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Hatching chicks

If you don't have a hen to sit on the eggs, you'll need an incubator

Broody hens will sit on eggs no matter what in their quest to become mothers. Sometimes you have a hen that won’t sit on her eggs and if you can’t do anything to encourage her, you'll need an incubator to hatch them.

Morgan Farnell is a poultry specialist at Texas Agrilife Extension Service. He says it takes 21 days to convert a fertile egg into a chicken. The eggs should be in the incubator for 18 days, and moved to a hatching cabinet for the last three.

"One of the reasons why you want to transfer them, is where they hatch they make a real mess. There's a lot of down, and materials and fluids, and poop, and that kind of thing," says Farnell. "Incubators are a lot harder to clean than the hatcher is because they have the turners in there and you don't have to turn these eggs the last three-days or so."

While the eggs are incubating, check once or twice to see that they're viable. This is called candling. In a dark room, shine a flashlight on the egg. You should see an air cell and blood vessels. If the embryo has died, you'll usually see a ring.  When a chick starts to hatch, it can take up to six-hours for one to completely emerge. But don't be tempted to help it.
 
"If you start trying to break away the egg shell for the chick, you can actually cause it to bleed to death because there's a valve that shuts off the blood flow to the membrane within the inside of that egg," says Farnell. "That's all connected to the baby chick's circulatory system and that's there to absorb nutrients from that egg yolk. If you crack that egg, you're going to crack those membranes and you'll actually cause the bird to bleed before that clamps off the blood flow."

Once they're dry and fluffy, take them to a brooder designed for raising baby chicks, or a nice warm place without any drafts.

Learn more about hatching chicks

Tips for choosing an incubator

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