Baby chickens are incredibly cute and being able to see one hatch is, for some, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. However, few people know much about how these chicks actually hatch, and how the formation of the chick takes place within the egg. A baby chicken forms within a delicately balanced atmosphere, and, without the correct conditions, will never get to hatch at all.
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Types of Eggs
The type of egg a chicken lays is, of course, dependent on the breed of the hen. It also depends, though, on the breed of the rooster. There is such a thing as a crossbreed chicken. If you're trying to breed chickens, and have different breeds of them, you should keep a careful watch over which roosters are allowed near the hens so you'll know which breed(s) to expect the baby chicks to be. If you're wondering what colour eggs a hen will lay, look at the feathers around her ears. If the feathers are white, she'll lay white eggs. If red, she'll lay brown eggs.
A chicken egg is formed from the inside out. The process begins with the yolk, which, at this point, is unfertilised. It will become fertilised once it reaches the oviduct, if the hen has mated with a rooster. The formation of a chicken is obviously dependent on this fertilisation, but the formation of an egg is not. Either way an egg will be produced. Farther along the oviduct, the egg white (albumen) is formed around the yolk. The shell doesn't come into place until the egg is about to be laid.
The baby chicken must develop properly inside the egg to hatch. The egg provides everything the growing chicken needs. The chick gets food from the yolk and water from the egg white. The eggshell is porous so that air can get in. The chick begins forming immediately, and even has a heartbeat at the end of its second day. After the first week it has the beginnings of a beak, wings, reproductive organs, legs and even a tongue. At two weeks, the chick is preparing for his exit from his shell, though this will not take place for another week.
When hatching eggs naturally, the egg is taken care of by the hen. The hen will sit on the egg for the three weeks it takes to hatch, pausing only briefly every day to take care of herself. In the days before an egg hatches, the chick inside can even communicate with its mother hen through the shell.
Another way to hatch chicken eggs is through the use of an incubator. This incubator mimics the conditions a hen would create, by keeping eggs at the correct temperature and humidity. Most people choose to use an incubator when they're trying to hatch many eggs or wish to get the chicks used to people from birth.
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