Hatching Chicks: When Not To Help

Hatching new chicks can be exciting and sometimes nerve wracking, waiting for a little chick to crack its shell and fight its way out. It took me a long time to learn that sometimes helping was not helping at all.

Someone new to hatching might want to help peel away the shell or start a hole for the chick, but don’t do it. The chick needs the struggle to get him to be a healthy member of the flock.

In the early years, I was guilty of “helping”. I never forced a chick out, but twice I have weakened the shell walls thinking a struggling chick needed a helping hand. It doesn’t.

If it’s going to make it in this world and among his mates, he has to fight to be born. The two chicks I helped never thrived. In the end, one died on its own and the other I mercifully put down. They were weak. In time, the other chicks would’ve killed them. Birds will not tolerate weak members in their group.

In my current hatch, one chick struggled for hours, but in the end it gave up. I didn’t help it. I let him die trying to be born. It might seem cruel, but in the long run it’s actually a kindness.

There is only one time I’ll ever intervene. Once I move the pipping eggs to the hatchery, I watch closely to make sure their inner membrane doesn’t dry out before they’re born. If it dries, it’ll set like glue on the chick’s delicate body. The membrane is incredibly tough and will dry like a second skin binding the chick in its unborn position.

If birth takes longer than expected, I will wet the membrane with plain water and increase the humidity in their hatcher. This is usually enough to help them hatch.

I can’t count the number of times we’ve hatched chicks. We’ve hatched everything from rheas, emus, ducks, and chickens. Each one has a precise temperature, humidity, and incubation.

We’re lucky that since we started with rhea years ago, we had already invested in a high quality, commercial incubator and hatcher. I’m glad we kept them. I know it’s helped a lot in having successful hatches.

Have you ever seen a chick hatch? If you’re a bird raiser, what have you hatched?

This isn’t a regular day to post for the Self Reliance Challenge, but I invite you to visit my blogging friends to see what they’re up to on their homesteads. Click on their blog names and check them out! The scheduled day to post for the Self Reliance Challenge was Friday, but I found myself more challenged than normal with one setback after another.

Not to worry. We’re on it, but it did make me not have the Challenge post I wanted to write. Maybe next time.

AnnMarie – 15 Acre Homestead

Nancy – Nancy On The Homefront

Kathi – Oak Hill Homestead

Robin – A Life in the Wild

Candy – Candy’s Farm House Pantry

Farmgal – Just another Day on the Farm

Ashley – Practical Self Reliance

ShawnaLee – Homegrown Self Reliance

Frank – My Green Terra

Lisa Lynn, our Host – The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

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  1. We hatched chicks, well our daughter did in the early days of our farm but I never had the patience for it. I preferred letting the hens take over and that was so fantastic, great experience.. Even had a fun time with my Bobwhite quail hatching their own eggs in captivity. That was more of a shock!

    • Carole: The thing I like best about letting a hen hatch her own chicks is that they are welcomed into the flock without any effort. If you introduce them from the outside, it takes a while for everyone to get along.

      My little coturnix is laying eggs now, but she isn’t interested in setting on them. I might try to incubate those few to see if they’re fertile.

  2. Michael Keyton

    There is nothing useful I can bring to the party here, Maria, but made fascinating reading. Grist to the novelist – scope for some horror perhaps 🙂

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