Moving Chicks Safely: A Guide from Incubator to Brooder

Incubation’s finished, your chicks have hatched and now they need to go from egg incubator to brooder. But how? And when?

Congratulations! Your little chicks have successfully hatched, and now it’s time to transfer them from the cozy incubator to their new home in the brooder. But before you do, there are a few important things to consider to ensure their safety and well-being.

How Long Should Newly-Hatched Chicks Stay in the Incubator?

Chicks emerge from their eggs covered in moisture and need time to fluff up before being moved. It’s crucial not to rush this process, as premature movement can chill the chicks and even lead to their death.

The exact timing will vary for each chick, but typically they should start to dry out within an hour or so of hatching. Keep a close eye on them during this time, ensuring that their feathers are gradually fluffing up.

Do Chicks Need Food and Water After They Hatch?

No, they don’t! The yolk sac, which chicks absorb just before hatching, provides them with enough nourishment for up to 72 hours. So, don’t worry if they seem hungry—they are still getting nutrients from the yolk sac.

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Is It Safe to Open the Incubator?

When it comes to opening the incubator to transfer the chicks, caution is essential. Make sure that no other chicks have started to make cracks in their shells or “pipped.” Opening the incubator at this stage can cause the humidity to drop, which can have detrimental effects on the pipping process and the chicks inside.

If you notice chicks becoming dry, fluffed up, and panting, it’s a sign of dehydration. In such cases, it’s acceptable to open the incubator for a very short time to remove the dehydrated chick, ensuring that the humidity levels quickly return to normal. If the humidity drops significantly, you can use a piece of warm, moist kitchen paper to restore it.

What About the Other Eggs?

As the newly-hatched chicks clumsily explore their surroundings, they may accidentally knock into the unhatched eggs. This may be concerning, but fear not! There is evidence suggesting that the movement and sounds of the hatched chicks actually encourage the other eggs to start pipping. So, let the little dinosaurs be—they’re just assisting their siblings.

What About Chicks Who Seem Unresponsive?

After the physically demanding process of pipping, unzipping, and hatching, chicks need some rest. It’s common for them to suddenly drop and appear lifeless, but this is just their way of catching up on some sleep. Allow them the peace they need, as they will soon regain their energy.

Do Chicks in the Incubator Need Food and Water?

Chicks can survive without food and water for up to 72 hours. However, once they are fully dried and there are no other eggs pipping, it’s generally safe to take them out of the incubator. If you have multiple hatches happening simultaneously, it may take longer for some chicks to dry due to increased humidity.

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What About a Chick Who Can’t Get Dry?

In situations where humidity spikes due to ongoing hatching, some chicks may struggle to dry off properly. This poses a dilemma: leaving the chick in the incubator risks chilling and potential harm, while removing it may jeopardize the unhatched eggs. It’s important to assess each case individually. One option is to quickly open the incubator, remove the struggling chick, and place it in a separate warm environment, such as a small incubator. This allows them to dry off without disrupting the other eggs.

What About Chicks with Residual Debris?

Sometimes, chicks may still have bits of shell, membrane, or even the umbilical cord attached to them after hatching. It’s essential to resist the urge to clean them off forcefully, as this could cause harm or injury. The debris will naturally detach as the chick dries, so it’s best to leave it be.

Moving Chicks to the Brooder

Once the chicks are fully fluffed and no further pipping is occurring, it’s time to transfer them to the brooder. Ensure that the brooder is warm, secure, and away from potential disturbances.

Providing Food and Water

As soon as you place the chicks in the brooder, dip their beaks gently into the water source. This will help them recognize where to find water for hydration. If using water pots, add clean stones or marbles to prevent the chicks from falling in and drowning. Sprinkle chick starter feed on the brooder floor to provide their first taste of food. Using paper towels initially can help them locate the feed and encourage natural pecking behavior.

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Leaving Them to Adjust

The first hours in the brooder can be overwhelming for the chicks. They need time to adjust to their new surroundings, and it’s normal for them to spend a significant amount of time sleeping. Keep a watchful eye to ensure none of them become chilled. Remember, they are resilient little beings who can handle this transition.

Now, armed with this knowledge, you can confidently move your chicks from the incubator to the brooder, providing them with the best start to their new life. For more tips and guidance on raising chicks, visit Rowdy Hog Smokin BBQ.

Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult a poultry expert or veterinarian for personalized advice.