Diary of a Hatching Chick – contains real hatching photos.
This morning, I was fortunate enough to have another chick hatch while I was holding it. It’s always a special time, the beginning of life – and sadly with chicks, very often it’s the end of life too. Birthing is always the cusp between life and death, which is one reason it is so sacred, I think. However, I also thought I might be able to share it with you, as I was sitting reeeallly close to my camera. 😀
This is how it looked when I took it out of my incubator. It had made the air hole, and started to open the shell (this takes thousands of teeny pecks by the chick to do, they are incredibly strong animals). Sometimes they seem to peck a trapdoor, and they tend to be slow hatching. Ones that do the flip-top shell thing like this one did can arrive in a big hurry. Perfect!
Once the shell is mostly pecked through, the chick starts pushing up with it’s head, to lever the top off.
You can see it’s wing poking out here…
And now it’s made a big enough gap that it has a wing out, and it’s foot. MUCH more leverage this way. You can also see that in the shell, there’s not a lot of space left, and it grows for the last week or so with it’s head tucked under it’s wing.
Then, pop! Top comes off, and its head and neck start to straighten. It’s a really good idea to be as hands-off as possible. I do tend to pick mine up once they are at the flip-top stage, but only for a few reasons: my incubator has no humidity, I get around this by squirting the eggs a few times a day when I turn them. In the last 3 days before hatching the eggs need about 80% humidity to hatch, and I try to replicate this roughly by wrapping a warm wet tissue around the shell, but ONLY when the airhole is present, and I keep about 1/4 unwrapped to try not to change the tensile pressure of the shell. So, once it’s at the stage in the first photo, if I can I take off the tissue and hold it to keep it warm and humid. (plus, you know, baby!)
Another important point: chicks are designed to have to fight their way out of the egg. It’s hard to watch, but necessary. They have a complicated network of blood vessels, and the fighting to hatch closes these off. I have read of horror stories of people trying to help a chick hatch, only to pull off a piece of shell and have the chick bleed to death. Yuck. Poor chick, poor people. You can see a vessel here, on the chicks back. This was severed by it wiggling while in my hand, and obviously a shut down one, anyway. Hard as it is to watch, let them be. 🙂
Then, out of the bottom of the shell with one big kick, and there it is, in my hand. Hello, chick!
(Important! I didn’t have my hand open for the duration, keeping birds warm is VITAL. I was being an honarary hen, and keeping it in the warm and dark of my cupped hands until I took a quick photo.)
Back in the incubator to fluff up and warm up a bit more… which also makes them look cuter 😀
And after 20 mins or so… it’s silver! This is my first silver chick – not sure of it’s parentage, dad is Blue Orpington, mum may be Light Sussex, but I’m not completely sure.
Then, my patented ‘being a mother hen and still having a life’ trick – I tuck the end of a bandana down my top, and fold the rest up and over the chick. So chick is now tucked up against the skin of my throat, warm and dark, and I can use both hands.
I make sure there is plenty of air for the chick though!
And then, once I’ve carted it around for a few hours it’s cute, strong, fluffy, steady on it’s legs and ready to go under the heat lamp in the box with my other chicks that have no mother hen. Of which I have 12 now. Holy Moly. *quiet panic attack*
Have a lovely day