There is nothing quite as exciting as the cracking of an egg when a newborn chick is coming into the world. I always enjoy setting up my incubators and waiting for those little "cheeps."
I have been incubating chicken eggs for many years but I still can't get over the excitement in the household when that first egg cracks and the little newborn chick appears on its wobbly little legs. That first little chick looks so lonely and lost but more eggs are quick to crack and more chicks are quick to follow.
Here at One Ash we don't have a fancy incubator. We use the styrofoam types that are easily found at farm supply stores. I am very careful with storing and cleaning them and have had the same two for about 12 years. I have an automatic egg rotator in one of them and manually rotate the eggs twice a day in the other one. Here are some tips that have helped me have successful hatches over the years:
Set up and plug in your incubators for at least a day prior to adding the eggs.
Keep an incubator thermometer in a place you can see it without lifting the lid.
Make sure the temperature inside your incubator is 99 degrees prior to adding your eggs.
Add water to the valleys in the incubator to keep the humidity high. This makes it easier for the chicks to crack through the egg.
Don't open the incubator if you don't have to - this helps keep the temperature even.
Check the thermometer at least a couple of times a day and adjust the dial only slightly if needed until the temperature is back to 99 degrees.
If manually rotating the eggs, mark them with an "x" on one side and an "o" on the other. Roll them gently twice a day with the "x" up in the morning and the "o" up at night.
Stop rotating the eggs three days prior to the hatching date (chicken eggs require 21 days of incubation).
When the chicks start to hatch, leave them in the incubator for up to 24 hours, or until they are dry.
Only open the incubator to remove chicks once a day. This helps maintain the proper temperature and humidity.
Remove the cracked eggs once the chicks emerge to keep the incubator clean.
When it's time for the chicks to move to the brooder they will need a heat lamp. We use a large plastic tub with a red heat light hung over a pole. I line the bottom of the tub with newspaper and use plastic jar lids for food and water. In about a week the chicks will be strong enough to eat from a regular chick feeder and waterer. Once they start growing their wings, these little newborns will move to the chicken coop or the chicken tractor until they are ready to venture out on their own!
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