This week, I have two guest bloggers that raise and hatch chickens. You want to learn how?? Read this Blog Post and get started hatching your own eggs!
By Chris and Deanna – Chris and Deanna homestead on 33 acres in Southwestern Oregon where they raise most of their own produce, as well as chickens, rabbits and goats. They have a combined 30+ years of experience across a wide array of homesteading skills.
Recently we decided to increase the size of our flock of Jersey Giant chickens. Up until now, we have always bought chicks either from local feed stores or through online sources. This time, however, we decided to take a more “homestead” type of approach and hatch eggs from our own flock of 2 roosters and 30 hens. It was much easier and far more rewarding than we could have ever imagined.
We started by doing lots of research on the various methods and equipment needed to hatch our own chicks. There are varieties of opinions on how hatching and brooding chicks should be done. We settled on an incubator kit by Little Giant that featured everything we would need, including an automatic egg turner accessory. It has a capacity of 41 eggs. We decided to hatch fewer than 41 eggs since we really had no idea what we were doing and did not want to get in over our head.
We chose 10 nice eggs for our first try at hatching. Using the instructions supplied with our incubator kit we candled the eggs to try to make sure they were fertilized. We set the incubator up on our kitchen table so we could keep our eyes on the process. The instructions were clear on how to maintain humidity in the incubator, which we would later find out, is crucial to getting a good result. During our research we found that there is normally a 60% hatch rate on eggs. Our results were just about there.
In went the eggs…and then the wait began. At day 22 we started to notice that some of the eggs were starting to move around a bit. This is normal when they are about to hatch. The next day six of the chicks began to “pip”. This is the term for the first hole they peck in the eggs and is a sure sign that the hatch has begun. At this point, humidity levels are even more important. We did not find out until later that our son had been opening the incubator and moving the eggs so the “pip” was facing up. This created havoc with the humidity in the incubator.
Two chicks hatched normally on day 25 while three seemed to be having trouble and one did not progress beyond the “pip”. We left the process alone and monitored, keeping the humidity up as best as we could. It quickly became apparent that the two chicks having trouble would need some help. Turning to “YouTube University”, we found that you can help chicks having a hard time by actually peeling some of the shell and gently opening the inner membrane for them.
This is something you will want to study up on because there are some specific recommendations to follow if you are going to try it, and it will help you hatch more chicks. Following the information we found, we helped the three chicks hatch by hand. It was an incredible process. All three that were having trouble had a condition known as “shrink wrapping”. This happens when humidity levels vary wildly after the “pip" stage, which is where our helpful son figured into the picture. Every time he was opening and closing the incubator, he was messing up the humidity levels. The lesson learned here is do not open your incubator unless you have to, and then, only keep it open for a few seconds.
At this point, we had five chicks hatched. The sixth that only “pipped” never hatched. We did our own chick autopsy to try to figure out what happened and we found that the inner membrane of the egg was dry and had make it impossible for the chick to hatch.
After the five living chicks were fully dry, about a day later, we transferred them to a brooder. One poor little fellow was born with deformed feet and he did not make it. We feel that this was due to the “shrink wrapping”. The four remaining chicks grew quickly and went to an outdoor brooder when they were about 3 weeks old. We ended up with one hen and three roosters, which was not what our plan was since we wanted to hatch more hens, but we were grateful for what we got and the learning experience we had. We likely will never buy chicks again now that we know how easy and rewarding it is to hatch our own. Do not be afraid to hatch your own chicks. You will make your homestead more self-sustaining and can even sell your chicks!