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.

Hatching eggs: My Lucky chick!

12 eggs — 1 lucky little chick!

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.

Hatching eggs doesn't always work out as planned

Just hatched with the meat thermometer still in place.

Hatching eggs with my granddaughter

My granddaughter, holding the chick right after it hatched – you can see the makeshift nest on the right.

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.

Hatching eggs - Lucky and her two companions

Newly hatched chick with her 2 new Easter Egger buddies.


Hatching eggs - Lucky and her two companions

The 3 of them hit it off wonderfully.


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.


Happy-go-Lucky – enjoying a little leisure time in the backyard.

‘Lucky’, a Blue Splash Orpington pullet turned out to be quite pretty.

Aurelia September 18th, 2012


roberta September 18th, 2012

You did a great job, so sad about the others but it made this one all the more precious!

Kathleen September 18th, 2012

What a gorgeous little chick! This story made me happy, in spite of all of the losses you experienced. So glad there was a happy ending!

Brandy September 18th, 2012

My school has an incubator but the humidity dropped too low, and one morning I found myself wrapping chicks that were stuck in their eggs in warm wet wash cloths. I got it so all of the egg shells were off and their little bodies uncurled and put them back in the incubator. I took them home that night and put them under a heat lamp. One passed a couple hours later but the other one could sit up by itself. I was hoping it would make it due to it being alert but it didn’t make it through the night. I’m still very sad about it. They were easter eggers. Since I couldn’t save them, I took a very small one that was getting picked on and was almost killed by some of the bigger chicks. It’s wing was cockeyed but has grown to be a happy healthy chicken.

Beth September 18th, 2012

Well this is not at all the same, but I brought home this cute 1 day old easter egger. My daughter loved it and wanted to hold it all the time and ignored all the other chicks. When it was about 1 week old I let the chicks play outside for a while. My youngest child started to cry so I turned around to pick him up and my daughter started chasing the chick. She just wanted to hold it. I told her to stop but it was too late, she stepped on him. “Mommy I stepped on it, but it is okay” she said. Sure enough it was running around. Then I saw the guts hanging out. So I washed them off and sutured it closed. I separated it to keep it from being picked on so it became very friendly. When I was sure it would survive, I named it stitch. Turns out it was the only rooster I had purchased. Since I live in the city, Stitch sleeps inside every night so he does not disturb the neighbors. He is a great rooster. I did not want a rooster but I am so glad to have him.

helen chavis September 19th, 2012

Cute story. 🙂 The first time I tried to hatch eggs in a homemade incubator none at all hatched. So i tweaked it a little and out of 26 eggs one hatched on Easter of all days. So of course just like you I had to go get some chicks from the feed store. I got three one died but that was all right i picked that one because it didn’t look so good and I felt sorry for it. The chick I hatched turned out to be a rooster and mean as a snake to everything except his two girlfriends I bought him. In contrast though the two hens are as sweet as can be 🙂 not one of my older hens is even half as sweet as they are. The older hens just prefer to keep their distance from me.

michael September 19th, 2012

great story, when I first started reading the story it reminded me of my granmother hens when they was hatching eggs and sometimes i found one broken. I would go tell her and she told me somtime the mother hen will eat 1 or 2 of the eggs because they want leave the eggs. Know she is passed away and im geting my first 5 chicks in about 2 weeks, Im so excited and cant wait. I live in savannah and was told 5 is all i can have and no rooster.

Chuck October 3rd, 2012

Cute story! I’m sorry for your losses though. I hatched two of my nine eggs for the first time! I’m very proud. The loud, very annoying but cute one is named Spinner, while the very quiet, tiny one is named Twister. They are a dark Cornish bañtam and gray Old English bantam mix. Right now they are grey with a black head with a Joachim stripe down their back. They are suuuuper cute!!!! The funny thing about them is they have poopish -green legs! It sounds nasty but is accually really pretty!! Might not sound very exciting but I wanted to share!

Chuck October 4th, 2012

That word before stripe I soposed to be black!!!

Eileen October 4th, 2012

This was similar to what happened to me.I purchased 14 eggs [Rhode Reds] over the internet..When we received them 2 were broken..So for my 1st time I incubated them..When I removed the egg turner I heard chirping..My daughter woke me up the next morning at 5am to tell me we had a baby chick..She was so healthy..We waited another week or so [actually about 28 days ]No more chirps..So I shook each egg..Just water except 1.That one had an almost fully formed dead chick inside..So what was I to do..I went to the farm store after the second day .State law says you have to purchase at least 6 chicks..So here I am with 7 chickens who are all hens 5 months old and I adore every one of them.I live in the city and am not to raise live stock which they are known as but can’t part with a one of them….

Elaine October 16th, 2012

Do you have a picture update? 🙂 What a great story!

Mary Ann October 29th, 2012

Eileen — She was hatched a few years ago and unfortunately is no longer with us, but I did find a couple old photos of her as a young pullet, enjoying some free-range time in the yard. I’ve added the photos to the blog.

Dotty Joyner November 12th, 2012

My son & I watched 2 roosters hatch out of one egg…they were twins. I’ve had to raise 3 biddies, from 1 day old, but one at a time….because their mom’s got killed either by a snake or possum. I never had the experience, but I reckon the “mom” instincts just kick in & you have to. I love raising chickens…wouldn’t know what to do without them.

Eleanore November 16th, 2012

What a heart warming story!

