Farm Farm

The Chicks are Hatching

I had a bunch of broody chickens about a month ago, yet with no rooster around all of the eggs they were sitting on would never hatch. No matter how many times I took the eggs away from them, they would just lay and gather more and try again. I finally broke down and ordered 3 different kinds of fertile hatching eggs off of eBay. Of course by the time the eggs arrived every single chicken had given up and had no interest in laying on eggs anymore. I couldn’t just throw the eggs out, so I threw them in my incubator. I really don’t need anymore chicks — I’ve got 10 chicks out in the brooder coop getting bigger by the day, and more chicks coming over the next two weeks — but it seemed like murder to not at least try.

“Candling” is the process that allows you to observe embryo development. In a darkened room you hold the egg up to a strong flashlight and should be able to see if you’ve got an embryo growing inside the egg, or if you’ve got a dud. I’ve never been very good at this. My friend Sue is super at it, but she lives all the way up in Monroe. It’s also much harder to do on brown eggs, and all but the bantam eggs I ordered were brown. So, come hatching date, without any success at candling I really had no idea whether I was going to have anything hatch or not.

Eggs hatch at or about 21 days. This would have been Thursday, the day I was scheduled to return from Williamsburg from my vacation with the twins. Yet India called me on Wednesday night and said we had cracks in a few of the eggs already. I was excited that at least we were going to have some success with the eggs. On Thursday morning we got a photo of one new baby chick from India. When we (finally) got home after flight delays, there were two chicks. The first one was my tiny Old English Bantam. She’s by far the smallest chick I’ve ever had before, and she’s adorable.

The second chick to hatch, which we came home to find, was a blue laced red wyandotte. The eBay photos of these were really unusual, so I’m excited to see what they turn out like. I can tell you that I’ve never had a chick this color before. She’s got a beautiful copper color to some of her feathers.

The 3rd and 5th chicks to hatch were both Blue Jersey Giants. I’ve never had this breed before, but as the name implies, they are the largest purebred chicken breed and lays large brown egg.

And then there’s number 5 to hatch. Another Old English Bantam. He had cracked the egg about 3/4 of the way around, but wasn’t progressing any further. You could hear it peeping in it’s egg, but it wasn’t coming out.

Now I’ve had experience with “helping” eggs along. The last batch of eggs I hatched a little over a year ago produced “stumpy” – a chick that probably wasn’t meant to be born. I hand-fed that adorable little chick every day until my husband got the brilliant idea to give it a bath under the faucet after a feeding. It was dead in the morning. Even knowing this, however, my kids still pleaded with me to help this little chick out. So, I carefully peeled off the shell. There was a ton of membrane stuck to it’s feathers, but it made it through the night.

We named this one Eggroll, since it rolled around in it's egg for a day before I peeled it out of it's shell.

I took out my extra incubator and put her in it so the bigger chicks couldn’t pick on her or step on her. This morning, having made it through the night and seemingly stronger, I took out a heating pad, my tiny syringe feeder and some warm water and held it in my lap while carefully wetting the dried membrane on it. I peeled this away as it softened as best I could. Finally it’s wings were free and the heating pad prevented it from getting chilled. It also drank some water from the dropper. She’s stronger tonight but still in what I would call “critical” condition.

The 7th chick was a similar situation, but it was one of the Blue Jersey Giant eggs. It, too, had broken it’s shell about 3/4 of the way around, but wasn’t progressing.

Again after pleading from the kids I intervened. When I started breaking through the shell a bit this big foot came out and grabbed on to my finger. It was the sweetest thing.

This time I was careful to get as much membrane and shell off as possible the first time around, and I can tell that this chick is going to be just fine. It’s already walking around, eating, and chirping it’s head off. His feathers are still pretty matted and it has a bit of shell remnant on it’s back that I’ll clean off tomorrow, but it’s big and healthy.

I don’t know whether I’m doing the right thing or not. And not being an expert at this, it’s possible that just having your humidity levels off in the incubator can greatly effect the shell’s ability to break properly. I couldn’t bear to think that something I’d done had prevented a chick from being born.

So the count right now stands at 5 healthy chicks and 2 still in the incubator in what I’ll call the Intensive Care Unit. There are 8 more eggs in the incubator, but I’m not holding out a lot of hope on any more hatching at this point. I’ll keep you posted.


  1. The girls told me about Eggroll when I picked up my eggs yesterday… so glad he made it through the night. It’s like a soap opera… and I’m staying tuned.

Speak Your Mind