I always thought that a chick just hatched. It just busted out of the egg in a big spurt of energy. Like one minute inside the egg, the next minute broken egg with chick out. Silly I guess, but true. It has been fun to learn about how a chick hatches, and especially to watch it first-hand.
Here is how a chick hatches:
1. Internal Pip – the internal pip is when the chick uses it’s beak to break through the membrane into the air cell in the fat end of the egg. It will take its first breath and start breathing regularly and even cheeping once this happens. You can’t see anything from outside the egg, but you can hear it cheeping from inside the egg. The egg often wobbles around a lot too during this time as the chick wiggles.
2. External Pip – the external pip is when the chick uses its beak to break through the shell, leaving one little crack or hole. This happens after it has already broken into the air cell and started breathing. As you can see in the pictures, sometimes a pip is actually a hole and the shell falls off there, sometimes it is just a few cracks in the shell and it sticks out a bit.
Sometimes, as in the second picture above, the chick does not get into proper position inside the egg to perform an internal pip into the air cell first. It is called a mal-positioned chick and it performs a mal-positioned external pip, and no internal pip. A mal-positioned pip usually takes longer to get out because it is just taking its first breaths at the time of the external pip and thus is combining the time for internal and external into one time. Sometimes, they don’t survive at all.
3. After the external pip there is often a long period of time with little to no activity with the egg. If the pip is a hole you can see the beak inside the hole moving a bit, opening and closing, and cheeping occasionally. During this time the chick is absorbing all the blood from the vessels in the membrane of the shell, as well as absorbing the yolk into its abdomen. This is why chicks don’t need to eat right away, because they have the energy from the yolk to live on.
4. Zip (or unzip) – Once the chick has absorbed everything it needs to absorb it will start to “unzip” its shell. It makes a line of pips about 3/4 of the way to almost all the way around the egg, creating kind of a cap. Here are some examples of zips.
5. Kick and Hatch – when the chick has finished unzipping the shell it begins to kick its feet and push with its head over and over again, slowly (or fast, depending on the chick) breaking off the cap and getting out of the shell. The chick in the pictures below actually got its toes out the crack a bit during kicking.
The time frame on all the above steps varies SO much between chicks. Our two quickest chicks went from pip to hatch in only 3 and 4 hours. Our two longest, both mal-positioned pips, took 24 and 27 hours. Most of the chicks went from external pip to hatch in about 12-14 hours.
It is such an amazing process and our family has enjoyed watching it SO much. It never got boring, even by the 23rd hatch we still came running when someone yelled “chick hatching!”
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