A few years ago, we started keeping chickens. There are twice as many myths and weirdness about keeping poultry as there is in fishkeeping, which is quite an achievement.
Hatching chicken chicks
Thear, Katie 1987, “Incubation, a guide to hatching and rearing”. ISBN: 9780906137253
This is really a Guide. It starts with the history of artificial incubation and poultry reproductive systems. It then moves on to egg selection, choosing good breeding birds, egg storage and choosing an incubator. Page 38 shows some lovely diagrams of what the chick should look like on which day of incubation, which is extremely useful for candling. Candling is the practice of verifying what is going on inside the egg by shining a bright light at it. The book covers candling alongside more details about the incubation process, setting up and preparing the incubator, incubator conditions for various fowl and hatching. This takes us about two thirds of the way through the book.
Next up is a whole section on the brooder setup. A brooder, unlike what you may think, is actually the rearing box. Sexing chicks deserves its own mention as there are details about the various methods. The last few pages cover special exceptions for fowl which are not chickens.
Overall, a very handy book and highly recommended.
I am using a Janoel12 (or JN12) incubator by Yueqing Janoel Electrical Co., Ltd, also known as “Chonka” or “Guangzhou Kawa Electronic Technology Co., Ltd.”. This incubator takes 6 normal sized chicken eggs for auto turning, but can be used to take up to 15 for manual turning. I have also written up some more information about this incubator.
If you are receiving shipped eggs, make sure that the eggs will be a maximum of 6 days old on the day that you receive them.
Once you have the eggs, switch your incubator on and let the eggs rest for 24 hours near the incubator with the airsack end up (so pointy end down, rounded end up).
At this point your incubator should be set to 37.5°C and humidity should be 40-50%. To keep the humidity suitably low, you may need to incubate without adding any water.
Once the eggs have rested post-delivery and the incubator is ready. Set the eggs into the incubator. They should either be set airsack end up or flat on their side.
If you are manually turning the eggs, make sure to turn them an even number of times per day and at least three times. You can turn them up to once every two hours, but make sure that they are turned at roughly the same intervals throughout the day.
This is day 0. 24 hours after you put the eggs into the incubator is day 1.
You can candle the eggs on day 10 and day 18 to check development and remove any infertile eggs of those containing dead embryos. The less that you handle the eggs, the better and if available, wear disposable gloves when handling them.
On day 18, stop turning the eggs or remove them from the automatic turner mechanism. Increase humidity to 75% and close the incubator. Do not open it until the chicks hatch on day 21.
Feeding the chicks
For the first 4-6 weeks, the chicks should be fed chick crumb. You will need approximately 1250 grams per chick.
Around 4-5 weeks, you should start feeding the chicks grower pellets, which is what they should continue eating until the pullets (juvenile females) reach POL (point of lay) age.
Once the pullets are at POL, they should be switched from grower pellets to layer pellets.