It can be quite exciting to witness a chicken hatching. After all, it’s not every day that you get to see a bird birthing live from its egg!
But once the first crack appears in that egg it can turn stressful. It sure did for me; is something wrong, why isn’t anything happening, did it just move again?
This can lead to some serious anxiety and overreaction. It is helpful to know how long the process takes so you know what to expect. Just how long does it take for the chick to actually hatch?
It takes around 24 hours for a chick to complete hatching once the first crack or pip appears. However, it might take as little as 12 hours, or as long as two days.
Even in the same clutch of eggs there will be variability, so stay alert but don’t despair if chicks don’t zip right away.
For breeders and recreational owners, hatching is usually the most exciting of times. This is where all of your hard work pays off.
But it can be nerve-wracking. That’s why we are here to answer all of your questions about the process in this article.
What is the Average Time for a Chick to Hatch?
On average, it will take a chick around 24 hours to hatch once the first pip or crack appears.
However, there is quite a bit of variation in this time frame. Some chicks might hatch in as little as 12 hours while others could take up to 48 hours.
It should be noted that the chances of the chick having major issues or defects increases dramatically the longer the clock closes in on 48 hours.
After this point, it is highly unlikely the chick inside will survive, and if it does it will require special assistance.
What Factors Influence How Long it Takes for a Chick to Hatch?
There are several factors that can influence how long it takes for a chick to hatch.
These include the size of the egg, the breed of chicken, the temperature and humidity of the egg or incubator, and whether or not the egg was turned regularly during incubation.
Do Some Chicks Hatch Quickly?
Yes, some chicks do in fact hatch quicker than others. This is usually due to the size of the egg. Smaller eggs will generally hatch faster than larger ones.
The overall condition of the chick inside is a big factor, too, as you might imagine, and stronger chicks (healthier or with better genetics) will hatch quicker than ones that are weaker from disease or other factors.
What is the process of hatching for a chick?
The first thing that happens is “internal pipping”. This is when the chick’s beak pierces through the membrane and air sac inside the egg. It can take up to a day for this to happen.
Once the chick has made its way into the air sac, it will start to rest and recuperate in preparation for breaking through the shell.
This part of the process is crucial, as the chick needs to store up energy for when it starts to pip.
Pipping is when the chick uses its egg tooth (a sharp protrusion on its beak) to make a hole in the shell.
The hole is usually small at first, but the chick will continue to work on it until it is big enough to climb out of, a process called “zipping”, like a zipper on your clothes.
Chicks that have not fully zipped and popped out of their shells within 24 hours post-pip might be “sticky” or “shrink-wrapped”. Both of these conditions usually spell doom for the poor chick, but not always.
What is a “Sticky” Chick?
A “sticky” chick is one that has thickened fluid from the egg stuck to it, hampering its mobility.
This can happen for a number of reasons, but the most common is that the humidity in the incubator was too high throughout incubation, causing an excess of fluid in the egg, prior to a sudden drop in humidity during the last few days of incubation, causing the fluids to solidify and harden.
What is “Shrink Wrapping”?
“Shrink wrapping” is what happens when the egg membrane that surrounds the chick dries out and hardens before the chick has had a chance to pip through it.
This can be caused by a number of factors, but the most common is insufficient humidity during incubation, causing the egg to lose too much moisture and the membrane to dry out.
Also, opening the incubator during the last few days of incubation, causing a sudden drop in humidity, may also cause shrink wrapping.
Should You Help a Chick that Seems Stuck?
If you think your chick is stuck, either from being sticky or shrink-wrapped, you have to choose whether or not you’ll intervene. Deciding to help a seemingly stuck chick is a dicey proposition.
On one hand, it might actually just need a little help. On the other hand, stuck chicks in nature usually die for a reason and you might only be prolonging its suffering prior to death. Not good.
At best, you could have a chick that is deformed and requires specialized care on a routine basis for the rest of its life. Is this something you are willing to commit to?
How Can I Tell if my Chick is Healthy?
Once your chick has hatched, you will want to make sure that it is healthy. Signs of a healthy chick include
- Eyes open and clear
- Alert to activity
- Even, strong breathing
- Clean, clear belly button and vent
- A strong, straight, closed beak
- High, warm body temperature
- Energetic and moving when not sleeping
- A healthy appetite
If your chick exhibits these signs, congratulations! You have a healthy chick on your hands.
If not, you may want to consult a veterinarian or poultry expert to help you determine what might be wrong and how to treat it. Keep in mind, chicks are incredibly delicate creatures.
Some conditions that don’t seem so bad may get worse fast or chicks that just seem a little “off” can rapidly deteriorate and die before anything can be done for them, assuming anything can be done.
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into hatching a chick. From the time the egg is laid to the moment the chick emerges, it is a long and arduous journey.
But it is also a miraculous one and well worth all the effort. So, the next time you see a healthy chick hatch, take a moment to appreciate all the work that the little thing put in to make it out into the world and into your flock.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.