Hatching chicken eggs can be a fun and educational experience for the entire family. Baby chicks hatch with their eyes open and down covering their body. Within an hour of hatching they are up and exploring.
Chicken eggs hatch about 21 days after a hen begins to set or you put the eggs into an incubator. An incubator should be kept at a constant 37.5 degrees C. Humidity is also important to chick development. The first 18 days, humidity should be kept at 50 per cent. Afterward, increase the humidity to 75 per cent until the chicks hatch. To change the humidity, water can be added to or removed from the trough in the bottom of the incubator.
When a baby chick breaks through the shell it's called "peeping." It can take up to three days for a chick to hatch after it peeps. Never try to help a chick out. They will peck and push on the shell until they get tired and then rest for a period. It may seem like they have given up, but they are just gathering energy to push some more. During the hatching process, the yoke is drawn up into the chick's abdomen; if you pull away the shell, the chick can bleed to death.
Within minutes of freeing itself from the shell, a chick's eyes should be open. The chick will be wet and tired. You should not remove the chick from the incubator or remove the incubator lid while the chick is drying off. In the first hour the chick should be dry and starting to move around. If you have several chicks, they will huddle together. Three hours after hatching the chick will be very active and investigating its surroundings.
Remove the chicks from the incubator 24 hours after they hatch and put them in a brooder. They do not need food or water in the incubator. They survive by absorbing the nutrients from the yoke. They can survive up to three days on the yoke. The brooder should be kept at 90 degrees. When you put them in the brooder, provide fresh water and food. The water bowl must be shallow to prevent drowning.
If your chick hatches with the yoke partly visible under its tail, it still has a chance of survival. Remove it from the incubator and put it in the brooder by itself. The yoke will usually dry up and fall off if there are no other chicks to peck at it. If your chick has not opened its eyes in the first minute, take a Q-tip dipped in some warm water and clean its eyes. Sometimes the fluid from the egg will stick to the chick and dry into a sticky film. This can cause problems with both the eyes and breathing.