Chicks have gone quiet - is that a bad sign?

Hello, I am hatching classroom chickens.

I have used your resources to help me along the way, your setup video was fantastic! Today is day 21 and it's like the eggs have gone into radio silence. Yesterday you could see them wobble throughout the day (I'm using the Brinsea Mini Advance) but today nothing. No wobble, no pips, no peeping.

I topped up water early this morning to make sure the humidity would be high enough but was that wrong to do? Did I mess them up somehow?

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Patience is key to hatching!
by: Cath

No, you've not done anything wrong. Chicks will quite often rest after they've pipped internally - that is, they pip into the membrane before the pip through the shell.

A lot of people get to this pint and decide to "help" the chick. It is never a good idea. The chick needs time to absorb all the yolk before it hatches. If it is disturbed in that process and does not absorb the yolk, it will not survive.

Patience is hard at this point, but it's critical. :)

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Chicks have stopped pipping - now what?

by Cynthia
(Waterford, CT)

My chicks started pipping yesterday. Two made partial holes in the shell and then we had a very brief temperature drop. A different egg starting pipping today and hatched within an hour.

The two that started yesterday have not made any more progress and one end of the egg is now darkened.

My question is: is there any hope for the two that started pipping yesterday? I can see them breathing still.

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There's always hope.
by: Cath

Hi Cynthia,

The temperature drop, even though very brief, may have affected the chicks. Normally I would not help a chick to hatch, but if I see the membrane has dried and turned a brown colour, I do assist.

The reason is that once the membrane dries, the chick will find it almost impossible to detach from it.

If they are still alive, then by all means help them. I refer to an excellent article about assisted hatching on this page.

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How do I know when the chick is about to hatch?

What are the signs that the eggs are about to hatch?

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Eggs about to hatch.
by: Cath

When an egg is ready to hatch, you'll see a tiny break in the shell which is the start of the chick "pipping".

You can see more about pipping and hatching on this page.

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Death before hatching.

by Susan
(Ceredigion, Wales)

Hi Cath.

We had 3 Light Sussex and 5 Copper Marans fertile.

Lock down began day 18 and we had 1 Copper Marans hatch day 21.

Nothing else has emerged and on eggtopsy (autopsy) the Light Sussex hadn't developed beyond 7 days, but 3 of the Marans were fully formed. 2 had absorbed their yolk sack and 1 looked like it died prior to lock down.

Any ideas what could be the cause? Anything we could have done differently?

The Marans eggs were so dark to candle we could only tell they were fertile.

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So sorry for your loss.
by: Cath

Hi Susan,

It's heartbreaking when chicks develop full term and then die for no obvious reason just before hatch. I'm so sorry.

Late death is often caused by the temperature or humidity levels - particularly humidity - at lockdown. With temperature it can either be too high or too low; with humidity it's almost always because the humidity level was too high.

It can also be because the ventilation in the incubator was too low. There's more information about lockdown conditions here, but basically air flow around the incubator should be unobstructed, and if there's a vent on the incubator it should be at least halfway opened. Chicks need much more oxygen at this point than previously during incubation.

But it can also be a range of other reasons, including the health of the parent birds. So if you're certain your conditions were right as far as the incubator goes, it might have been that.

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Should I help a late egg to hatch?

by Melodie Leonard
(Volkdrust, South Africa)

My hen hatched most of her eggs except 4. So I took the 4 eggs and made an incubator box.

I used a box, warm water bottle, a towel and a spray bottle. I changed the warm water every 6-8hours, turned the eggs and sprayed them.

I candled my eggs three days later. #1 and #3 the air cell is on the side of the egg and there seems to be a little fluid inside moving.

#2 the air cell is at the wider end of the egg, but there is no movement when candling and also no movement during the water test.

#4 there is movement when candling and there is movement with the water test.

But now it's the 25 day and I don't know. Should I help, is everything going to be ok or what I must do.

I don't want do something and end up killing it.

Could you please give me advice on what I must do?

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To help or not to help?
by: Cath

Hi Melodie,

It is very rarely a good idea to help a chick to hatch. The only time I would ever do it is if they have pipped and have not unzipped for several hours - and even then, I only help if I can see the membrane has turned brown and dried out.

With these eggs, it's too early to do anything. I have had chicks hatch as late as day 26, and you're not there yet.

There's a lot of information about hatching on this page.

Whether they will hatch is also a question. Home made incubators are difficult to work with in terms of keeping the temperature and humidity constant.

#4 sounds as though it may hatch; #2 sounds as though it won't. #1 and #3 are questionable - you shouldn't be seeing fluid when the chick is ready to hatch, it should be absorbed into the chick from day 19.

Good luck with your hatch - I hope it works out for you.

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Do I move hatched chicks to the brooder when another one has pipped?

by Julie
(United Kingdom)

Hello, I've 5 out of 6 chicks in an incubator, the Brinsea Mini.

My dilemma!!! It's been 48hrs since the 1st chick hatched. The 5th one last night.

My worry is about the final egg - 'Marans'. It began pip and could see its beak tweeting approx 40hrs ago - it was an active tweet (wondered if beak was stuck).

The egg was turned by the other chicks and the pipped hole is now at the bottom (cannot be seen) and there has been no sightings of further pipping!! The others are clambering over it!

What do I do? It's quite crammed looking and imagine chick no 1 will need out. This is the first time ever holding chicks in an incubator.

