One of the joys or chicken keeping is to hatch your own chicks. There is nothing quite like to sweet baby chick fuzzy butt chirps and peeps.
There are 2 ways to hatch chicks
1- let a broody hen do it
2 – use and incubator and hatch them in there yourself.
Both methods have advantages and disadvantages, and both require attention and management.
I have done both multiple times, with my DIY self made incubator – but mostly I have used broody hens.
I read a LOT about hatching and candling and dry hatch and high humidity hatch and what not, but this is about: to help or not to help a chick hatch.
Short story: ALMOST NEVER
Before that, you need to know: it takes about 12-24 hours for a chick to start the unzipping part of the hatch after it has pipped a hole in the eggshell. You don’t do anything during that time. After 24 hours, you should be seeing further work on getting the eggshell cracked around and at the latest, after another 24 hours…the chick is out…if not…it means it is in trouble.
So here goes: if you do your own hatch, things can go wrong with turning (or the lack thereof) faulty temp or humidity which could make hatching difficult. This is in addition to the possibility of a weak chick.
First time help: In my first DIY hatch, 3 hatched and the 4rth …kept on peeping at the same hole but was not unzipping for several hours…so i got a warm moist paper towel, tweezers, put it under a desk lamp to keep warm and started peeling the eggshell off, keeping the membrane as it was…the chick hatched within a few minutes after being put back in the incubator (it is important they do some of the pushing themselves) and has been strong and fine ever since.
Second time – My second hatch….I decided to wait the full 24 hours after the pip…but by that time…when I checked in the morning, the chick had died. Not sure from what or why….but when I checked, the yolk sac also was not yet absorbed. This can happen outside the shell, but I am still thinking something just was not right with it.
Third time help – …but first time I “messed”with a broody hatch. Of seven eggs, 6 hatched and one was still working its way around…but the unzipping had been going on for many hours…so while still under the broody, I peeled the eggshell off enough to separate the halves a little, chick kicked out. I left it to dry under the mama hen and checked several hours later: This was a weak chick….and I am still taking special care of it, while it stays with its family….more on that in another post.
My conclusion and recommendation:
Patience is an especially important virtue. Don’t mess with the hatching if possible.
Give a chick time to hatch after pipping – 24 hours.
IF you are doing the incubating yourself – and therefore the incubation process might have been less than ideal, possibly help with unzipping if no further progress is being made after several hours – at least 24 hours after pipping. Once unzipping starts, it does not usually take many hours.
If broody hen hatched and especially when the other chicks are already hatched…leave mama alone till 2 days after the calculated hatch day – it is not a faulty incubation, it is the chick – don’t help UNLESS you are prepared to deal with a chick that may not be well enough to keep up with the others and possibly needs special care for life – if you don’t want to cull.
I hope that helped on deciding. In the end, it is a personal choice, but always give the chick enough time.
Incidentally, I had another chick …it got injured after the hatch ,,,but in caring for it…I noticed a similar weakness in the legs. They all have had the same coloring, so I think there is something genetic going on. All of these are from this year. Regardless, I have no plans to help a chick from a broody again.