If you follow along with us on our Facebook Page, you were able to share in our excitement this weekend! (And if you don’t, please do! www.Facebook.com/HowWeeLearn) A few weeks ago I wrote about incubating chicken eggs with kids and told you I would add a few more posts. I still owe you a post on candling and chick development – which I will get to you this week, but I was too excited to share this post on ‘The Hatch” to wait.
So, we left off our last chick post on Day 18. Up until this point, you have popped the eggs in the egg turner (pointy end down) added water to keep the humidity at a bout 50% and otherwise left the be. But now, on Day 18 the fun really begins.
On Day 18, the eggs are removed from the egg turner, and simply laid on their sides in the incubator. They no longer require turning. At this point, you are also to increase the humidity to 65%. And then you wait and watch again.
Incubating chicken eggs requires patience – for the incubation period and also for the hatch. Anytime after about Day 19 you will see your chicks “pip” their shell. This is the very first little poke through the shell. After the chick pips, they rest and think and wait (and make their Mama hen’s a little nervous). This waiting can take anywhere from a few minutes to 24 hours.
Eventually, after that pip the chick will “unzip” the shell. The chick develops with it’s head in the fat part of the shell. From this position, it uses it’s egg tooth (which each little babe will have on the tip of it’s beak) to peck around the fat part of the shell, ‘unzipping’ itself. Once it is almost all the way around you will see it start to push with it’s back legs, the shell will open up, and the chick will be out!
Our first chick “pipped” on Day 19 and then waited a full 15 hours before deciding to unzip. I’m not going to pretend I was calm and cool throughout this first hatch. I was up every hour in the night checking on this babe. He was a little early, would he be strong enough to come out? Would he make it? What if he doesn’t make it? What if our very first chick to hatch doesn’t make it? Would that farm that sells one day old chicks be open now? Maybe I should go get some one day old chicks just to be safe? I could keep them in my closet – the kids would never know if I had to do a swap out … You know … thoughts such as this that seem so rational at 3 am. But by morning light, and with some much needed coffee flowing, I felt better. Confident that we had kept the temperature proper, the humidity great, and even managed to only candle the chicks once. Yes, I had more faith in Nature and letting her run the show. And a few hours later, we had our first (perfectly healthy) chick.
After it hatches, it may lay still and rest for a few minutes. It will be very wet and look very tired from all of that hard work! It will soon start to hop around and dry off. Leave your chick in the incubator for as long as you can, for up to 3 days. The humidity and warmth is what the babes need.
The next three days were full of hatching chicks. Each of my kids were able to watch at least one hatch and I was able to catch one on video as well:
Our incubator made it very tricky for my littlest one to see the baby chicks. So for the sake of not lifting the incubator lid often (as the hatching eggs need the level of humidity to stay constant) we transferred our chicks to the brooder relatively quickly. Our brooder, this time, was a glass aquarium with a heat lamp on top. It worked famously! The little ones could see the chicks and watch them very clearly (with a nice safety buffer of glass for those sweet chicks). In the classroom I had made a brooder out of wood and some chicken wire – but now having used the aquarium I would not eagerly go back.
We still have the chicks now, and think we may keep them for a few more days before giving them back to the dear, kind farmer who lent them to us. They change so quickly – and this activity continues to be so full of learning for a long while. Plus, my kids are kinda-sorta head over heels for them. This video is my absolute FAVORITE:
Incubating chicken eggs with my kids was an incredible experience. My kids are of quite varied ages, and all 3 adored this activity – as did the cousins, neighbors, and friends that were able to pop by. Though it requires some set up, it is such a wonderful learning experience for little ones (and big ones too!)