Do I let them out into brooder, discard all opened shells, throw in a warm wet paper towel, and close and see what happens with the remaining egg? Or do I move them all to brooder then handle and crack more of the remaining egg?

Any advice welcome. Many thanks.

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Egg being knocked by hatched chicks.
by: Cath

Hi Julie,

Don't worry about this. In every incubation, chicks who have already hatched do climb all over eggs that haven't yet. The knock them all over the place like they're having a game of rugby!

The fact that the pip hole is now at the bottom is fine. The chick will be positioned to hatch from there, so whether it faces up or down doesn't matter.

Normally, you would scoop chicks who have fluffed up out of the incy and into the brooder but do it very quickly so that the incubator is not open for more than a second or two. Leave the discarded shells in there till the hatch is complete.

But here you have a chick who has pipped. Opening the incubator could cause the membrane to shrink wrap, and the chick would not then be able to hatch.

Chicks are fine in the incubator for up to 48 hours after they've hatched. But if you see them getting distressed, for example gasping for air, they need ot be taken out into the brooder.

In that case, take them out quickly but add into the incubator a paper towel soaked in warm water. that will keep the humidity level up so the remaining chick should not suffer.

Do not help the remaining chick, unless you see the membrane going brown. "Helping" hatches very rarely helps.

Hope that's useful.

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Moving chicks to the brooder.

by Solly
(South Africa)

Can I wait for 72 hours after the first chick has hatched hoping the rest of the eggs will hatch at "Lockdown"?

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After hatch...
by: Cath

Hi Solly,

I hope I've understood your question properly.

You should not leave a newly hatched chick in the incubator for as long as 72 hours. It needs to be moved to a brooder as soon as it has fluffed up.

See my article here about moving chicks from incubator to brooder for detailed information.

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When to move chicks to the brooder?

by David
(Norfolk england)

Hello my name is David.

I've come across your site whilst looking for information and what a site - very interesting.

My question is, I have six hens eggs in a home made incubator. It's my first time trying to hatch chicks.

One hatched at a14.45 today. There is no sign of the other eggs doing anything.

Will the hatched chick need moving after a couple of days or should I leave it to wait for the others to hatch?

It's a home made incubator. I put an old hat in the incubator and placed the eggs in it.

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Congratulations!
by: Cath

Hi David,

Thank you for your kind comments about my website.

Yes, your chick should be moved to the brooder as soon as she has fluffed up. Try not to move her when other eggs have pipped, but if you need to just open the incubator as quickly as possible, scoop the chick up and close the incubator down again.

More information about when to move chicks from incubator to brooder, here.

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Can new chicks survive without food?

by Kerri Deitsch
(Wellington Florida US)

Hi! I have 4 hatched 2 of which are 24 hours ago. I also have 2 pips!

Do I continue to leave the babies in unfed? Or risk the humidity drop and lift the lid?? I don’t know!!!

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Hatchling feeding.
by: Cath

Hi Kerri,

Newly hatched chicks do not need any food for 48 hours after they have hatched. The yolk, which they absorb just before hatching, keeps them fed until then.

I leave my chicks in the incubator until they're fluffed up. Scooping them out quickly once they have is fine.

Take a look at this article which covers the subject of when to move chicks from the incubator.

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Dealing with a weak chick.

by Angie Jones
(Manchester England)

Hi there,

We have a company that brings eggs to our school each year so the children can have a real life experience of seeing new life but in class.

We had 10 eggs. 8 hatched normally, but the 9th struggled a bit. One of our staff has had chickens so she helped to release a tiny part of the shell enabling it to go on to hatch.

But the last one pipped or may have been by another chick no movement until the last day we were told they should hatch by. It was totally exhausted & the membrane was very dried out.

There was no blood, so we made a decision to help it along not really expecting it to survive. It had a bright yolk stuck to its tummy & the feathers were stuck solid like glue.

I brought her home in the incubator and gently wiped the stickiness with warm water as her neck was stuck to her chest.

Amazingly, she made it through the night. She’s tiny & has a deformed foot but I’m so worried to transfer her to the brooder as she’s so tiny & the other chicks are over twice her size & very rough. The last one born started to peck at her eyes.

So she’s now just 24 hrs old. Can I keep her in the incubator until Monday? Then I will be able to watch her in class with the other chicks to hopefully keep her safe.

She’s such a little fighter, I'm doing everything to keep her alive 🐣 Angie x

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Helping chicks hatch.
by: Cath

Hi Angie,

Congratulations on helping both those chicks to hatch. Assisted hatching is never easy, and often if the chick is not able to hatch by itself there's a reason for it. But I applaud you for trying.

The weak chick may not make it. Chickens are quite ruthless, and the other chicks have clearly decided she's a weakling and will peck at her. And a deformed foot will make it hard for her to hold her own in a flock, depending on how bad it is.

But if you want to try, that's fine. You cannot keep her in an incubator for longer than 48 hours maximum - she will dehydrate. She needs to be in a brooder with heat, food and water. But as she's so tiny, my suggestion would be to make a small brooder box for her which can be put into the larger brooder with the other chicks on Monday.

Putting some chicken wire at the front of the little box (I have used a shoe box before now) means she'll be able to see and hear the rest of the chicks, and they'll be able to see, hear and smell her. After a few days, when she's a bit bigger, put her into the large brooder but watch carefully for bullies.

If the other chicks bully her, you need to separate out the bullies and put them into the smaller box, until they learn some manners.

I have a page about isolating chickens, here - the same principles apply to chicks.

I hope that helps.

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