You are excited for your baby chickens to hatch, I bet you can’t wait anymore. There are a few things you will have to do to prepare for hatching day. If you don’t know what they are, don’t fret, I will be happy to get you right on track so you don’t have to stress more than necessary when your chicks start to hatch.
Day 18 of incubation:
Your hatching day checklist will start on day 18 of incubation. This day is known as lockdown day. You will need to turn off your egg turner (if you are using one) and place your eggs on the flat surface of your incubator. Make sure the larger side of the egg faces upwards if your incubator does not have a flat surface.
Once done moving or adjusting the eggs, change the incubator temperature to 38.05°C (100.5°F). Make sure to raise the humidity to 70% as well.
Day 19 of incubation:
Check on the temperature and humidity and add water to the incubator if necessary. Do not touch the eggs and if you can avoid opening the incubator, do so. During this time the chick is positioning itself to hatch and should be left in peace to do so.
Day 20 of incubation:
The chick is now in position and preparing for the breakthrough. The last of the egg yolk is being absorbed by the chick, allowing them to live without food and water for several hours after hatching.
You might notice a small cracked patch on the egg where the chick has started breaking the shell. At this stage, the lungs are fully functional and breathing in the small pocket of air not filled by the chick’s body.
Make sure to check the humidity and temperature of the incubator. You can now start to prepare the brooder as well. Make sure to preheat the brooder to around 32.22 – 35°C (90 – 95°F). Make sure to place food, water and bedding.
Day 21 of incubation:
Most of the hatching will take place on day 21. Don’t worry if not all your eggs hatch at the same time, some are late hatchers. Chicks will hatch on their own when they are ready to. Refrain from breaking open any unhatched eggs to help the chick. Breaking the eggs will more likely kill the chick.
Chicks will hatch when they are fully developed and the yolk has been fully absorbed by the chick. The first sign of hatching might already have been noticed on day 20 when a small crack appeared on the egg.
On day 21 the chick will work to create a hole in the egg and expand it to force its way out. Hatching is a lot of hard work so be patient, the chick will rest often. Hatching can take as long as 48 hours, especially in large breeds.
Once the chick has created a whole large enough, it will start to push the egg apart with its body and legs until it finally gets free of the eggshell. The hatched chick will be wet, wobbly and exhausted and will most likely sleep for a while after hatching. You can leave them in the incubator during this time.
Try to stay on the sidelines during hatching. The chicks do not need your help, you will most likely only hurt them with good intentions. Once the chicks start to emerge, turn the incubator temperature down to 35°C (95°F) in preparation for moving to the brooder.
After the chicks have rested, usually 24 hours after hatching, you can move some of them to the brooder. Start by moving two of the dry chicks together. After you can move one chick at a time as they finish drying and resting after hatching until all chicks are moved.
If you have any unhatched eggs left, candle them and leave them in the incubator for another 2 days if life is present. Some chicks are just late hatchers. Don’t move all the hatched chicks at once from the incubator, the reason being that the cheeping of hatched chicks encourages the unhatched chicks to start the hatching process.
If your last eggs still haven’t hatched by day 23 of incubation, candle them again before discarding to make sure that the egg really is dead. Enjoy your new chicks and make sure to read up on the care of newborn chickens.