them SO BADLY. Once I can hear them chirping inside the egg (which in and of itself is so miraculous!) I’m leaning over the incubator, giving them words of encouragement. But when we see one having trouble, it is so hard not to help it along. Once they’ve hatched if they need help walking, I use a small tea-cup in the incubator and place the chick inside for 30 minute stretches until it’s able to stand and walk on its own.
3. Regulating humidity and temperature in the incubator is tough. We have constantly monitored and kept track of this, and are still working on being able to keep those things regulated. (FYI, we use basic Little Giant incubators with an automatic egg turner. For now, we use still air, but are seriously considering switching to forced air soon)
4. Hatching chicks can be a little addicting. Seriously. We were hooked from the first hatch. From the first little pip in the egg, to hearing the chirps before they’re born, to watching them zip themselves out of the egg–it is such an amazing process.
5. The chicks can stay in the incubator for up to two days depending on how many are left to hatch out. We typically leave them for at least 24 hours post-hatch, and not much longer, but we’ve had small hatches. Once we are hatching more eggs that might take a little longer to all hatch out, we’ll leave them in for up to 48 hours. They are still absorbing the yolk during that time so they are fine.
I could keep going, and may elaborate on the process later, particularly as our hatches get bigger and we switch to a different incubator.
How about you? Does anyone have any incubating/hatching tips to share? We are always looking for those!