Barb W March 2nd, 2013

I found this blog when looking for info. Our first time mama bantam has been sitting on some eggs I gave her after she went broody. I found a very cold chick in the nest this morning who was not under the mama. I saw it move so I rushed it inside and placed it on top of a heating pad and under a heat lamp. With in a half hour the chick started moving around and chirping very loudly. It’s very strong and active! We are super excited and naming it Miracle.

Mary Ann March 2nd, 2013

So glad you found little Miracle in time!

Kim March 18th, 2013

I am hatching chicks for the first time and praying that at least one will survive. I think chickens are the most beautiful of God’s creatures. 🙂

carissa April 14th, 2013

My hens have been laying on eggs for about 20 days now. I found one outside the coop today so I broke it open and it was a full grown chick, but I dont think it was breathing or anything. I am just letting Mother Nature take it’s course. So, I am not incubating. Hens have a warm airtight coop with a heat lamp…does anyone think they will make it? Live in Upstate NY and it has been cold. Momma’s been sitting on them round the clock.

Mary Ann April 17th, 2013

Carissa — I see your message came through a couple days ago, so the eggs are past day 21 now. Did you get any chicks? If so, is the mama hen taking care of them?

Jenny Marshall October 21st, 2014

I cracked open an egg on day 22 today and there was a chick. Did I kill it? You can tell it has a little bit of feathers. I left it in incubator hoping I did not kill it, should I take it out or leave it? I am a first time hatcher. I will be just devastated if I killed it.
What do you suggest I do.

Lissa October 21st, 2014

Generally speaking, if you’ve reached Day 22, you should candle any unhatched eggs. You may see that some have just never developed. Those can be discarded. You may see some that developed to a certain stage and then died. Those also can be doscarded. But if the chick mass inside is very large, you should replace it in the incubator and wait until day 24. If it hasn’t hatched by then, it has probably died. If the incubator temperature is a little low, or if the eggs got very cold before incubation began, they can take a little longer to hatch (see our incubation troubleshooting chart for more information). As to what you should do now? That’s tough to say. Is the egg bleeding? That’s a bad sign. Is the chick moving? That’s a good sign. The real danger, if the chick is alive, is that the egg membrane will dry out and prevent the chick from hatching. However, it can be difficult to keep the membrane moist and soft without accidentally drowning the chick. Since this is such a complicated issue and depends on so many different variables, you might try contacting a local vet or animal rehab specialist–or even a local farmer. If someone knowledgeable could take a look at your egg, he or she could give you better advice than we can, just based on the little information we have. We do hope everything will be okay! Mary Ann might have additional advice.

Erin Saari March 14th, 2017

Nice work with the impromptu incubator! She’s a beautiful hen.

Cecilie July 14th, 2017

Almost a week ago, when checking on our broody hen, my mother and I were very happy to find that she was not alone in her nest. One chicken was peeking out from under her and as there were more empty shells in the nest we knew that there must be more chickens somewhere. We also found one egg that had just started to hatch and we could hear the little guy working inside the egg. It was late in the afternoon and we decided to wait until the next morning before checking in on them again.
The next morning, just before breakfast, I went down to make sure that the final chicken had made it out of the egg, but I was sad to find that the hen had left the nest and that the last chicken had not gotten much further. Only the open beak was visible through the hole in the egg. It had been more than 12 hours since we found the egg the day before and it was now completely cold and the chicken was not moving at all. I was sure that the little guy had died, but decided to peel of a bit of the eggshell. As I did so the chicken suddenly moved it’s tongue. I almost couldn’t believe my own eyes and kept going, carefully removing the eggshell, encouraged by the small movements of the chicken. After removing most of the shell the chicken started to move a bit more, but was still very weak and did not open it’s eyes. While the rest of my family were eating their breakfast I ended up sitting with the tiny chicken in my hands, trying to warm it up. Slowly it started to move, kicking me each time I moved my hands the tiniest little bit. When it finally started chirping we were all sure that it was going to make it.
The next problem was where to put the chicken now. The broody hen that had left the nest had apparently moved the other chickens (at this point we did not know how many there were) down into the nest of another broody hen who was now taking care of them. Hopefully we would be able to put our tiny latecomer under this hen without her or the other chickens hurting it. We were able to put the chicken under her and left it there hoping it would still be alive when we checked in on it again. Later that day we prepared a smaller pen for the chickens and the broody hen that had left the nest. There turned out to be 6 chickens, and the tiny latecomer, who was now all dry and warm but did not use it’s legs, and the other five chickens were all moved into the new pen along with their mother. It has now been almost a week and thankfully all six chickens are looking strong and healthy, and their mother is taking very good care of them 🙂

Mary Ann July 17th, 2017

Cecile – I was nervous to hear the outcome for your abandoned chick, but am so glad to hear your chick was developed enough for you to safely remove its shell and has even found her place under a broody. Great job saving your chick and keeping it warm till old enough to be with the others! I love that your story has a happy ending 🙂

Anna September 23rd, 2017

I need help my chick got hatched early because of ants it is 4 days early.it was attempting to drink water,it is cherping and opening it’s eyes. I am asking for advice

Mary Ann September 25th, 2017

Hi Anna. Ants won’t typically cause a chick to hatch early since they can’t harm or get into an egg shell, but we’d like to help you if we can. Please call us at 888.460.1529 if you still need help with this struggling chick.

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