Hatching Chicks

Chicks

One of the best things on a farm is the birth of an animal.  Luckily for us, the animals can pretty much take care of things on their own. Usually, our rabbits present us with a litter of kits early in the morning when we go out to feed them.  When we show up, the bunnies are all bundled up in Momma’s furry nest and Momma is resting quietly, and keeping a good watch for intruding human hands.  The rule is, move slowly toward the little ones or Momma will scratch.

But new chicks are a different story.  At the moment, we are using an incubator to hatch our eggs.  My intention was to get a broody hen to do the work, but you can’t convince a reluctant hen to become broody.  So the next best thing is to use an incubator.

When you use an incubator, you know when the eggs are about to hatch.  We have our incubator in the front room and I start listening for the “cheep, cheep” of new babies about day 19.  This last batch started hatching on Saturday.  You can hear the babies long before they escape the shell; sometimes even before it is cracked.

It is so exciting to see the pip, where the chick has poked a hole in the egg.  I can’t help but call out to the little fighter, “Come on out little chick!  We’re out here waiting for you!”  It can take from one to 24 hours for the chick to emerge all the way from the shell.  During that time, the egg is rocking back and forth and you can often see a little beak through the pip hole.  As the chick works, the hole gets bigger and starts to crack in a circle around the egg.  Suddenly, a tiny, wet head pops out.  From then on, the chick kicks and twists until he is completely free of the shell.  Hurray!  He is wet and exhausted, but soon gets up and starts toddling around the incubator, bumping into other chicks and tripping over unhatched eggs and empty egg shells alike.

One of the scariest parts is when a newly hatched chick gets tired.  They don’t wonder off and curl up somewhere like a kitten.  They collapse flat on the ground, wings and legs sprawled, looking for all the world like road kill. I still have to talk to myself to stay calm and look for the breathing.  In a minute or two, usually when another chick bull dozes into him, the little chick will wake up and be a bright as ever.

It doesn’t take long for the chick to dry off and fluff up.  I usually wait until I have 4 or more chicks to take them out to the barn, where I have the brooder all set up with water, food and, most importantly, heat.

They grow amazingly fast, and I am lucky to have very healthy babies.  I rarely loose a chick.  And because I use the deep litter method in the main coop and don’t introduce new chickens without quarantining them, the layers are free from disease, which means I don’t need to use medicated chick feed for the babies.

So now that this clutch is in the barn, Don and I need to build another chicken tractor.  This one will be bigger and better than the last one.  So I can hatch more chicks!

 


 

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