This is the time of year when I typically hatch out a new batch of chicks. Thinking ahead into spring, I know daily temperatures in the 70’s are coming. At twelve weeks of age chicks can fully self-regulate their temperature and I would like for them to get as much of spring and summer sun and yummies as they can.
If I begin to incubate eggs at the beginning of February, for example, they would would be hatching this weekend. Then in twelve weeks it will be mid-May with warm temperatures and lots of bugs to chase. Also, by late August some of my girls should start laying, giving me farm fresh eggs in late summer and all fall.
If you haven’t already started your eggs incubating, it’s not too late. You can rally start anytime. Some years I do both a winter and summer hatching so that I always have hens in season and never go without fresh eggs.
So where can you find fertilized eggs? You can try searching your local craigslist ads or, if you know anyone who has chickens, you can ask to buy from them. There are also many online egg sellers such as the following:
I have always used the basic foam incubator I purchased at my local co-op and have had good success. I have used both the automatic turner and have turned by hand. Probably the best tip I can give you is to warm up the incubator before you get your eggs and adjust and re-check the temperature for a day. It is better to do this before you add the eggs so they do experience the wide temperature swings while you are trying to figure out how to adjust the thermostat. If you can the incubator to stay at 99.5 degrees, your eggs should hatch 3 weeks from set date.
The next most important tip I will share is to let the chicks hatch on their own. Don’t help them. They work a bit, then take a break. During this process they are absorbing the last of the nutrition available in the shell. Don’t try to remove them from their shell. Also, don’t remove them from the incubator until they are fully dried out.
Once at least two chicks are dried fully, you can transfer them together to their baby chick house. I tried to never leave a chick alone. You will know if more chicks are preparing to hatch, because they will cheep from within their shells. If another chick is on its way, leave at least one hatched chick in the incubator to encourage them.
There is a ton of information on the web to help you out, these are just some tips I have learned along the way that others may not share. Even if this is just for educational puproses and you re-home the chicks later, I highly encourage everyone to experience the wonderful process of chicks hatching!