That one time we hatched our own chicks…

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I’ve mentioned a few times that I was incubating eggs from some of my hens, well folk, this weekend was their big début!

This was my second clutch of eggs to try to incubate. The first batch stopped growing when we had an all day power outage and I couldn’t keep the incubator warm enough for the developing chicks. That little hiccup was something I had not even thought of happening and I was pretty disappointed. I decided I could try one more time though and I’m pretty pleased that I did. We had 3 of our 8 eggs hatch last Saturday!

How to hatching your own eggs!
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Incubating eggs isn’t rocket science but it is a little bit of work and there is quite a bit more to it than just sticking fertile eggs in a warm spot. I’m shocked that chickens can hatch their own eggs because the environment has to be well guarded. Eggs have to stay between 99.3 and 99.9 degrees with a pretty high degree of humidity. I had to turn my eggs 5 times a day for the first week and 3 times a day after that so that the embryo doesn’t stick to the egg wall. I hear that broody hens will do just that, carefully turn, rotate, and move their own eggs too. I learned a ton about chickens and hatching through this and it only strengthened my heart’s belief that life is no accident. A miracle grew in that egg and it’s because the Good Lord made it that way. He’s such a skilled craftsman.

Saturday was day number twenty-one for incubation and that’s the birthday! Friday night I saw a little crack on one of the eggs that wasn’t there before and I got so excited. When we woke up Saturday morning not one but two chicks had hatched! They had been out a while because their down had already started to dry. That morning I noticed that same looking crack on another egg and we watched it all morning to see the chick come out. We went to the garden that afternoon to plant, remove bushes, use a big brush mower on the orchard for the first time in years (it looks fabulous!) and when we got home that night around 6 pm the third chick had hatched. I was a little bummed that didn’t get to watch the big break out, but I hear it’s less of a ta-da and more of a marathon. And by the way the chicks act that first day, I’m sure the later is true. They are so exhausted that they sleep most of the time and can hardly lift their heads.

How to hatching your own eggs!

I was surprised to find no more signs of hatching late that night but got my brooder ready and moved all three chicks into their new box home. The kids had been so anxious to hold them, but I thought it wise to give them a little time to recuperate from hatching. We were really busy before church too so they kids finally got to meet and hold their new chicks Sunday afternoon. Love at first sight.

I waited until Tuesday to unplug my incubator and no other eggs hatched or ever showed signs of hatching. Most eggs that are incubated together will all hatch within 36 hours of each other, so at this point in the game I just assumed the chicks had either never developed or had died sometime during the 21 day incubation. Let me tell you, candling is an art and one that I have not learned. Every time I tried to candle the eggs to see if things were growing it looked the same and I honestly couldn’t tell if anything was working or not. My light may have been too dim. That is a skill I’m going to have to get a hands on lesson about because I had no idea what I was looking for.

The chicks are doing so well. We brought home four more chicks from the hardware store. I’m super curious as to how many are males and how many are females, but for now, there’s no telling who is what.

This is one of the chicks that we hatched. Two of them look identical except that one has a little black dot on the top of its head and the other has two little dots on its back. They are sweet and kind and were the two born Friday night. One came from a brown egg and one came from a white egg so time well tell what they mature to! Their papa Roo was a White Leghorn and the moms could have been anything from White Leghorns, Barred Rocks, and Rhode Island Reds. I’m not sure what cross-breeds I ended up with!

How to hatching your own eggs!
How to hatching your own eggs!

I would be shocked if this one wasn’t a rooster. It hatched Saturday afternoon and is already much bigger than the two others and even has little feathers coming in on his wings. He’s a bit crotchety and bit aggressive towards the other chickens. I call it Grumpy.

How to hatching your own eggs!

This is one of the two we bought from the hardware store. I’m not sure what they are but I thought we were picking out Auricanuna or Ameraucana chicks; it was hard to tell – both varieties lay blue/green eggs. Aren’t they pretty?

How to hatching your own eggs!

And in full “pet” mentality, my kids LOVE THEM!!! They like to play with them as much as their mom allows. I watch them pretty carefully but chicks that are handled a lot when they are little make for the nicest chickens.

How to hatching your own eggs!
How to hatching your own eggs!

We ended up with two tiny black chicks from the hardware store just yesterday, but I didn’t get their pictures taken yet. Here’s a little peek at them this morning. They are SO vocal! One couldn’t find its way back to the heating unit and was crying (yes, they have a distressed loud cry!) at 3 am and I had to go stick it back under the heat. They are really loud, tiny, and adorable.

How to hatching your own eggs!

