If you want your chickens to raise their own babies, you will need to understand a few basics about chicken reproduction, plus what you should do for your chickens hatching eggs. Taking good care of your hens will help them take good care of their chicks.
How to Take Care of Your Chickens Hatching Eggs
Chicken reproduction can be a little unique. All mature hens make an egg about every 26 hours. If you have a rooster, those eggs will be fertilized. Chickens will find a quite and protected spot to lay their eggs. Many chickens don’t mind if we come and eat those eggs, but sometimes a hen will go broody.
When a hen is broody she is trying to hatch her eggs. She will keep laying an egg roughly every day. Once she has a small cache, she will start sitting on them. It takes 21 days for eggs to hatch.
During this time the hen will sit on the nest with very few breaks. She may get up a few times a day to relieve herself and eat and drink a little. Make sure to have high quality food available for her. Broody hens need the extra nutrition as they are not eating as often.
Also make sure to keep an eye out for mites. Because they are not dust bathing, chickens hatching eggs are more likely to have problems with mites.
Your hen will possibly also pull feathers from underneath her. This helps her keep the eggs at an ideal temperature and humidity. She will roll the eggs around daily to help them develop well.
When you want your chickens hatching eggs it’s helpful to move the mother bird into a brooder box. This will be a safe place for her and her babies while they are vulnerable. Click here for tips on setting that up.
Here’s a video of one of my hens and her chick in a quick DIY brooder box:
How Chicks Are Hatched
Around day 20 or 21 it’s time for your eggs to hatch! Chicks can live a couple days without food, so as tempting as it is to be hands on during this time, you can give mama bird her space and let the eggs hatch out on their own.
It’s still very exciting to watch though! It can take a chick 10 to 20 hours to completely hatch out. Before they hatch, they have consumed all of the yolk for nutrition. They are surrounded by a membrane on the inside of the shell called allantoid.
The chick will fill the entire shell except fort he air chamber, and once the air chamber is broken, the chick begins pecking at the shell. During this time you will likely be able to hear the chicken peeping.
This is a long slow process, and it can be really hard to keep your hands off and leave the chick alone. If you interfere too soon it can cause the chick to die. Let it work for a while (at least 12 hours!) before any help attempts. Mama hen may also be able to help herself.
Here is a video of the process. It’s fascinating to watch!
Not all eggs will hatch. Sometimes chicks die in the shell. Sometimes they stop developing because the temperature or the humidity isn’t right. However, a good mama chicken will likely do her job beautifully.
Once her chicks are born, she will likely be protective of them. You can keep her and the babies separated from the rest of the flock until they are fully feathered out and then integrate them. If you have a very large area for your chickens, mama hen may be able to keep the other birds away from the babies, but supervise to make sure there are no issues.
Watching your own chicks hatch is a memorable experience! Luckily it’s pretty easy to take care of your birds. If your chickens are hatching eggs, make sure to feed them, keep them safe from mites and other bugs and predators, and give them a safe space.
Have you let your chickens hatch eggs? Share in the comments!
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