Chick Hatching Project
In the spring of 2020, our school decided to hatch new chicks for the Forest School area. Work is currently being carried out to this part of the school where our chickens used to roam, to improve and re-vamp the site, and this is due to be completed soon. The children have all really missed our school chickens - caring for them, feeding them and collecting the eggs were all part of the daily routine for pupils here at Sutton Valence Primary School.
It was intended for the 2020 Chick Hatching Project to take place in school, but current restrictions with regards to the Covid-19 pandemic mean that the school is closed to most children and this is therefore no longer possible. Still wanting to complete the project, and as spring is the best time of year for hatching to take place, the decision was made to proceed as planned so that the school and all of our pupils have chickens to care for upon their return and when normal school resumes. This page on our website has been specifically set up so that all children can be involved with the project and share the incredible journey of our new chicks as they come into the world.
Mrs Jack in the school office originally offered the use of her incubator to the school for the 2020 Chick Hatching Project to save the school the expense of needing to purchase an incubator of their own. As the project could no longer take place in school, Mrs Jack kindly offered to run the project from her home so that the hatching could still go head as planned. Mrs Jack has been caring for the eggs, and creating a diary to capture and share the special moments and progress of the chicks along the way.
Sunday 5th April
Two eggs are put into the incubator, which as been warmed up and is at the right temperature for eggs to be stored for hatching - this is around 38 degrees for chicken eggs. These two eggs have been sourced from Mrs Jack's neighbour who has two chickens and a cockerel. Chicken eggs usually take 21 days to hatch from the date of incubation, therefore these eggs should hatch on or around 26th April. Eggs are placed in the incubator pointy end down and marked, in pencil, with the date they begin incubation.
Tuesday 7th April
Fourteen more eggs are put into the incubator - two more from Mrs Jack's neighbour and twelve that have been purchased specifically for our project. As above, they are placed carefully into the incubator pointy end down and marked with today's date.
The incubator turns constantly, very slowly rocking the eggs gently side to side over a period of 24 hours. This is so that the developing chick does not stick to the shell whilst forming and is a very important part of the incubation process. The water in the incubator is topped up daily, as the eggs require moisture throughout the entire period of development.
Friday 17th April
After ten days the eggs are 'candled'. Candling is the process of removing an egg from the incubator and shining a light through it to identify crucial signs of development, being careful to not keep any egg out of the incubator for more than a few minutes to avoid the eggs getting cold. Each egg is candled individually and then placed it back in the incubator immediately. At this stage, two eggs were clear with no dark patches or signs of early development, and so these eggs were removed from the incubator. All other eggs were found to show blood vessels or small grey areas indicating that the baby chick had begun developing inside the egg. This is called an embryo. Fourteen eggs remain in the incubator!
And now we wait...!
Saturday 25th April
On the morning of 25th April the eggs are checked as normal. What an amazing surprise awaits... Chick #1 stares out from within the incubator - it has hatched overnight!! This is one of the two eggs placed in the incubator on 5th April and has arrived a day early!
Chick #1 - hatched overnight 24th/25th April. Welcome to the world little chick!
A brooder has been prepared in anticipation of any chicks hatching. Brooding is the name given to caring for chicks after hatching, until they can fend for themselves. This particular brooder is a simple plastic box, similar to a large storage box, that has had an infra-red bulb professionally installed at one end. This is vital for the survival of any hatching chick as it provides a valuable source of heat inside the brooder. When chicks hatch, their fluffy down cannot protect them against the cold. It is only once they are fully feathered, which is usually around 11 weeks of age, that a chick hatched in an incubator can control their own temperature and survive without the support of a heat lamp.
A Chick #1 is already looking very strong and fluffed up then it is ready to be moved the brooder. It is important not to move a recently hatched chick to the brooder too soon - when newly hatched, a chick can be quite "wet" and exhausted. It is vital to wait until a chick is nice and fluffy, and showing signs of being able to move around independently and support itself on it's legs before moving it to the brooder - transported before this, they are very susceptible to the cold and can easily die.
Chick #1 born overnight 24th/25th April
Sunday 26th April
At around 12pm on 26th April, a small crack appears in the surface of another of the eggs (of the fourteen eggs placed in the incubator on 7th April) - a mixed hybrid chicken breed and one of six purchased specifically for this hatching project. Another magical moment! This is called "pipping", when a chick starts to break through the inner membrane and then the shell of the egg itself. Chicks have a small lump on the top of their beak, called an "egg tooth", which they use to help them do this. The egg tooth falls off soon after hatching as it is no longer needed.
Pipping always starts with a small hole and as the hole gets bigger you will be able to see the chick inside.
By 5pm on 26th April, Chick #2 has broken free of almost half of it's shell. The chick's head and one foot can be clearly seen, and a loud cheeping heard! However, by 8pm the chick is no longer moving around very much and is not making any noise at all. This continues for another hour or so in case it is just having a rest, but Mrs Jack becomes increasingly concerned that Chick #2 is too tired to complete the hatch. A risky decision is made to help Chick #2 out of it's shell in an effort to help it survive. Once fully hatched, Chick #2 begins to improve and beings cheeping again but is very small and weak - it has hatched two days early. It is therefore left in the incubator for the time being to see if it grows in strength and begins to fluff up.
