It is hard to believe, but tonight marks lock-down for this incubation. Yup, Day 18 has begun. Chicks normally hatch about day 21, but there can be some variation in that.
So this evening I began the lock-down routine, that has become somewhat “normal” for us, being that this is incubation #3 in a short amount of time.
First I stop the automatic turner. No more turning of the eggs. Then I candle them all, tracking air cell growth and checking for obvious death or abnormalities. Then I set them up how I want them to be in the incubator for hatching since I wont be opening the incubator again until after hatching. Lastly, I add water to increase the humidity. Getting the humidity right can take a while as I add a little water, watch the humidity, add more, etc until I get it how I want it.
My husband was helping me tonight as we candled all the eggs after I disengaged the egg turner. I load 5-6 into a carton and walk to the other room, where it is completely dark, and we candle them one at a time, taking notes as we go, but working quickly, then take them back in the carton and put them back into the incubator.
I was down to my last two sets of 5 eggs and I picked up an egg and it jiggled in my hand and let out several cheeping noises!!! It scared me so bad I am glad I didn’t drop the egg! I yelled for my husband though, “we’ve got cheeping in here,” as I stood there frozen in place with my hand in the incubator and the egg in my hand. He snapped me out of my shock and told me to put it where I wanted it, quickly, so that we wouldn’t be disturbing it. After I laid it down it wobbled around, cheeping some more. We have our first internal pip! On day 18! VERY unexpected, but not unheard of.
We decided to go ahead and finish candling the rest, quickly, and we did with no more surprises.
The first stage of hatching is called the internal pip, it is when the chick breaks a hole through the membrane, into the internal air cell of the egg. This is when it takes its first breaths. You can’t see anything from the outside, but as it works its lungs it begins to cheep and you can hear it through the egg. The time from internal pip to the next step usually lasts from 4-12 hours. But some can take longer.
The next step is the external pip. This is when the chick makes a small hole in the shell. You can see the hole, and you can usually see the little beak tip as well as the chick wiggles and sticks the beak out a bit. It takes a lot of effort for the chick to do this and after the external pip it usually rests for another 6-12+ hours before doing the next step. During this time the chick is also absorbing all the blood into its body from the veins around the membrane, and absorbing the yolk into its abdomen. It needs this time to do that because if it tries to come out before that is complete it could die.
The next step is called the zip (or unzip?). This is where the chick makes many more holes in the egg as it slowly turns inside the egg. These holes are all connected, thus making a cracked line around the egg. When they get most of the way around the egg they start kicking their feet and pushing up with their backs and the egg breaks open because of the big crack. This part usually goes faster, maybe 20 minutes or so from starting the zip to out of the egg.
All these time frames I have given are totally estimates, each egg hatching varies, just like any animal gestation. But based on the estimates, I am guessing we will have our first chick by tomorrow night!
We are SO excited! We definitely weren’t expecting any action until Friday night at the earliest, so this is a surprise. We are praying this hatch is successful.
Let the hovering around the incubator BEGIN!