Introduction: Hatching Chicken Eggs Naturally

About: Mostly harmless

i'll show you how to improve the success of a natural chicken brood,
there's much you can do, to support your mother hen and to make sure that your chicks hatch safely and grow up to strong hens and roosters!

Of course there are many ways for hatching chicks, and this is only a guide to improve your hatching result and help the chicks grow up, healthy and strong!

good luck!

Step 1: What Breeds Are Born Mothers?

not all breed are good for hatching,
most breeds have lost the instinct and will not sit on eggs.
The hen you will follow in this instructable, is a wild mix between different breeds but did her job very good :)

good breeds are:

Brahma - brilliant mothers and a big plus is their size, place for up to 20 eggs!
Silkie - also brilliant mothers but not that much space - good for small coops

of course there are others, but i really recommend this breeds.

Step 2: Place Fake-eggs in a Nest and Wait

Place about 5 fake eggs ( for example pottery or rubber eggs) in a normal nest in your chicken coop.

WAIT! until one of your precious hens decides to be a mommy :)

you can be sure, that you have a broody hen when she:
- ruffles her feathers
- makes noises that remind of water in a bottle ( "glug glug")
- leaves the nest only for a few minutes a day and returns to the eggs very fast
- gets angry when you come near her ( she picks)

Step 3: Prepare a Separate Nest for the Becoming Mother

It's time to move your hen mother,

prepare a separate nest, there she can sit undisturbed of the other chickens in your coop.
- the other chicken may lay eggs in the brood-nest and you have always eggs in a different phase - that means some chicks will die.
- the other hens or the rooster may disturb and distract her and she will leaves the eggs, and stops to brood.
- the other chicken may kill your new hatched chicks

the requierements for this nest are:

- comfortable, fill it with straw
- separate from all other chickens, to avoid disturbing and distraction
- dark
- silent
- safe from predators

wait for the night or darken your coop.
Why? - chicken can't see very well when it's dark and will remain calm and unaffected.

take the fake eggs from your hen and put them into the "new" nest.
now carefully lift her up and carry her to the new nest.
close the opening of the nest with a towel or something

now wait for 2 or 3 days, until you are sure that she remains on the nest.
offer her water and wheat every day(!) but she won't eat that much.

Step 4: The Real Eggs

time for real fertilized eggs.
if you have a good rooster you can use your own eggs
other possibilities are:
- exchange with other chicken owners
- buy fertilized eggs online

Your hen will accept every kind of egg, every breed.

choose eggs:
- without cracks
- normal sized - No extrem big ones and no extrem small ones ( depends on the breed)

wait for the night or darken your coop, remove the fake eggs and replace the carefully with the real ones.
From now on it takes 21 days until the chicks will hatch!!! - mark it in your calendar

if you have eggs of different breeds you may mark them with a pencil.

Step 5: Every Day Procedure

Now you have to support your lady!

the hen will be in "trance" she won't leave the nest, won't eat, won't drink.....
The eggs need ventilation every day, for hightest success rate.

If she won't leave the nest by herself:
simply lift her up and set her on the floor of your coop, she may need a little poke to wake up :)

now she needs to:
-eat (give her whole wheat, she needs lots of protein, don't feed her vegetables, she could get diarrhea- not good for eggs)
- take a dirtbath (against parasites)
- small stones that help to break up the wheat ( i have them in the dirtbath)
- and most important:
she needs to poo! :D - you'll recognize the poo of her - it'll smell extraterrestrial and will be huge :)

make sure your hen doesn't stay much longer than 20-30 minutes from the nest! most hens will return by themselfes.
If it's very hot it's ok with 40 minutes.

proceed until day 19!

Step 6: Candling Eggs

after 7 days it's time for candling the eggs.
you'll need

an egg carton
a strong flashlight
a pencil - never use a marker it could harm your chicks!
a really dark room

while the hen is away from the nest, take all eggs carefully and lay them into the egg carton.
carry them to your dark room and light through the eggs (like shown below)
my camera is not good enough so click on this link to see what we are looking after.

In a fertilzed egg you should see a small dark point with small spiderweb- lines around.

mark all eggs if they are fertilized or unclear and lay them back into the carton.
get them back into the nest and repeat this step in about 3 or 4 days, if the unclear eggs still show nothing, discard them, don't worry, there's no life in there! ( if you have a dog you know what to do :D )
why discard? - the unfertilized eggs can rot and the gases/or moisture can kill the unhatched chicks around.

Sure you can choose to candling the eggs every day, but i think it's quite risky to move the eggs more than neccessary.

Step 7: Supplys

it's time to buy some supplies for your soon to be hatched chicks:
- special chick food (much protein)
- a special chick drinker NO BOWLS - the chick can drown in no time.
- carrots
- cottage cheese
- oatmeal
- oregano (dried)
- garlic and onions

also you can:
-collect and dry nettles - very good start food for chicks
-catch some fish - perfect protein!

Step 8: Day 14 -candling One More Time

on day 14 you can candling the eggs one more time,

now you'll see, that they are almost black - the chick fills the whole egg.

Step 9: Day 19!

two days remaining,

leave the broody hen alone - she doesn't need you anymore :)

Step 10: Day 21!

Hatching day!

don't disturb the hen, she has to remain calm and take care about the hatching chicks!

you may sit beside the nest and listen to the chicks :)
maybe you can peek through the curtain.

the hen will leave the nest (and all remaining unhatched eggs) after 2-3 days.

UPDATE: There's one thing i forgot, NEVER try to help a chick out of the shell - you may kill it, there are blood vessels on the inside of the shell, that can get hurt and the poor chick dies by loss of blood.
after the hen left the nest you can open the remaining eggs, but if you do that, you should be able to kill a too weak or disabled chick.
the best thing to do, is to leave it up to nature, as hard as it sounds!

Step 11: Taking Care of the Chicks

now you come in again,
feed the chicks every day with a mix of:

chicks food - the bowl should never run out!
from week 3 you can also add some whole wheat.

a protein source such as:
-cottage cheese
-boiled eggs
-cooked fish

and very important de-worming stuff such as:

crated carrots

Why the deworming stuff? - the chicks can die very quickly on Coccidi, in their first 6-8 weeks of life.

for 4 chicks i give every day:
as much chick-food as desired,
1 crated carrot
2 tablespoons oregano
3 tablespoon cottage cheese,
3 cloves of garlic,
and about 4 tablespoons of oatmeal
1 tablespoon nettles (dried)

increase with the size of the chicks

NOTE: in the first 2 weeks cut everything in VERY small pieces to prevent the chicks from suffocation.

Go on with this diet until they are 6-8 weeks, and you'll end up with healthy strong chicks :)

The chicks need access to small stones that help breaking up the food!

clean up the coop every day.

Step 12: Exploring the Nature :)

after one week your chicks are ready to go outside - with their mom of course!!!
I recommend you build a chick- yard with small chicks-mesh, and mesh above ( shilds against magpies, cats and all other predators that want to eat your precious chicks.

when the chicks are 6 to 8 weeks old you can introduce them to your other chicken and they may walk together in the yard.
their are now strong enough.

I hope you found that instructable useful!

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