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Hatching chicks used to be found on almost every farm in America. Today only a few farms and hobby farmers still hatch their own eggs. Schools hatch eggs as science projects for learning, but most eggs are hatched on egg farms for poultry production. No matter why the egg is hatched, the process remains the same.
Setting the Eggs
Eggs can be hatched using either a broody mother hen or an incubator. Incubators come in all sizes ranging from those that hold just a few eggs to industrial sizes that hold several thousand eggs at once. The mother hen will generally sit between 12 to 20 eggs at a time in what is called a clutch. In order for an egg to hatch, it must first be fertilised and then allowed to sit for 21 days in an environment that ranges from 37.2 to 39.4 degrees C. Humidity, which needs to be at 50 to 55 per cent, plays an important part in the embryo development also.
The 21 days
It takes a full 21 days for a chick to develop inside the shell of an egg. If the mother hen is taking care of her clutch, nothing more needs to be done. If the eggs are being incubated in an incubator, a close eye needs to be kept on the temperature and humidity factor inside the machine. The eggs will also have to be turned several times a day, until the 18th day, to mimic the mother hen and make sure the eggs develop properly. After the 8th day, the eggs can be candled in order to make sure a chick is growing inside the egg.
Around the 20th day of incubation, the chick can be heard attempting to break the shell that surrounds it. The tip of the chick's beak, known as the shell tooth, will peck away at the inside of the eggshell until the shell is broken enough to push the shell apart. At this point the chick will emerge from the shell. After the 23rd day, any eggs that have failed to hatch should be thrown away.
The New Chick
The new chick will be wet and will need to remain in the temperature-controlled incubator until it is dry. Chicks can survive for three days without food, as the egg sack attached to their body will continue to nurture them during this time. When the chicks are removed from the incubator, they should be placed in a brooder where the heat can be kept at between 35.0 and 36.1 degrees C. This is the time to introduce the chick to water and chick feed. Chickens hatched by the mother hen will learn all they need to know from her to survive.
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