Hatching and Brooding Chicks

Hatching and Brooding Chicks

Since springtime is just around the corner, I thought that an article on hatching, and care of chicks would be appropriate. I’ll discuss the hatching of eggs, to brooding and caring for your newly hatched chicks. Hatching chicks can be a lot of fun for anyone of any age. If you decide to incubate your own, here are some tips for doing so.


Setting Eggs

Always set the cleanest, nice sized eggs in the incubator. It is best to avoid small, or misshaped eggs. If they are dirty, do not wash them. I take a fine steel wool and gently rub them until the dirt comes off and then place them in the incubator. Remember to place them with the large end up, as the air cell needs to be pointed up for proper incubation. Chicken eggs will need to be incubated for 21 days and should be turned at least 3 times a day. Temperatures vary with different styles of incubators as well as humidity. Most generally you want your temperature to set at about 99.7 to 100 degrees F. It will really depend on what kind of incubator you have, so check with the manufacturer guidelines. Over the years, with the many hatches I’ve done, I’ve learned of the dry incubation method, and prefer to do that. I run my incubator at 100 degrees F and my humidity about 50-55% until day 18. On day 18 I bump the humidity up to 60%, and stop turning them. If you are using trays to hold your eggs, you need to take them out of the trays, and lay them on their sides at this point. When the chicks begin to pip, they will automatically raise the humidity themselves. You just have to remember not to open the incubator door, or lid, and allow for the natural ventilation to take place. Opening the incubator will drastically drop the humidity level, and can lead to the eggs drying out too much, and won’t allow the chicks to hatch properly. It is best to let the chicks dry off fully in the incubator before placing in the brooder.

Care of Chicks

Hatch Day is upon you! You have everything ready. Brooder is in place with waterer, feeder, and heat lamp. I want to add, that chicks actually don’t need any food for the first 48 hours, as they can live off their yolk sacs for that time so in the event that you don’t have any feed, don’t be too concerned, they will do just fine. Sometimes I just run vitamin water through them the first day, and add feed the second day. You can also prepare boiled egg and feed that to them, as it is a good source of protein for baby chicks. I sometimes make up a mash of chick feed, boiled egg, and yogurt to get their natural gut flora started. Yogurt has acidophilis and is high in Vitamin A & D. Good nutrition is essential to starting off a great flock. Not only will it help in prime growth, but will aid in a better immune system to fight off the bad bacterias, while settling in the good bacterias. Chicks require constant feed and water, so never let them run out. It is also very important to keep the bedding clean. This may require you changing it several times a day depending on how many chicks you have, or only several times a week for just a few. Never put your chicks on newspaper, as it gets wet and slippery, and can cause splayed legs. To keep the waterer free of bedding, place it on a block of wood, or a brick in the brooder. When there are a lot of chicks, they sometimes tend to get crowded at the tray and get too wet, and can fall in and drown. Placing a few marbles will help avoid that when using a normal chick watering dish. Another thing you can do is use a quail size waterer for the first few days, then switch to the chick size waterer as they grow. Just make sure they have access to water at all times.


Brooders can be purchased, or easily made from something so simple as a Rubbermaid tote, or a cardboard box and a heat lamp. The key is to keeping the heat source even in the brooder. For the most part, I use Rubbermaid totes and peat moss. I have found that the peat moss holds heat better, and is more efficient. With wood shavings, the heat doesn’t spread as evenly, and the chicks tend to want to eat the small chips, where when you use peat moss, they don’t. Peat moss also has a little dirt, and the chicks are exposed to natural bacterias as they scratch about, but again this is only my preference, and I have found it seems to work better from years of experience brooding chicks. I also don’t have to use that high of a wattage heat lamp with peat moss. A 100 watt bulb will do in most cases. It is also best to use an infrared light, as it helps keep them from picking at each other. If you see the chicks gathering under the light too much, that will tell you that you need a stronger lamp. If they are gathering in the corners of the brooder away from the light, that will tell you that the lamp is too hot. The ideal temperature under the light should be around 95 degrees for newly hatched chicks, and work your way down as they grow. It is best if you ween them off the heat gradually. Just place the light higher and higher from the chicks to lower the temperature. What you want to see is the chicks scratching, and walking about comfortably. That’s when you have it just right. Once they are weened of the heat, and are feathered out, they are ready to go outside, as long as you have a warm, dry place for them to get to when they need it, as it will take a while before they are ready to deal with cold, windy, or damp weather on their own.

If you want to learn more about this, or want to ask me a question, I can be reached at the Ultimate Fowl Forum.


2 Responses to “Hatching and Brooding Chicks”

  1. 1 Bill Emerson
    March 24, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    Dear ChinaChick

    I am not in the business of roosters, however, I am a novelist and am writing a story – fiction –which includes the subject of cockfighting. I can assure you that I am in no way “anti” cockfighting. I just need some basic info.

    I became interested in this subject while on a visit to Mazatlan, Mexico. I visited the little nearby town of El Quelite, which has a large rooster farm.

    My home is near the Plaza here in KC. I’d like to visit with you – phone would be Okay. I’m available most days or you can leave a message. Thank you for any help.

    Kindest regards,

    Bill Emerson
    Home: 816-326-8826

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