Delayed Chick Hatching

“I just hatched out my first batch of eggs from an incubator. I have only had chickens for about a year, so I’ve been reading your newsletter to find out how to take care of them.

The incubator instructions said to discard eggs after 25 days, so on day 26 I started to throw out the last egg – that’s when I heard chirping coming from inside the egg. I put it back in the incubator. After 3 more days of watching it try to peck its way out and seeming to get weaker & weaker, I decided to “help it out” – I figured it was going to die anyway.

The chick had what appeared to be a dried yolk or something on it. I rinsed it under warm water and dried it with a hair dryer (very carefully). It is now 4 days old and seems to be as healthy as the other chicks that hatched by themselves. Do you know if it is OK to keep the chick with the other new chicks? It is eating and drinking just like they are. Is there any way to tell if it is defective?” ~ Marisakay, Texas

Marisakay,

I’m glad you wrote.

The first time you hatch your own eggs, it’s terribly exciting.

Actually, I think it’s always exciting but the first time is also filled with uncertainties which seem to heighten the experience.

As a general rule, your chicks should hatch by the 24th day but your sweet little chick seems to have had its own schedule.

It could be that the egg didn’t stay quite warm enough and therefore took longer than the others. This can sometimes happen in a more basic model incubator if it does not circulate the air uniformly.

The other thing that I wonder pertains to the remark you made about the chick having “dried yolk or something on it”.

The last thing your chick does before hatching is to draw the remainder of the yolk into its abdomen. It has been getting food and water from the yolk through the chicken equivalent of an umbilical cord. The chick needs to pull the yolk sac into its lower abdomen through the umbilical opening and grow the opening closed.

Simultaneously it will swallow the remainder of the egg “whites”.

I wonder if this step presented some type of a problem for your chick and could be the reason for the delayed hatch.

Regardless of the reason for the delay in hatching, I don’t think there is any reason your chick cannot be with the other chicks.

Statistically though, I’m sorry to say that it is unlikely your chick will make it.

From the time the chick pips the shell to the time it actually frees itself from the shell can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

Usually chicks that are not strong enough to free themselves from their shell will not be strong enough to survive.

As you said, “I decided to “help it out” – I figured it was going to die anyway.” You were probably right.

However, if it lives, and I hope it does, I see no reason to separate it from the other chicks.

There should be no medical issues or diseases that would require quarantine in this case.

The only reason I would keep it separate would be if it is weaker than the others and was the subject of bullying.

I look at the condition of this chick similar to that of a healthy, premature baby with its more vulnerable state; nothing specifically wrong but just more delicate.

So if its really getting picked upon and isn’t strong enough to defend itself, you might want to remove it from the rest of the flock. Keep in mind though that if you do this, you may be creating a pet for yourselves, requiring coddling for the remainder of its days.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you are in a position to enjoy this chicken like a pet. It’s just something to remember.

Marisakay, I hope this has been of help and that your little chick grows to be strong and healthy.