Being able to witness a chicks journey as they bring themselves into this world, is an absolutely amazing, magical experience that everyone should witness at least once in their life.
It all starts the day that the fertilized eggs are placed into the incubator or under a broody hen (a stubborn hen who just wants to sit on all her eggs and make herself a nest).
The process is fairly quick; from fertilization to the chick hatching. This averages about 21 days for chickens, and 28 days for peacocks, guinea, domestic ducks and other birds as well. There is a lot of work involved in this process to ensure that there is a successful hatch.
Heres a little look into the journey from egg to the hatching chick. This will be of a Guinea chick, with a 28 day cycle.
Day 1 – Eggs, which are believed to fertilized, are transferred into an incubator. The incubator is turned on before hand to ensure that it is working properly and holding temperature. Usually about 99.5 degrees fahrenheit (this varies depending on what kind of egg you are hatching; chicken, duck, peacock, quail, guinea, etc). A drop or increase in temperature by even a degree and the embryo could be ruined. Humidity also must remain throughout the entire process between 40% – 50% and then increased to between 65% – 75% while the eggs are in “lockdown” during the final days before hatching.
The eggs are believed to be fertilized if when candled; held above a candle or light source in a dark room, there is a small donut shaped mass or blastoderm that can be seen.
If the incubator does not have an auto turner, these eggs must be rotated at least 2 times a day and at roughly the same time each day. Each egg is marked with an X on one side and an O on the other. This ensures that all eggs are rotated and makes it easy to determine which have and have not been turned.
Day 2 – Blood vessels are starting to appear, the brain and heart begin forming.
Day 3 – The heart begins to beat. Blood vessels are thickening and growing.
Day 4 – The Nose, limbs and wings are beginning to form.
Day 5 – Toes, eye spot and beak are now appearing.
Day 6 – Voluntary movement begins, the chick is now starting to move within the egg on its own.
Day 7 – Brain, heart, ears, beak, stomach, tongue and comb growth takes place.
Day 8 – The beak is growing, the upper and lower mandibles (jaw) are now visible.
Day 9 – Organs are developing
Candling can also take place on this day, again the egg is held above a candle or light source in the dark. We are now looking for movement within the egg and to ensure that the “mass” we saw at the beginning has grown. If there is no growth or no longer a visible chick, the egg is removed from the incubator.
Day 10 – Down feathers begin to grow
Day 11 – Egg tooth is formed.
This is a small, temporary cap that sits on the top of the chicks beak. When the chick is close to hatching, it will use this egg tooth to break through the air sac within the egg. During the early incubation stages, air is brought into the egg throughout its porous shell. As the chick develops and grows, this air supply becomes insufficient. Which is when the chick will break through the air sac, where it will be able to find more oxygen. Next the chick will use the egg tooth to break through the shell, this is called pipping.
Day 12 – Organs continue to develop.
Day 13 – Wings and limbs are developing even more.
Day 14 – Toes grow and continue to develop.
Day 15 – Eyelids start to grow over the eyes. Tail feathers are growing.
Day 16 – Toes and claws are formed.
Day 17 – Down feathers are continuing to grow.
Day 18 – Wings and legs are becoming more defined. The neck is increasing in length.
This is also when the final candling happens. Again, eggs that are not developing or are not showing movement are removed.
Day 19 – Feet are fully formed.
Day 20 – Down is increasing.
These down feathers are why chicks are so fluffy after they have hatched. Once they are dry, their down will be fluffy. Over the next weeks, as the chick grows, the is down will be replaced by actual feathers.
Day 21 – Egg tooth is fully developed and ready to be used.
Day 22 – Eyes can now open and close.
Day 23 – Embryo heads toward the blunt end of the egg.
This means that the air sac will now begin to form at the blunt (wide) end of the egg.
Day 24 – Down feathers now cover the chicks body
Day 25 – Albumen is absorbed and the yolk provides nutrients.
The egg yolk is absorbed into the chicks abdomen, this will provide the chick the nutrients and energy it needs to hatch and will allow enough energy for the next couple days as the chick learns to eat and drink.
Day 26 – Remaining yolk is absorbed.
Eggs are now placed on “lockdown” this means that humidity will be increased to the 65% – 75% that we discussed earlier, rotating of eggs will stop. The incubator will not be opened now until the chicks are ready to be transferred to their brooder. A brooder is a draft free place the chicks will stay with a heat source to keep them warm as they grow and become stronger over the next days and weeks.
Day 27 – Embryo prepares for hatch.
Day 28 – Hatch begins. Egg tooth is used to break through the shell. The chick will be wet when it first comes out. Once the chicks are dry and fluffy they are transferred to the brooder, this is usually after 24 hours.
Pipping is a tiring process, some chicks take a little longer than others from initial break to completely hatching. Little chirps can be heard once the shell has been cracked. They are learning how to walk, they tend to stumble across the incubator and often knocking around other eggs. Chicks will sleep a lot after they have hatched.
The chick has “unzipped” the egg. Started by pipping through one part of the egg and rotating to chip away at the egg so it can break free.
Once unzipped, the chick will begin to push with its feet to open the shell.
The tired chick has almost completed the hatch.
The babies will cuddle together, rest and soon their wet bodies will be covered in their fluffy down feathers.
The process is nothing short of amazing and magical. It is breath taking to see the chick finally break through its hard shell. Just like in humans, it is a beautiful, magical thing to watch a new baby come into the world.
I hope this article was informative and educational. It was a pleasure to share this experience with you!
- Hatch-A-Batch; I use an absolutely wonderful app called Hatch-A-Batch on my iPhone (I am sure it is available on android as well). It allows you to track your batch and informs you where your chicks are in their development each day. You can set reminders and track more than one batch at a time. Definitely recommend!
- This is also where I pulled the information as to what happens in each day of incubation. I think its is remarkable how fast chicks develop, considering they are only incubated for just under a month!
- Photos & Videos; The photos and videos were all taken by myself, Ciara. They are all from the most recent hatch of Guineas I had. The hatching began on July 7, 2017.