I love raising chickens and especially when I get to see them hatch right in front of me. There’s nothing like going out and gathering eggs from the hen house and knowing they didn’t come from chickens living in tiny little cages and pumped full of chemicals. They also make great garbage disposals when it comes to kitchen scraps and they produce some excellent fertilizer in return. Here are some tips and tricks on raising your own chickens from eggs.
Find a Reliable Incubator
Choose an incubator from a reputable source or build your own with plans online. I’ve always been scared to build my own incubator because I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to regulate the heat properly. I’m sure plenty of people have come up with some fantastic designs, but I worry about my ability to maintain a homemade incubator. There is an assortment of sizes available; from ones that hold just 3 eggs to ones that hold dozens upon dozens. Decide which incubator best suits your needs and go with it.
Monitor Eggs Carefully
Incubators usually come with instructions on how much water to put in them, since the eggs need a bit of moisture to keep from drying out. They also explain about the need for turning eggs so the chicks will form correctly. The turning method will depend on the type of incubator you have. For instance, if the eggs are standing on end, then you will either turn them completely over or simply tilt them opposite directions as they stand on end. If the eggs are lying on their sides, then you’ll need to roll them 45 to 180 degrees at least once a day. Some instructions say to turn them once a day and others say 3.
Be Prepared for Chicks once they Hatch
Chicks can be left inside the incubator for up to 24hrs to dry out a bit. After this time has passed, you’ll need to move them to a brooder box that is already set up. This can be a large wooden, cardboard, or plastic box. I’ve even seen metal water tanks be used. As long as there are high sides to keep drafts off, chicks in, and warmth contained, just about any type of material can be used. You’ll also need a chick feeder and a water container that the chicks cannot get wet in. If you simply place a large bowl of food and water in the brooder, the chicks will end up making a huge mess of the food and possibly drowning in the water. When introducing the chicks to the water bowl, dip the tip of the beak of each chick in the water. This will show each one where to get water and they also will watch each other.
Place some newspapers on the bottom of the brooder to make it easier to clean out, as well as to keep the chicks from sliding around. You want to keep it fairly clean so the chicks won’t get poop and food stuck to their feed. If you notice a build-up of poop on their bottoms, take a warm washcloth and wipe it off. In the past, I’ve only had this happen to chicks during their first week.
Learn more: 7 Must-have books on Keeping Chickens
Give your Chickens lots of Love and Treats :)
Once the chicks have gotten a few feathers on them, they should be big enough to enjoy some bits of worms, tiny bugs, or tidbits from the kitchen you might have on hand. Giving them large pieces of food when they are still tiny might cause them to choke. Encourage them to scratch around in the yard in a protected area. If you have cats, keep in mind that tiny chicks are just as appealing to cats as wild birds are. I’ve lost a couple of chicks before I figured out it was one of my cats who was the culprit.
Do you want to raise chickens for fun or food?