I used this Brinsea Mini Eco Hatching Egg Incubator to hatch my eggs. I liked it because it was clear and we could see what was going on. I didn’t realize before I bought it that the eggs needed to be rotated so regularly. They have an incubator that looks just like this one (it’s the “Advanced” one) for another $70 that rotates them automatically. I think I’d pay the extra and get it.

I also bought a Brinsea EcoGlow Brooder after it was recommended by Cassie at Wholefully. I have used a traditional heat lamp other times I have had chicks and didn’t even know that something like this existed. It is awesome!!! Instead of a big old light bulb that is on constantly (all night long mind you) this is just a little thing that heats up on the underside and they go under it to warm up. It uses gobs less electricity and it takes out all of the heat lamp fears. I worry that my heat lamp could catch on fire when we aren’t home, I worried that my kids would bump it when getting a chick out and get burned, and I just worried about it in general. This brooder is a fabulous option I’m so glad that I bought. I’ll keep the heat lamp for if I ever need extra heat outside in the coop, but for these tiny little chicks who need constant heat it is a great option. I think it’s really natural for chickens to want to hide a bit (this is the perfect place) and it also isn’t a light so at night they go to bed! That seems much more normal than having a light on constantly. I noticed right away that they got into a much more natural schedule with this compared to the heat lamp I was using the first few days.

And if you are thinking about hatching, having a hen go broody, or just raising your own chicks I highly recommend the book Hatching & Brooding Your Own Chicks: Chickens, Turkeys, Ducks, Geese, Guinea Fowl. It was awesome! It is super detailed, has a million neat pictures, problem shoots just about everything, and was so informational and enjoyable just to look at. My kids even liked it. It shows chicks at ever day of incubation too which was a really neat thing to see. I’m really glad I bought this book. It’s a must have for any hobby farm library.

If you don’t have fertile eggs of your own you can order them online from hatcheries or talk to a local farmer. Incubating your own eggs might not have crossed your mind but I think it was wonderful. This would be a really fun thing to watch in the classroom setting too, with your own kids or grandkids, or just to do for you. There’s a real miracle in watching the life cycle and I’m so glad I gave our family the chance to have a bird’s eye view of it.

Do tell, would you ever consider hatching your own eggs?!

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  1. Chris says:

    This was such an interesting story. The preschool I work for brings in baby chicks for the kids to observe. They are very vocal!

  2. marseille says:

    I love it!

  3. Christina says:

    I would love to have chickens! My husband grew up with them and has great memories of them. Unfortunately, our suburb life doesn’t lend its self as a place for chickens.

  4. Ana @ Lessons From Yesterday says:

    We’ve hatched eggs before, but have always let a broody hen do all the work for us. I just found what I think is our first guinea egg today, so I’m really excited–I’ve got a barred rock mama hen that I’d love to have sit on a clutch of guinea hens. So glad you guys had a good experience with yours! 🙂

    1. Melissa says:

      Oooh when we have more things set up I want guinea hens! My grandma had them when I was growing up and just their sound is so nostalgic!

  5. Rachael says:

    Just curious as to why you used an incubator vs. letting the hens hatch them. I’ve been wanting to hatch some of our own and was wondering if there was something I didn’t know. 🙂 (We don’t have a rooster right now, although I’m betting we’ll get one from this year’s round of farm store chicks, but I have a couple of hens who are constantly trying to go broody and we have to work to keep them out of those nesting boxes!)

    1. Melissa says:

      I’ve had hens for 3 years and I’ve only had one go broody once… last November when I didn’t really want winter chicks. Maybe it’s just the kind that I have but a broody hen has never been an option. I would LOVE to have a hen hatch her own chicks one day and I’ll probably even get some breeds of hens that are more likely to go broody in the future and try it. It sounds super fun to watch a momma at work, but until I have someone willing to do that work I just get to 🙂

  6. Julie Clarke says:

    With your pregnancies, prior to finding out the sex at an antenatal appointment, did you try and sex your baby using a gold ring threaded on a strand of your hair and holding over your baby bump or wrist? Pendulum-like swinging denotes a boy and strong circular motion denotes a girl. My mum uses this method for everything with an accuracy rate of 90%. Anyway, this method can be used on fertile eggs and even chicks … you could practice on your baby bump and even your own children (over their heads). It’s a fun way to test your ability

    1. Melissa says:

      That’s super cool. I’ve never heard of such a think… I have to read up on it!

  7. lacier77 says:

    So great to hear the outcome! I’ve been dying to hear all the details. You caught some amazing photos of those chicks!