Chick Days!

As I mentioned before we run  a camp for Special Needs kids on our farm throughout the summer.   The Camp Grace Board of Directors approved the purchase of an incubator to hatch chicks out for camp.  Since I have never used this particular incubator before I decided I better do a trial hatching.  Here is how it went.
Here is the incubator.  I know it looks like something an astronaut would wear.
Back on the 12th of April I set 14 eggs from my hen house in the incubator.  You have to be very selective in the eggs you choose.  They have to come out of the hen house clean, the right shape and size.  You can not wash the eggs before you incubate them or it washes off the protective coating on the shell.   I try to make sure the eggs are from newer hens, not hens that are old and laying extra large eggs.  
Just set in the incubator.

The incubator has a automatic turner,(the black box to the right) and water for humidity, (the long plastic bottle on the left).  This is the most automatic incubator I have ever used.  My old one was just a cheap Styrofoam one I bought many years ago at a farm and ranch store.   I had to check the water level every day and turn the eggs buy hand.    I have hatched many a chicks in that old Styrofoam incubator, but this was much easier hands down.   

The eggs have to stay at a constant temperature of 100 degrees with a humidity of  86%.    With the temperature and humidity set, now it was time to wait, 21 days in fact.    Being the broody hen that I am I checked the temperature and humidity of the incubator every time I walked buy it.   The incubator sat on the kitchen counter in one of the corners.  Since I am in and out of the kitchen all day those little eggs never went unchecked.   I was a little concerned that my rooster to hen ratio might not be good.    I have two roosters that are in charge of about 27 hens, not too bad.  But you have to realize my chickens are free range, meaning they are able to roam as far and wide as they desire.    This can be a problem for those two roosters. They have to do a lot of running to keep up with all those hens.  

( Government description of free range is, if  they have government certified access to the outdoors. The door may be open for only five minutes and the farm still qualifies as “free-range. ) (A great topic for another blog, some other day)

After nineteen days  it is time to turn off the egg turner.  The chicks are moving around at this point getting themselves in the proper hatching position, so the turner is not needed.

You can see the pips if you click to enlarge

All  of my days of brooding paid off after 20 day of being in the incubator the eggs started to pip. We noticed that they had pipped about 8 pm.    When the chick pip the eggs means they have put a little hole in the egg and have started to consider hatching. 

My almost seventeen year old son watching the eggs very closely after they pipped.   He was amazed that you could hear them peeping in the shell.   He sat there a very long time until I told him they probably would not hatch for another 8 hours.   He decided to give up his egg watching and opted to go to bed and check in the morning. 
In the morning we woke to two chicks already hatched and a flurry of excitement by the chicks and the humans.  (Do you know how hard it is to get your kids breakfast, dressed, and on the bus when there is hatching going on?)
A black chick hatching. (one of only two blacks)
The second chick to hatch.  He looks a little upset.



When all was said and done we had 11 chicks hatch out of 14 eggs.  Not too bad considering those poor running roosters.   (The last three eggs were not fertile)  By mid morning 9 chicks had hatched, but there were still 4 more pipped eggs to go.     After dinner the four pipped eggs had still not hatched, so being the broody hen that I am I decided to help them.   I knew that they were alive, I could hear them peeping.   I also knew that if they did not hatch they would die, and I knew that if I helped them hatch they could die.    I decided that if I did nothing and they never hatched I would feel bad, so................    I very carefully peeled back the shells and exposed the chicks.  Two of the chicks came out and started to move a peep right away.  The other two were very week and did not move much.    I put the two thriving chicks in with the others under the heat lamp and left the two weak chicks in the incubator over night.    I did not know if I would come down in the morning to live chicks but that was the chance I decided to take.   Well, low and behold they were both very much alive and ready to move to the heat lamp. 

I know this is a bad photo, but as you can almost see there are the baby chicks.  They are under a red heat lamp all snug and warm.   My friend Lori is going to take the chicks home to raise and  add to her hen house.   The Nebraska Prairie Girl  has concluded that this incubator and the hatching were a big success and I am now ready to set eggs on May 7th,  to have May 27th for our first day of Camp Grace.   Happy Hatching.


  1. Where did you get that brooder????

  2. Are you talking about the incubator? I got it used from a retiring school teacher. I have friends that have a large cabinet type incubator that needs some work but would be great for a large operation. They also have the brooder boxes. Let me know if you would like their info.


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