Hatching chicks can be an intriguing and exciting project. Chickens normally hatch in 21 days, and the best hatches are conducted under the broody hen. Using an incubator creates a more complicated situation. If the temperature and humidity are not correct, and the turning of the eggs is not done properly, the process can go wrong. Chicken eggs that have not hatched at 24 days are likely to never hatch. Chicks will begin "pipping" or chirping at 20 to 21 days. They will then chip at the shell to emerge. Eggs not pipped at 21 days will need to be monitored, and some chicks may need assistance.
Remove eggs from the incubator two days before they are due to hatch. Place the eggs in the brooder. Watch for pipping at 21 days. Check each egg for the chipping of the shell as the chick uses its "egg tooth" to break the membrane and shell. Note that hatching is variable ranging from immediately at pipping to more than 20 hours. Use patience and never rush the hatching process.
Note that it can take longer than 20 hours for a chick to work its way out of its shell. Assist chicks that are stuck in the process slowly, as the membrane and blood vessels must dry up in the hatching process. Do not pull away shell or membrane that starts to bleed.
Note that assisted hatching may take more than 20 hours as the drying process continues. Using blunt tweezers, begin to chip off pieces of shell (immediately stop at any bleeding). Break a small hole in the membrane if this has not already happened. Dampen the membrane with water if it has dried and stuck to an emerging chick.
Continue chipping away the shell and membrane every few hours, stopping at any sign of bleeding. Check for the shell and membrane to be dry and carefully remove the wide end of the shell from the chick. Note that this process from the first pip to the removal of the shell may take at least a day.
Pheasant, duck, turkey and goose eggs hatch at later dates (from 24 to 32 days). Check the hatch date for each species and use the same method as for unhatched chicken eggs to help a potentially late-emerging chick.