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Watching baby chicks emerge from the eggs and grow into chickens is a fascinating experience for children and adults alike. To successfully hatch an egg, you must be able to provide it an adequate amount of warmth, humidity and care, including turning the egg at least three times per day.
It's certainly possible to hatch baby chicks without help from a commercial incubator, but you must provide an environment that maintains all the essential ingredients for a successful hatch. An egg must be incubated at a constant temperature of 99 to 101 degrees Fahrenheit for 21 to 28 days. If the temperature falls outside of this range, the chick in the egg can die. The chicks are especially fragile during the first few days of incubation.
Humidity and Ventilation
Eggs require a constant humidity level of 60 to 65 percent. If humidity levels exceed this, it may trigger the chicks to begin hatching too early, before they are ready to live life outside the eggs. Low humidity levels will delay hatching. During hatching, raise the humidity level to prevent egg membranes from drying out and "shrink-wrapping" the chick inside. The eggs also need sufficient air flow to prevent moisture from condensing on them.
It is impossible to hatch an egg by wearing it in a pouch against your skin or putting it in a toaster oven with a wet sponge. A homemade incubator can be made from a foam cooler equipped with a small electric fan, light bulb and water receptacle, but the temperature and humidity will drop whenever you open the lid to rotate your eggs. Replacing one end with a glass viewing window can help you monitor conditions from the outside.
The easiest way to hatch a chick without an incubator is with a broody hen. Breeds such as silkies, cochins or orpingtons are known for broodiness, which is the desire to hatch out eggs. You must wait until the hen is in the mood. Place a few golf balls or wooden eggs in a nest, and when a hen is broody, she will remain on the nest throughout the night instead of roosting. Once broody, she will provide ideal conditions for the hatch, even when the eggs aren't hers.
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