How to Hatch Chicken Eggs

We’re hatching chicks! The chickens have been a major focal feature for Low Nest over the last 12 months. With plenty of space we decided to get a couple more chickens, but instead of just buying point of lay 14 week old chickens we fancied a challenge; hatching and raising our own chicks!

This post is just a bit of a guide for anybody looking to follow suite and raise their own chickens from fertilised eggs.

 

What equipment is required to Hatch Chicken Eggs?

 

Egg incubator
Fertilised poultry/fowl eggs

That’s it, you really don’t need much to get started. When they hatch and grow, then you need a lot more kit!

 

 

What is an egg incubator?

 

An incubator simulates the heat and humidity of a nesting hen. A broody hen will spend 21 days sitting and meticulously tending to it’s a cluster of eggs, not going out to eat or drink. The most basic set ups only maintain temperature and humidity. However spend a bit more and you can get incubators that will also turn the eggs. Turning the eggs, so they don’t grow un even in the egg is critical. A mothering hen will naturally turn all her eggs on a regular basis. If you have a basic incubator then you will have to turn the eggs 3 times a day (more on this below).

Some people do build their own. You can do this and you can buy some really cheap ones. However you pay for what you get. In the UK the most recommended brand is Brinsea, they’re not just market leaders but really the only choice.

The key things to look for is a thermometer and ideally a hygrometer as well as an egg turning function. However ours doesn’t turn the eggs as we like to do this, it just adds to the routine for us.

 

Where to buy Fertilised Chicken Eggs

 

Where do you buy fertilised chicken eggs? No, not the shops! Without going into biological details; a rooster has to be involved, and no egg farm has a rooster on site. The best thing you can do is ask a local farmer or chicken keeper. However; you can also buy online. The big risk of online ordering is damage caused during postage.

In the wild (or back garden), a Hen wouldn’t immediately sit on a cluster of eggs. Simply because it doesn’t produce 6 eggs at once. It will build up a collection over a couple of days. So it is quite natural for eggs to sit out in freezing cold temperatures for a couple of days, even weeks, before they are sat on to be hatched. When you get your eggs don’t rush to put them into the incubator. Let them rest at room temperature with the pointy end pointing downwards.

 

 

Step 1 – Set up and adding the eggs

 

Get your incubator set up 24 hours in advance. It will get up to temperature fairly quickly, however this time allows you to check it is at the right temperature. Different poultry and fowl require different temperature:

Chickens: 37.5 – 37.6C
Pheasant: 37.6 – 37.8C
Quail: 37.6 – 37.8C
Ducks: 37.4 – 37.6C

You’re looking to maintain a humidity of around 75%. This is done on most incubators with the addition of a water well. You can generally top the water up from the outside, so as to avoid too much interference.

Before adding the eggs, mark one side of them with an “X” and the other side with an “O”. Doing this allows you to track the rotations.

 

 

Step 2 – First 7 Days

 

If you’re having to manually rotate the eggs then do so a minimum of 3 times a day and always an odd number. Doing it an odd number of times avoids the risk of one side being left facing the same way two night in a row.

 

 

Step 3 – Day 8 to 18

 

After Day 7 or 8 you can start to “Candle” the egg. This basically means you put a light up to the base of the egg and allows you to check the development of the embryo. It’s also a very cool thing to do!

You can buy specific lights, I think some incubators even have them built in. However a torch and a toilet roll to hold the egg and direct light is just as good.

 

 

Step 4 – Day 19 to 21

 

It’s now time to leave the eggs alone for the final push, no more turning.

 

Step 5 – Hatched!

 

Yay, the eggs have started to hatch! Just remember that in the wild hatching has a 75% success rate. In an incubator it can very easily be zero. So if it doesn’t work this time then try again!

But if you eggs have hatched. The head and beak will poke through first. The chick might then take 8 to 12 hours to rest an acclimatise to the fresh new world. After that it will break itself free and dry off in the warmth of the incubator.

Don’t worry about moving it over to the Brooder immediately. A chick can survive a couple of days in an incubator. But once it’s active and moving for 12 to 24 hours, move it over to the Brooder.

The Old Milking Parlour

 

I’ve milked many a cow in those two studios.
Little known fact – should the need arise you could fit 2 cows side by side in the bathrooms with room between to get in to milk them.

It’s true. The old ‘Byre’ (posh name milking parlour) was divided in two to make the 2 studios. Each half was 3 stalls wide, each stall held 2 cows. Each bathroom is the same dimensions of one stall.

How to Climb Coniston Old Man

The Old Man of Coniston is a real special mountain. It’s easy to navigate and riddled with slate mining ruins to explore.

Distance: 12km
Time: 5 hours
Activity Level: Strenuous
Navigation Level: Medium
Path condition: Good, some loose slate then steps followed by more open fell land.

 

Stage 1
Park at Walna Scar car park. Many say it’s cheating as it several hundred metres above Coniston. However I’m often lacking in time and it save at least an hour.

But from the car park head along the wide level path for about a a Kilometre. You can then hang a left where the main footpath joins. The path is still easy to follow, but you start to really climb. You also start to get in amongst the old slate mines. It’s a perfect excuse to take a breather and explore!

Carry on for another 20 to 30 minutes over an area of loose slate till you reach Lows Water. Another great spot, and to be honest if some members of the group don’t want to go to the top it’s a great place to relax with a flask of tea and a book.

Stage 2
Now it’s the big push to the top. It might only take 45 minutes, but it’s a good work out, primarily on steps cut up the side of the hill.

However once at the top, if it’s a clear day then you are in for an incredible view across the lakes and south to Morecambe Bay and across the Irish sea to the Isle of Man.

Stage 3
If you haven’t left somebody at Lows Water, the conditions are good and you feel energised then I thoroughly recommend heading North along the ridge to Swirl How. The walking is almost freeing after the steep uphill climb. The slope is a gentle undulation, which allows you to get your breath back and take in the stunning scenery.

Stage 4
Downhill from here! Coming off Swirl How it is rocky and slow going as you reverse scramble down the crags.

Once you reach the cross paths you can choose to head up to Whetherlem to complete the circuit. But if you’ve parked up by Walna Scar then it’s easiest to turn right and head down to Levers Water. The path does become a bit more difficult to follow as you go through bogs and get off the beaten track. But generally aim for the big bit of water down the hill.

Take a breather and enjoy Levers Water before contouring round it, crossing the dam and heading up through the rocks and back to the main path. It’s now only a couple of kilometres back to the car park.

There, you’ve done it! I’d recommend heading down to the Black Bull Pub in Coniston for a well earned pint.

Opening of the Low Nest Farm Honesty Box

We love our chickens, particularly the fresh eggs. However as they produce 6 eggs a day, even when we’re at full capacity we never need that many. So we’re proud to announce the opening of the Low Nest Farm Honesty Box.

While romantic sounding all we did was build a basic foot wooden box out of pallets, put it on top of an old chair and secured it at the end of the drive with straps (to stop it blowing over the in the wind!). Rustic, but fitting!

At the minute we have just our eggs (4 for £1), but we hope to expand our range as the seasons go on!

So next time you come to stay (or you’re just passing); remember a Pound for your eggs!