There are a few little clumps of snow on the ground and there is always a chance for more where we live, but Spring is near and on the farm, that means babies! In our case, we put eggs in the incubators. Soon we’ll have chicken and quail chicks. Again.
Chickens take about 21 days to hatch. They are placed pointed end down in the incubator trays which rotate automatically. Water is kept below the trays to keep the proper humidity. On day 17, the turner is turned off and the humidity is increased. Then we wait. Soon we’ll see little babies popping out of the shells. Popping probably isn’t the best word. Struggling is more like it. But, no matter how tempting it is to help those little things, they have to escape the confines of their shell alone. If they cant get out by themselves, they are not strong enough to survive. Chances are, if you help it, it will die anyhow. Harsh, but that’s nature.
Quail hatch a little faster. They take about 17 days to incubate with the turner being turned off on day 14. Otherwise the routine is the same. The incubator is kept around 99.5 degrees. The humidity needs to be 40 to 50 percent until the turner is turned off. Then it needs to be increased to 65 to 75 percent.
After the hatch, babies stay in the incubator until they are dry. Then they get moved to a brooder, which is essentially a box or something with a heat lamp. These little guys don’t have feathers yet, so they need an additional heat source to stay warm.
I saw a silly meme on Facebook a while back about how it’s inhumane to eat eggs. But here’s the thing. Modern chickens are not the best mothers. I’ve seen this first hand when a rogue chicken or two managed to hatch eggs out in the field (or where ever). The chicks that actually hatch don’t ever make it to adulthood. We have one chicken, we call her Chicken Little, that survived being raised by it’s mother.
Many of the eggs under a broody hen don’t even hatch, and let me tell you, they are not fun to dispose of (gag). And that’s out of the rare one or two hens that actually want to hatch their eggs. Almost all of them just lay their eggs and forget them. If we didn’t collect them, they would all rot. So tell me again how collecting them is inhumane?
If you think you’d like to try hatching some chicks, the University of Michigan Extension Service as some really helpful information. You can find an incubator on Amazon usually cheaper than the poultry companies, but they are a good place or order eggs for hatching. I highly recommend an incubator that monitors humidity and temperature. This post took forever for me to write because I’ve been running up and down the stairs to make sure our older incubator is at the right temperature for the chickens. I’m worn out!