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Important Steps to Hatching a Chicken Egg
Chicken eggs take roughly 21 days to hatch, depending on your particular breed. You can get started hatching a chicken egg with a brooding hen or by using a incubator.
Using Incubators for Hatching a Chicken Egg
An incubator must function like the hen which keeps her eggs constantly warm and humid under her tummy. There are so many choices of incubators depending on your budget, capacity, requirements and features.
If you are consider of using an incubator for hatching a chicken egg, proper preparation is crucial before you place the eggs inside; the incubator should be at a constant 99.5 degrees which can be monitored with a thermometer placed inside. A hygrometer would also be a helpful tool in the incubator to measure and monitor the proper humidity level. Hygrometers are are available with some store bought Incubators or in the case of DIY incubators, they can be purchased separately online or at your local hardware store.
The incubator should be set at 50% humidity for the first 18 days and then set to 70-80% at the last couple of days when hatching chickens eggs. There should be sufficient moisture inside the incubator when it comes to hatching a chicken egg, which one can easily conform by placing small cups of water or a pan filled with water inside. These will need to be monitored regularly to insure they never go dry.
The eggs should be marked with an ‘X’ using a pencil on one side while an ‘O’ should be marked on the opposite side for reference. These marks are helpful for ensuring that the eggs are turned correctly as they need to be turned no less than 3 times daily without skipping any day; otherwise, the chicks may be deformed or the eggs do not hatch at all.
Temperature in the Incubator
At first, a fresh egg will take in the surrounding heat until it is big enough to generate its own body heat. Before hatching, a chicken egg should reach a temperature of 99.5 degrees. As the embryos are very sensitive to excessive heat, anything more than 103 degrees may kill or damage the embryos.
Fertility and Candling
It is rare to expect 100% fertility in hatching a chicken egg (about 55%-95%); much less for hatching (50%-70%). Whether the eggs will hatch or not depends on the incubator conditions, provided that the eggs are fertilized.
It is quite difficult to determine the fertility of the egg when you are considering hatching a chicken egg, until you incubate the egg for a couple of days. Then you can use the chicken egg candling process to check the embryo’s presence or absence. Damaged eggs such as cracked ones will not hatch and should be removed immediately as a foul odor will come on quite soon.
The easiest type of egg to candle is the evenly colored egg or the white-shelled egg. If you can detect a dark patch, then you can assume that an embryo is present that should develop into a chick.
If the light passes through the egg clearly, then the egg is assumed to be infertile. You can proceed with candling at about 7 days after incubation.
The Air Bubble in the Egg
The freshly laid egg tends to develop a small air pocket at the larger end of the egg where a membrane will develop to separate the egg mass and the air pocket or bubble. The membrane functions to relieve possible pressure or stress on the growing embryo due to temperature changes. When the air outside is dry, more fluid will be used up by the embryo and the bubble grows larger which might inhibit the size of the growing embryo. Hence, when hatching a chicken egg properly, one must ensure that the bubble will not be excessive in size by ensuring sufficient moisture for the growing embryo.
The air pocket is crucial for the chick to break out of the egg shell at the end of the incubation period. The chick can drown if the bubble is too small or the chick may be retarded in growth if the bubble is too big as the fluids in the egg shell have been dehydrated excessively. This is where maintaining the proper humidity within the chick incubator is crucial.
Positioning of Eggs
The proper position is crucial when it comes to hatching a chicken egg for optimum growth. Placing the egg flat with the larger end a bit higher than the pointed end of the egg is considered the ‘normal’ position for hatching a chicken egg; otherwise, the chick growing inside the egg may be disorientated and can drown when it pips.
Turning and the Significance to Hatching a Chicken Egg
Turning the egg while hatching a chicken egg is crucial at the initial stages and it must be done 3 times every day, except for the last 3 days before hatching occurs. The danger of unturned egg at the early stages can cause the developing embryo to stick to its shell membrane and cause abnormal growth. A mother hen would naturally turn her eggs too.
After the Chicks have Hatched
The process of hatching a chicken egg is quite simple; the chicks will naturally pip out of their shells totally on their own in due time. Many birds survive through the egg yolk drawn at the navel which feeds the chick to provide the necessary nourishment during the transitional time frame. This is especially so for Gallinaceous birds such as quails, chickens and pheasants.
Once the chick comes out completely from its shell, it fluffs its feathers, becomes stronger and sufficiently active to find its own food. When the chick remains in the incubator for a while, it will gain stature and learn to use its faculties well. The chick will search out water and food instinctively while exploring and learning from its surroundings by pecking on things it comes across. Chicks can be removed from the incubator between 24-48 hours.
Feeding the Chicks
A constant supply of water and food or chick feed must be available once the chick taken out of the incubator. Dry mash is the best feed to help the chicks grow; this product is easily sourced from the local poultry feed shop.
Chicks can be drowned easily as they have an inclination towards water; perhaps the chicks are drawn to their natural fluid which they had just exited from. But this natural instinct should disappear over the week as the chicks get used to their new environment. One way to prevent the chicks from drowning is to place marbles in the water containers which will force the chicks to drink between the marbles and not plunge themselves into the container of water.