A chick can survive for up to two or three days in the incubator after hatching, without the need for food or drink, because new chicks are sustained by the yolk that is absorbed shortly before hatching takes place.
Monday 27th April
Early on Monday 27th April the eggs are checked as usual at around 6am for any more signs of eggs hatching. Another cheeping surprise awaits as Chick #3, looking like it has very recently hatched, is wriggling around in the front section of the incubator. Chick #3 is still quite wet and tired and so is left in the incubator for a little while longer, to gain strength and fluff up!
Chick #2 and Chick #3 in the incubator
In the above video you can clearly see Chick #2 still in the incubator in the background, with newly hatched Chick #3 at the front. Chick #2 is still very weak and tiny, with patches of skin still not yet fluffed up and is not yet up on it's feet. Chick #3 is the second to hatch from the two eggs from Mrs Jack's neighbour that were placed in the incubator on 7th April. This means that two our of the four eggs sourced from Mrs Jack's neighbour have hatched - a 50% hatching rate and a great result!
Around 9am on the same day, Chick #4 cracks a small hole in it's egg and beings the process of pipping. Chick #4 hatches very quickly, in less than an hour! It is important to be aware that some chicks hatch very quickly and can push their egg shell apart and wriggle themselves free in under an hour. For other chicks progress can be slow, and the hatching process from start to finish can take more than a day. What a difference! It is a very hard and tiring job for a tiny baby chick and more often than not they will need to rest in between periods of pecking their way free. The average hatching time for a chick is between five and seven hours. Chick #4 has hatched very quickly indeed, hatching from one of six Rhode Island Red eggs that were purchased specifically for this project.
Chick #2 is finally considered strong enough to be moved to the brooder at around 2pm on 27th April. However, by this time, Chick #1 is almost two days old and is considerably bigger than Chick #2. Chick #1 is spotted on many occasions pecking Chick #2 quite persistently and there is a concern that it cannot yet fend for itself and survive this. In order for Chick #2, now fondly nicknamed Poorly Chick by Mrs Jack's family, to be given the best chance of survival, Chick #1 is moved to a separate container within the brooder, with access to it's own food and water, to give Poorly Chick a chance to grow and gain strength. It is joked that Chick #1 has been sent for a "time out" and to the naughty corner, and from here on it is therefore fondly nicknamed Naughty Chick!!
Later on the very same afternoon, Chick #5 begins to break out of it's shell. Another Rhode Island Red breed, Chick #5 hatched in just over 6 hours and was moved to the incubator the same night.
What a busy day!
And Then There Were Five...!
The video below was taken on the morning of 28th April. All five chicks are now in the brooder, and you can clearly see them huddling under the infra-red bulb to keep warm. You can also very easily spot Poorly Chick as the one mostly laying down and much smaller than the others. Poorly Chick is thankfully now eating and drinking, but does not venture away from the infra-red light much other than for this reason. Mainly white in colour, it is easy to see that Poorly Chick still has patches of skin that have not completely fluffed up yet and still bear the aftermath of the hatching process. Poorly Chick is not on it's feet much and still quite weak, but is still progressing well and getting stronger.
It is also easy to spot Naughty Chick who is much bigger than all of the others and who moves away from the heat lamp much more to explore nearby.
All of the chicks are mesmerising to watch. It is incredible to see them, some just hours old, moving around and already developing personalities of their own.
Shown below is a photo of Naughty Chick starting to develop it's first feathers. At only four days old, this is quite early. Most chicks will start to grow their first "primary" feathers at around six to eight days old. After that, at between six and twelve weeks old, a chick will start to grow it's first full set of feathers. This is often the earliest time that it is possible to identify whether or not a chick is female or male (a hen or a cockerel).
Meet the chicks!
Chick #1 Chick #2 Chick #3 Chick #4 Chick # 5 Born overnight 24th/25th April Born 9pm on 26th April Born early on 27th April Born 10am on 27th April Born 9.30pm on 27th April
(nicknamed Naughty Chick) (nicknamed Poorly Chick)
Here you can see all the chicks laying down and sleeping peacefully. This photo is taken at around 10pm in the evening.
The below video shows the chicks drinking - it is very funny to watch! They put their little beaks into the water and then raise their heads so that the water goes down their throats.
You can also see below that Chick #3, Chick #4 and Chick #5, now at five days old, are beginning to grow their primary feathers. Poorly Chick is still a little bit behind with it's development but will hopefully start to grow it's feather very soon!
All other eggs in the incubator are now disposed of. It is currently Day 25 and the recommended timeto get rid of any eggs that have sadly not hatched.
Today it was decided to change the food and water dishes that are in the brooder for the chicks - they make such a mess, jumping in and out of the little bowls that contain their food and water!! It's funny to watch them flap around inside the brooder, but it is quite a small space for five growing chicks now that they are growing and are more adventurous and on mobile - they are constantly tipping up the bowl of food which then mixes with the water and makes a big mess!
We decided to recycle two small juice bottles and create food and drink feeders! These work brilliantly and only dispense food and water once the level gets low - this in turn saves on food, water... and mess!
The chicks are very unsure when the new feeders are placed into the brooder! But they are soon eating and drinking from them as normal.
Also on 3rd May, this photograph was snapped of the chicks sleeping almost on top of each other.
You can also see that Poorly Chick (on the right hand side) is looking much better now!
Interesting Facts about Baby Chicks and Chickens
Did you know? Female baby chicks are called pullets and males are called cockerels.
Did you know? Baby chicks learn the hard way about what to eat and what not to eat, through trial and error. After all, how did you know you liked something until you tried it? Baby chicks will taste everything in sight by pecking at it with their beaks.
Did you know? Chickens get to know each other and can remember around one hundred different faces!
Did you know? Chickens are very sociable animals and have an internal social structure that all chickens respect.
Did you know? Chickens can see in colours just like us!
Did you know? Chickens like to sunbathe in warm areas!
Did you know? Chickens have over thirty types of vocal noises and each ones means something specific.
hicks become chickens when they lay their first eggs - this will be somewhere between sixteen and twenty eight weeks, depending on the breed.
All of the chicks are now displaying beautiful primary feathers, even Poorly Chick :)
The chicks have fun exploring outside for the very first time, just a for a short period. They are placed in a small. secure enclosure and do venture around a little to explore but remain together.
The chicks enjoy more time outside in the sunshine over the early May bank holiday weekend! They are being handled a lot, and as a result are very comfortable being picked up and being around people. You can see below that they will eat from your hand and have now learned to drink out of a much larger water feeder whilst outside.
In these videos you can clearly see their primary feathers growing!
At around two weeks old, all five chicks appear to be thriving! They are growing very quickly and visible changing each and every day. On warm days, they are spending a little bit of time outdoors in a secure and sheltered enclosure, but at night are still in the brooder which is cleaned out daily and kept warm for them. They spend more time away from the heat lamp now, freely moving around the brooder and getting up to all sorts of mischief, but do still move back under it at night time especially on the colder evenings.
The chicks cheep constantly, a sign that they are happy and content! As chicks grow, they have a natural desire to roost. Some small twigs have been added to the brooder for this purpose, in the shape of an H, to act as a perch. They are constantly held and interact willingly with people - this is important so that they gain the trust of those around them and humans in general.
It will soon be time to introduce the chicks to some more nutritious food for further growth and development. Some Growers Mash has been ordered and the chicks will switch to this type of food, which typically contains on average 15-16% protein, at around five weeks old.
The chick's new outdoor enclosure was delivered to the school yesterday. This is placed in the Forest School area and today the chicks enjoy exploring their new area a little bit. They can now spend quite a bit of time outside as long as the weather is warm. They love kicking up the bark, perching on twigs and they were even given a big piece of log to peck at. A couple of worms appeared and the chicks had great fun playing with, and then eating, the wiggly worms!
The chicks might look tiny in their new enclosure but they are now around 14cm tall when standing upright!
Here you can see the chicks, back in the brooder for the night, perching on top of their new feeder! Chicks have a natural desire to roost as explained above, and will perch on anything suitable that they can find. There is limited space in the brooder for much to perch on, so the chicks have taken to doing so on the top of their feeder and, whilst not ideal, they seem happy with this for now!
Whilst chickens are domesticated birds, many of their natural instincts do still remain and roosting is an important part of what a chicken would do in the wild to remain safe. Sleeping on the ground can be dangerous for them in the wild as they would be an easy meal for a predator, such as a fox, to catch easily during the night. Aside from chickens not wanting to sleep in their own droppings, a natural instinct to protect themselves by sleeping off the ground to protect themselves from any danger below is the main reason for roosting.
The video above shows one of the chicks following a finger that is being moved on the outside of the brooder.
The chicks are very playful!
Here are a couple more videos of the chicks enjoying their new enclosure and kicking around in the bark! You can see that they are now largely covered with their primary feathers.
In the photo below, Naughty Chick can be seen sunbathing!
The chicks spent their first night outside last night, safely tucked away in the green Eglu chicken house. They went running straight into it, keen to explore their new home! The chicks have also been introduced to the next stage of food for them - growers mash. They need this because, until 18 weeks old, they will grow a lot and need a type of food that will help them do this. As mentioned previously, this food is typically 15-16% protein and full of only the vitamins and minerals they need at this age. The chicks will eat this until around 16-18 weeks old, or whenever they start to lay eggs, when they will switch to layers pellets which is higher in calcium and they will also need shell grit introduced into their diet too.
Growers Mash food is a loose and unprocessed version of chicken feed, and can be combined with the chick crumb at first.
The chicks are growing a lot now, day by day. They are also enjoying the occasional food scraps - below are some videos showing them having fun with some cooked pasta leftovers!
In one of the videos, despite there being plenty of pasta to go around, you can see one of the Rhode Island Red chicks chasing Naughty Chick around the perimeter of the enclosure as if it's the only piece of pasta left!!