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Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Tips on Hatching Eggs and Starting Baby Chicks from an Expert

Bob Berry owns Bob’s Biddies, a small hatchery that specializes in Rhode Island Red and Dominique chickens in Ray City, Ga. Berry hatches 1,000 Rhode Island Red chicks and 500 Dominique chicks each month throughout the year. About 85 percent of the eggs he incubates hatch. We talked with Berry to ask his advice on incubating eggs.

How did you get started in the hatchery business?

When I was a youngster, we always raised a lot of chickens. Some were sold as grown chickens, and we sold eggs, too. I’ve always had a love for chickens. Taking care of them was part of my daily chores.

My professional career took me a different route. When I had to retire, my wife Diane and I tried to come up with something that I could do while she’s at work. I decided to start working with poultry again .Because I have physical limitations, the hatchery venture seemed to make sense.

Why did you choose to specialize in Rhode Island Reds and Dominiques?

We tried other breeds. But the Rhode Island Reds and Dominiques are old breeds that most people are familiar with. Both breeds are great egg-layers.

What are the most important things to remember when incubating eggs?

Other than temperature, humidity is the most important thing. Keep it between 58 and 62 percent for the first 18 days of incubation. Increase humidity the three days prior to hatching.

Turning of the eggs frequently is also important.

There's no need to turn eggs while they're in storage prior to putting them in the incubator, but store them at 52 to 58 degrees Fahrenheit.

Don't wash eggs if you plan to incubate them.

Keep good records and calendar reminders, too. I move hatching eggs from the incubator to a hatcher unit a few days before they hatch. If you keep eggs in the incubator too long and they hatch while it is still in the rotation mode, you end up with a big mess. I’ve miscalculated days and speak from experience.

Do have any advice for starting chicks that come in the mail?

Just before a chick hatches, it absorbs the last part of the egg yoke, which allows the chick to survive the first three days without water or food. So, there’s only a small window of time to work with. I tell all of my customers to start the chicks on sugar water as soon as the chicks arrive — and keep them on this for the first two weeks. I have used this method for a long time, and it has proved itself. I also advise customers to get a good chick starter feed or a combination starter/grower.

william mell
3/4/2013 4:11:00 PM

how did your hatch turn out??

william mell
3/4/2013 4:09:46 PM

i have baby chicks i just hatched and one of them has a bad leg it is turned outward and the chick favors it but it is in good health and eats and drinks well just has a hard time walking can i put somthing like a band aid around the chicks legs to try and straighten the bad leg or do i have to put the chick down???

samantha jackson
3/25/2012 5:45:14 PM

my chicks were chirping away until the last day or two it is now the 19th day we took the turner out on the 18th day but they haven't chirped since. i heard that they should be piping by now but i don't see that ether! could some one tell me what happened to them that they stopped chirping and are not piping?!

7/27/2009 6:50:44 PM

I often wonder how hens read hydrometers so they can increase the humidity in the nest 3 days before hatching. I'm assuming they have Blackberrys to track how many days have passed? I'm being facetious because I often wonder if we over-think some of this stuff, add myths and wives tales, because ultimately much of it is beyond our control. I'm probably completely wrong, but we've fed our chicks water and starter from day one, put them outside as soon as wing feathers started to come in, didn't fret over to brooder temperature after a week, and all has been well. They are vigorous and healthy. Maybe we're lucky, dumb, or both!

7/27/2009 5:03:51 PM

We're thinking of chickens. Thats one great article

alexander topoh & sarah topoh_1
7/20/2009 8:57:59 PM

My wife and I had been a farmer in Liberia before coming to the United States eight years ago. Since them, we have not practice growing chicken again. We are now United States citizen working in different areas and not farming anymore. Though we would like to do farming but we do not have the funds to do so. Presently we established a non-profit organization to help build modern public toilets, showers and drill wells in Africa to give the less fortunate some good life in the area of sanitation. Our target is to serve two countries in West Africa, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Our organization is now registered and had been certifited in the State of Minneasota. Please be sending us information in eggs hatching and days old chicks. The kind of breeds you are dealing with. We also need information on well drilling, and any information on sanitation in Africa. Any help from any place to accomplish our dreams. Alexander Topoh American Love Drive For Africa 4207 P.O.Box 29900 Brooklyn Center MN.55429 763-545-1399 Office 763-245-8240 Cell