Hatching your first clutch of eggs is a thrilling time. You have nursed these little eggs for 21 days, and now they are ready to make their appearance. But now you have more questions. What should be a fun experience becomes more stressful than the incubation period. What should I do when baby chickens start to hatch? Today we are going to put your anxiety at ease and walk you through this step by step.
Get The Brooder Ready
You should have spent the last 21 days setting up your brooder with everything you need. You should have bedding, waterer, feeder, and a heat lamp already in place. And once you start seeing the first hatching chickens, you should get the brooder warming up.
The ideal temperature should be 95 degrees for the first week. Getting your brooder warm could take a few hours, depending on the size. So getting it ready now is best for your chicks to keep them warm.
Do I Need To Take Chicks Out?
Once your chicks hatch, you might have the instinct to take them out immediately. But do not do this! You will leave all of your chicks in the brooder until all eggs have hatched and dried. Only under extreme situations should you open that incubator before this time. And we will talk more about this later.
What should I do when baby chickens start to hatch? If your chicks are all healthy and nothing is wrong, all you have to do is sit and wait. Once they are dried, you have their nice and cozy brooder set up and ready for use. And it should be as easy as that.
How Long Does It Take For Chicks To Dry?
Once your chicks have broken free from the egg, most will start to dry within an hour. But every egg that hatches will add more humidity to the incubator, so the process takes a while. So the time it takes varies on clutch size and incubator size. Your chicks should be completely dry within 12-24 hours after hatch, and then you can open the incubator.
During this time, you will see them wobbling around on their new legs. How long does it take for a newly hatched chick to walk? Most will wobble and stumble for the first day. Most of this is due to all the energy it took to get out of the eggshell. They will get loud and stumble around, followed by long periods of sleep. All of this is normal and to be expected of newly hatched eggs.
Do They Need Food Or Water?
We know what you might be thinking, 12-24 hours is a long time for a chick to be in the incubator. You might worry about if they need anything to eat or drink. How long can baby chickens go without food? But don’t worry, because mother nature has taken care of this problem as well.
Your chicks hatch with a bit of yolk that they will eat from. This yolk is enough nutrition to last them for 72 hours. So you can sit back and relax because their mother has got them covered. Once you move your clutch to the brooder, you can give them food and water.
Moving To The Brooder
Once your chicks are hatched and dried, you can move them to the brooder safely. But you will still want to take some caution to this. If your chicks get too cold too fast, they could get sick and die.
When making the move, we recommend having some help. One person in charge of opening and closing the incubator and another to remove chicks is safest. This way, you chicks aren’t exposed to the elements for long.
While putting your chicks into the brooder, they might be scared and feel lost. So the first thing you should do is dip their beaks into the water bowl. They will remember this and figure out quickly that this is where they go to drink. Without this step, you might find your chicks dehydrate easily and take longer to see the water.
Can You Touch Baby Chicks After They Hatch?
If you are new to hatching chickens, you might worry that handling baby chicks is bad for them. They look so small and frail, and in truth, they can get hurt easily. But as long as the chicks are all fully dried, there is no reason you can’t handle them. In fact, the more you hold chicks after the first few days, the tamer they become.
When Should You Assist In Chick Hatching?
Hatching chickens should be that simple. But there are a lot of things that could go wrong. After all, we are relying on man’s invention to imitate a warm and loving mother hen. So let’s talk about a few problems you could encounter.
Opening The Incubator Too Soon
The first mistake that most people make is opening the incubator before all of the chicks have hatched. The reason opening the incubator is a big no-no is that your chicks need this humidity to hatch safely.
Opening the incubator can cause a “shrinkwrapping” effect on chicks still pipping. Shrinkwrapping is where the egg membrane dries out rapidly and shrinks around the chick still in the egg. Most chicks can’t hatch when this happens and will need assistance getting out, or you risk death.
Another reason you shouldn’t open the incubator is the sudden loss of humidity will chill the chicks that are still wet. A chilled chick gets sick and weak early on and has a low chance of surviving. If you open the incubator too early, you should place a paper towel dampened with warm water in. This towel will raise the humidity and prevent any more damage from happening.
Chicks Not Drying
Another issue many people experience their first-time hatching chickens are chicks not drying. This typically happens if you have too many eggs hatching in the incubator. The higher humidity will cling to the chicks that hatched first, keeping them wet and cold. In these cases, you will have to intervene.
To solve this problem, you will want to move your chicks into an incubator with lower humidity. Once the second incubator has warmed up, you will want a little help with transfers. As quickly as possible, have one person open the incubator while you remove the wet chicks. And don’t forget to add the damp paper towel to the incubator with pipping chicks to prevent further damage.
Chicks Not Hatching
Occasionally, you will have a few eggs that never hatch. Sometimes these eggs will hatch a little later, depending on the date of insemination. Having the other chicks moving about and making noise might encourage them to hatch sooner. But if after 23 days, you still don’t see signs of pipping, you will need to candle the eggs.
How do you know if a chick is alive in an egg? If your egg is ready to hatch, you might hear tapping and little noises coming from the egg. But if you candle the egg, you will have a better idea of what’s going on. Under the candle, a viable chick will have movement. Chicks that don’t make it appear dark with no movement, and some might have noticeable pools of blood.
How Do You Take Care Of Newly Hatched Chickens?
What Should I do when baby chickens start to hatch? After the first 12-24 hours, your chicks should be dried entirely and moved into their brooder. Then you will want to let your chicks rest. They have been through a lot in the past few days and need the time to recoup.
From here, it’s pretty easy sailing. For the first week, you will need to check on them several times a day to make sure they aren’t sick. You should be checking their eyes for drainage, limbs for injury, and that they aren’t alone.
The most important part is keeping the temperatures warm enough for hatchlings. New chicks should have a toasty 90-95 degrees with a 5 degree drop every week after their hatch date. Once they get to week 5, they shouldn’t need heat anymore. Do baby chickens need light at night? Yes, especially if the nights are cooler, then your chicks need heat at night. After five weeks, if the night temperatures stay above 60, then you can ditch the light altogether. But even these guidelines have some exceptions.
For instance, will baby chicks die without a heat lamp? If you are brooding your chicks in warmer climates, the extra heat might be too much. There are some success stories of people hatching chickens without heat. But they are always done with great caution.
Do You Feel Prepared?
Hatching chickens is an easy process. What should I do when baby chickens start to hatch? Be calm, be prepared, and try not to intervene. Unless your babies are in distress, there is no reason for you to help your chicks out. With a bit of patience, your chicks will be fully fluffed and ready for the brooder.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!