Tuesday, June 4, 2013

How to Help Hatch a Chick

It is our opinion that nature knows best. In our experience, allowing the hens to incubate and hatch their eggs gives us a better hatch rate and usually one that requires no assistance from us. (I'm not against using an incubator, we just have not had as good results from them.) Sometimes, interference is necessary and can be life saving. When it's a choice between certain death by suffocation or a slim chance at life, we make that call on a case by case basis and hope that we make the right one.

Last year, we chose to assist 2 ducklings in hatching and happily, they both survived and are still thriving here on the homestead. On the other hand, on two separate occasions, we felt the need to assist a couple chicks to hatch and only one of them lived. What about the chicks that died in their shells and never pipped or pipped and never progressed? Early on, we made the decision to not interfere with a hatching chick and it died in its shell. Could we have saved it? Was there something fatally wrong with that chick, something that helping it to hatch would not fix?

If you plan on hatching chicks (using an incubator or a broody hen), it is prudent to have a basic understanding of how it is supposed to work; what is "normal", what is not. With time and experience, you may be able to help when things don't go as they should. I wrote a post last year titled, "Marvelous Creation" that explains a bit about the changes that must take place within an egg for a chick to hatch.

A Buff Cochin newborn chick peeking out from
under Niecy's wing. Niecy is not the bio-hen, but adopted
10 eggs without complaint. Good lass. ♥
This topic came up in my mind because we had a bit of worry over the weekend. Two clutches of eggs, incubating in nesting boxes, were due to hatch on June 1st. Right on schedule, we saw some pips in the eggs of one nest. The other nest had none. Because we knew that the hen sitting on the second clutch was new to hatching and had been on and off the nest frequently, we were prepared to find that few or none of those eggs would hatch any chicks. We were excited to see the pips and anticipated the arrival of some new chicks.

We watched the progress through the day. Two feather-footed cochins hatched first. We were surprised, while checking the eggs at mid-morning, to find a third egg sitting in the nest with its outer shell almost completely gone and the membranes still intact. The membrane was noticeably dry, so Sean and I made the decision to carefully mist it with water to see if that would help the chick to be able to hatch. We returned the membrane clad chick to the nest box and its broody hen.

When evening came and the chick had still made no further progress, we decided to intervene.

I am the first to admit that I am not an expert on hatching chicks. Last year was our first year hatching our own. The 40 or so chicks we hatched gave us some experience, but we are always learning. This post is not to tell you what to do, but to share what we are doing- what has worked for us and what hasn't.

I hope you found it useful. Thanks for visiting with us this evening, friends. We hope you enjoy your night.

Sean & Sonja ♥

Update: 8 of the 10 eggs hatched under Niecy. The other nest has begun to pip and so far, we have welcomed 3 new chicks from it. Also, remember the nest box full of duck eggs a chicken was sitting on? Well, 2 of them have hatched, too! (And, also, required some help! In their case, we think their shell was too dry because there was no wet Momma duck sitting on them, but rather a very dry hen. We're keeping an eye on the others for signs of hatching. If there are no more pips in a couple days, we'll candle them and discard any that are not living.

Shared with The Backyard Farming Connection #35 & The HomeAcre Hop #22


  1. So interesting! I swear it gets my heart rate watching your video. New life is amazing.

  2. That is one beautiful Momma and baby! So glad it all worked out!

  3. This was very good information for me. We have been hatching eggs for the first time this year and I always feel like I should help! Now I know more about the timing of the process. Great post

  4. Very cute chicks :) I've only helped one chick hatch so far, and it survived and did very well. Thanks for sharing this on The HomeAcre Hop! Hope to see you again tomorrow at: