Hatching Baby Chicks
One of the most amazing experiences of our summer so far has been the baby chicks we hatched! There is nothing like watching new life being born, and my kids were amazed!
We were visiting our friend Marilyn, who lives in the country with goats and chickens and wide open spaces; all the things we would love to have! We started talking chickens, and she said she had some fertile eggs we could have if we wanted them. “YES!”, I yelled!
When I was a little girl, my parents would often get chicken and quail eggs for us to hatch, then give them back to where we got the eggs, having gotten the opportunity to watch the new life being born! They thought it was an important thing for me to see, and I wanted that same experience for my kids! We promised Marilyn we would bring back the chicks once they were hatched.
Marilyn gave us nine eggs. She had written the date each egg had been laid on them in pencil, but their incubation time doesn’t begin until the are incubated. An egg will still produce without being incubated for up to five days, so although the eggs were laid on different days, they should all hatch around the same time.
We already had an incubator from last year when we unsuccessfully tried to hatch some quail eggs. However, I blamed the little incubator for the eggs failure, and we went to our local Tractor Supply to purchase a new, much larger one. It was around $40.00.
Chicken eggs should be incubated at 99.5 degrees for approximately 21 days. It’s important to get the temperature set before putting in the eggs, and it took us a little bit of time to get it adjusted. We then added the eggs, and marked the calendar. We laughed as we realized that the eggs should hatch on FATHER’S DAY!
While we could have purchased an automatic egg turner, I thought it was important to have the kids feel vested in the eggs by turning them each day. My daughter turned them each morning, and my son each evening. We relied on the pencil dates to tell us up from down. Turning the egg is important to keep the embryo from sticking to the shell membrane. However, I did find myself asking around for one as we prepared for a long weekend out of town.
It’s also important to keep moisture in the incubator. This is done by filling the little water channels located at the bottom. This was my 5 year olds job.
Days went by, then one evening as I was working, I heard a strange noise. Not even thinking of the eggs, I walked around the house trying to find the cause. I was so excited when I realized it was a little chick inside and egg who was pecking on his shell and quietly chirping!
I immediately woke up my husband, and he wanted to help the chick by cracking open the egg for him. I stopped him, remembering my own childhood, and how chicks we incubated did not survive when we helped them. It’s one of those miracles of nature, the little chick needs to hatch on it’s own.
The next day was a busy one for us, my daughter had her first swim team meet, and my son had training at the Dallas Zoo. Click HERE to read more about it. It was late afternoon when we got home, and we walked in to find 3 chicks had hatched!
The rest of our evening was spent in front of the incubator, watching as three more chicks emerged from their eggs. What a great experience for my kids, as baby chicks work so hard at being hatched! One by one, they would emerge from their shells, wet and exhausted, and not at all like fluffy yellow chicks my children expected! The chicks, once breaking free, collapsed to rest outside their shells. The other chicks would wobble over and inspect them, then quickly lay down to rest themselves!
Chicks remain in the incubator for about 24 hours, giving them time to dry out. It’s important not to open it, and change the humidity levels, but we certainly wanted to! After a day, we took them out of the incubator, letting the remaining 3 eggs continue for another day (the never did hatch), and we placed the chicks in a box with a light, chick starter and water. The babies were very hungry and thirsty.
After about two days, they were the fluffy chicks we expected, although instead of yellow they were brown, black and grey! We love the little feather down on their feet, too. We are going to keep them for a week or so, before taking them back to their farm! Now, I’m already looking for some quail eggs to hatch!
If you would like to incubate and hatch eggs for a class or homeschool project, or just for your children’s enjoyment, contact Texas A&M, click HERE to be taken to their website. This is also a terrific walk thru of how to successfully hatch the eggs.
I think this is an amazing chance to teach so tangible and intangible things to children, including delayed gratification. It’s also important to know that chickens can carry many diseases transmittable to people, including salmonella, so always WASH HANDS AFTER HANDLING. See, you can even make it a lesson in microbiology, or germ for younger children!
Keep Having Fun in the Texas Sun!