Hatching Eggs: How I saved one “Lucky” chick September 18, 2012
My first attempt at hatching eggs did not go so well, but I had quite a surprising experience on day 21! This unique experience made up for all the sadness and worry I had been going through with this batch of fertile hatching eggs.
Three and a half years ago, when I was still fairly new to chicken raising, I did not own an incubator, so when my Barnevelder hen Lacy became broody I became very excited at the possibility of using a broody hen for hatching eggs and raising new baby chicks! I fixed up a private nest for Lacy, purchased 12 hatching eggs locally, and placed them under my broody hen.
All went well for the first few days, but then the trouble started. I was dismayed to find a broken egg in the nest every few days. After some research, I added peat moss and straw to her pine shavings in an attempt to make the nest softer. I dusted Lacy and the nest with Diatomaceous Earth to make sure mites were not bothering her. Nothing helped and looking back at this later, with more experience under my belt, I believe the shells of this particular batch of hatching eggs were not very strong — perhaps the seller did not feed his flock crushed oyster shells for strong eggshells. I wish I had known of My Pet Chicken back then — perhaps my fertile hatching eggs would have fared better under my clumsy hen.
Finding these broken eggs, frequently with a chick inside, was very sad and disheartening. We reached day 21 with only 2 eggs left in the nest that morning. A few hours later I returned home to find Lacy off the nest and a fully developed chick dead because of another prematurely broken egg — again.
In desperation, I reached for that last egg and decided its fate was better off with me than with the hen, even though I didn’t have an incubator. The chick inside this little egg gave me hope when it cheeped in response to the birds chirping in the trees. As a first time hatcher, walking into the house with a cheeping egg in my hand was startling — something I hadn’t expected
I quickly prepared a small makeshift nest for the egg. The nest consisted of a soft rag at the bottom of a small basket with a light bulb hanging above the egg to keep it warm. A meat thermometer was then placed on top of the egg, so that I would be able to keep the egg at the correct temperature. My last concern was humidity – how was I to keep the humidity high enough for this little chick to hatch?
Yay for my hubby! He was out of town — again, but came up with the great idea of using the room humidifier we had stored in our garage. A humidifier would have taken a while to humidify an entire room and time was of the essence, so I decided a small bathroom would be a great place to hatch this egg. I turned on the hot shower and let it run long enough to steam up the bathroom, added a room humidifier to keep the humidity going, and voila — my bathroom was a giant sized incubator!
Just 5 hours after bringing the egg inside and 1 1/2 hours after placing the basket and egg into my new ‘incubation room’, I was treated to the sound of very loud chirping! I ran to the incubation room and was excited to see the little chick zipping her way out. She was strong and once she got going, did not stop. Sharing my first newly hatched chick with my young granddaughter was precious. My first experience of hatching eggs took a surprising turn and didn’t turn out as well as I expected, but I was very thankful for the one little chick that did survive.
Chickens are flock animals and do not do well alone. At the time, I did not trust this particular hen to safely raise this precious chick, so I scurried off to the feed store to pick up a couple buddies for her. These 2 new chicks were a little older, but befriended her, nonetheless.
Please feel free to share your unique or unusual stories regarding hatching eggs in the comment section below.
10/29 update: Per Eileen’s request, posted in the comment section, I’m adding a couple pics of this little chick as a young pullet, taken a few years ago.