So the magical hatching day has finally arrived. You watch in awe as the eggs wiggle and crack to expose tiny little beaks and wet fluff. As you stand there watching, panic suddenly sets in – are you supposed to help them? What do you do after they emerge from their eggs?
The hatching process is very important for the proper biological development of the chick. It is important that you allow them to break the eggshells themselves instead of giving in and helping them. It may appear as if they are struggling, but this is a process they absolutely have to go through on their own.
Here are some tips to remember on hatching day.
Don’t Help The Chicks Out Of Their Eggshells
The process of breaking and extracting themselves from the egg is crucial for the development and strengthening of the chick’s muscles. The struggling to extract themselves from the egg also lays the foundation for further development after hatching. If you scramble to help them out of their eggshell at the first signs of hatching, you not only rob them of this crucial developmental process but also set the stage for sickly chicks.
The chicks muscles will quickly deteriorate if you help with the hatching process putting them in poor health. It is also crucial that the chick has absorbed all blood that was stored in the membrane of the shell, if not you will have even bigger problems than deteriorating muscles – think hemorrhaging, ruptured blood vessels, anemia and more. All these complications from an assisted birth can cost the chick its life (or shorten it drastically).
It is best to limit involvement and just keep watching in awe.
Don’t Remove The Eggshells
It is very important that you leave the eggshells with the chicks at least for 24-48 hours. There is a membrane inside the eggs that the chick must eat to kick start its life outside the egg. If the shells are removed before the chick consumes the important nutrients in the egg membrane, it will severely affect their health and immune system going forward. This first meal of eggshell membrane and shell will be the most important meal of the chick’s life.
Don’t Feed Empty Eggshells To Your Hens
You might be wondering what to do with the eggshells once you’re new chicks are done with them. The answer, throw them in the bin or use them in your garden as fertiliser. Feeding the empty shells to your older stock is a definite no-no.
The recently vacated eggs contain a host of bad bacteria that can potentially kill your older chickens. If you do decide to use the shells in your garden, make sure that your other chickens can’t get to them. Also, wash your hands immediately after handling the eggs to prevent yourself from getting sick.
A Part Of The Beak Broke Off!
Don’t despair if you find a part of your newly hatched chick’s beak laying around, it is only the egg tooth that has fallen off. Losing the egg tooth is normal and part of the process of hatching. After the chick leaves the egg, the egg tooth becomes useless and is thus discarded.
The egg tooth is the little white nub that sits on top of the beak of a newly hatched chick. It is used to break the shell from the inside while the chick is hatching making it easier for the chick to emerge. It will always drop off a few hours after hatching.
Don’t panic if the hatch takes longer than you anticipated. Hatching is a complex process during which a lot of essential things need to happen for your chicks to be born healthy. Hatching can take 24 to 48 hours depending on the size and breed of chicken. The best thing you can do is keep calm while your chicks figure out how to get out of their eggshells
Don’t Remove The Chicks From The Incubator
It may be tempting to remove your hatched chicks from the incubator to put them into the brooder but be patient. It’s not the best idea to immediately remove your hatched chicks, the reason being that the cheeping of the hatched chicks encourages the rest to hatch.
If you remove the hatched chicks too soon, the hatching of the rest will be delayed. You can remove your hatched chicks from the incubator after 24 to 48 hours have passed or all your chicks have hatched.
What to do next
The harsh reality is that all your eggs may not hatch. Some might have passed away during the incubation process. This is unfortunately a natural part of life.
It is very rare for 100% of eggs to hatch all the time. After 48 hours have passed, it is advised to candle your remaining eggs to scan for any signs of life. You might also want to leave them in the incubator for a few days longer just to be sure.
Hatching day is most definitely one of the most exciting parts of owning chickens. You have the privilege to experience new life entering our world. When you hear their first little cheeps, your heart will swell with pride. Hatching is a magical process you will never forget.
The key to success is most definitely preparation. A good quality incubator and brooder will be your best friends in this regard. It is also important that you do your research on how to care for baby chicks before they hatch.