Bantam chicks usually take 19 days to hatch but my Croad Langshans (which are not true bantams) often go to 21 days, even under a broody in the height of summer. So, three days before hatching, I switch off the egg turning mechanism on the incubator and increase the humidity in anticipation of the big event!
|One of last year's chicks showing|
the residual egg tooth at the top of the beak
Also on this day, I like to get my brooder ready and warmed up to welcome my new arrivals. I use a large plastic storage crate as a brooder, along with an electric hen rather than a heat lamp. I set up the brooder and put in food, water, chick grit, shavings and grass, then place it in a warm room to wait for the chicks to hatch.
It can be really tempting to keep checking the eggs at this stage, as I find watching the chicks hatch so amazing. I restrict myself to one last candling, just to check for any problems, and then settle for peering through the incubator and offering words of encouragement.
I candle now to identify any chicks which have stopped developing and died in the shell. This is always really disappointing, but it’s important to remove them to prevent bacteria build up and poor hygiene affecting the other chicks, especially with the increased humidity.
Candling now also reveals the progress so far, which is the fully developed chick. The albumen has been absorbed and the amniotic fluid has reduced so that the chick occupies all the available space inside the shell. The last of the yolk has retracted into the chick’s stomach.
Over the next couple of days I will look out for signs of the chick using the tiny egg tooth at the end of it’s beak to break through the membrane into the air sack and chip through the shell. As the chicks begin to breath air through the air sack and rotate around chipping through the egg shell, they call out with a cheeping or pipping sound. I think this is so wonderful and I always call back as a broody hen would, to encourage the chicks to break free.
|The brooder is all set up and ready to receive chicks|