Why not help chicks finish hatching?

Posted by: Art Ana

Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 03/03/10 05:51 PM

I did a search and couldn't find anything in the first 8 pages of results.

I couldn't think of a better place to ask about why wouldn't someone help a chick that has begun pecking its shell?
Posted by: CJR

Re: Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 03/03/10 10:00 PM

I DO and successfully, but only if the chick is full term, and has not made any progress in about 24 hours. By that time, with experience, you can determine if the chick is stuck to the shell and cannot turn and finish his escape. It is not a rush job.

To charge that the chick will never be robust and strong is just not true. Mother Nature works well, but all conditions during incubation and hatch are not equal for every egg. With care, all will mature and be the robust and strong birds that we want, and they will produce healthy offspring--nothing to do with a help at their start.

There are exceptions. but to just refuse to help a chick hatch is a personal choice--my choice and experience is to DO IT!

To have that chick unfold and roll out in your hand is a rare experience and not regretted! CJR
Posted by: Richard in MA

Re: Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 03/04/10 04:38 AM

I have posted this many times but it never seems to become out-dated:

I think the main reason people think it is okay to help hatch is that they believe that once the chick pips, it is ready to hatch and is just resting or waiting for some reason. This, of course, is not true and the chick may need another day or so before they can survive outside the egg. Although we are all well meaning, I think many people may not fully understand what is happening physiologically inside that egg before they "help" it out. Sometimes, it is thought that the chick suffocated when, in reality, it was most likely something else entirely that caused the chick to die. The fact of the matter is that there is a very specific chain of biological events that must take place for a chick to hatch and it is largely involuntary from the chicks perspective. Interfering with the process normally does far more damage than good. This was added by another person on a different board and it helps to explain the whole process:

Drawdown occurs when the air cell changes shape as the embryo, using the egg tooth, punctures the inner shell membrane and enters the air cell. The egg is designed to allow ease of exit from the egg, and the egg tooth is used to begin unzipping the eggshell in a circular manner, usually at the larger end of the egg.

The initiation of hatch occurs partially from the increased carbon dioxide level in the egg. This causes the embryo to begin twitching it's muscles, allowing the inner shell membrane to be punctured by the egg tooth. The chick then begins breathing the air in the air cell. As the carbon dioxide level begins to rise again, the muscularis complexus (the pipping muscle) at the back of the neck begins twitching again, facilitating the hatch. Abdominal muscles also begin twitching, which helps draw the yolk sac into the coelom. Leg muscle twitching helps strengthen the legs.

Assisting the hatch is a difficult decision, and in this author's experience, many aviculturists will do more harm than good by assisting the hatch. Normally the chick will hatch 24-48 hours after drawdown has occurred. By making a pin-hole in the egg shell over the air cell, the carbon dioxide level will drop, actually slowing the hatch. Making a pin-hole or opening the air cell end of the egg should only be done if the vocalization level of the hatching chick is decreasing or other signs indicating that the chick is in trouble are evident (for example, if the chick doe not pip into the air cell).

By helping chicks to hatch that would not otherwise may result in a perfectly appearing bird, however, by doing so we are constantly selecting for chicks that need help hatching (not in the case of drying out). This has been brought up many times on other boards, especially in the case of call ducks. I have never raised them but from what I have learned from reading is that they can have very poor hatchability due to the conformation of the bird and the short beak. Only the strongest chicks will survive and be able to hatch and it is only those birds breeders are looking to work with.

Now, with all of that being said, deciding to help or not is up to the keeper. However, I think that before you "help" hatching you should have a full and complete understanding of what is actually going on inside that shell on a physiological level. Otherwise, what you may think is a problem may very well not be and the decision you make will have disastrous effects. Only by understanding what is happening, and what your actions may cause, can you make a good decision on whether to proceed or not.

Jean, I know that you only use broodies and not an incubator so that precludes you from having to worry about what is happening to the rest of the chicks when you open it to help one hatch, however it can cause a great deal of problem to do so. All of the humidity is lost when you open it up and any chicks that have already pipped wil likely then need help due to drying. I have helped chicks out in the past but I know exactly when to do it and when not to. Many people just starting out do it far too soon and wind up with a chick with a yolk sac hanging off it's belly, gasping for air before it finally dies. I made that same mistake years ago, myself.

Posted by: D. Pollock

Re: Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 03/04/10 05:40 AM

Wow, RichardMA. That's why I so enjoy The Coop.

Posted by: Uno

Re: Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 03/05/10 09:02 PM

I am a helper but only after a chick has started the process himself, and then I don't help him all the way. I like to pick him out a bit, maybe uncurl his neck out of the egg, but leave his legs and butt inside the lower half of the shell. I set him back in the incubator having done my part; he has to kick himself out from that position. If he cannot accomplish that, it doesn't look good.

I will break into unhatched and silent eggs once I believe that ample time has been given for hatching to have happened. These eggs all are pretty much 100% dead. Those that are peeping and tapping I let continue until the sounds begin to fade. But the longer a chick bumps around, the more ready he is to hatch. It seems activity helps pull the yolk into the gut, and this is critical to his survival. Yolk out chicks just don't make it.

So if they pip, give them at least 24 hours to make progress. If they are peeping but haven't pipped, don't go in until they are fading. At least that's my approach.

Posted by: Art Ana

Re: Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 03/07/10 01:51 PM

Thanks all.

How long does one wait after the "due date"?
Posted by: Wieslaw

Re: Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 03/07/10 05:21 PM

I use both incubators and broody hens for hatching (at the same time, so I put chicks from the incubators for adoption). I only help to hatch eggs from broody hens in case of mechanical damage to the shell. Last year I found an egg with a completely crushed shell, but the membrane was intact, so the chick looked like a peeping Egyptian mummy.

Some years ago I helped one that was 2 days overdue but peeping very loudly. It grew up to have a giant hump on the back and a wry tail. I stopped helping chicks that didn't make more effort than making the initial hole because I found out that usually there is a reason for this, like a yolk sack not pulled in or other.
Posted by: CJR

Re: Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 03/07/10 10:48 PM

This process is best learned by experience, I believe. Certainly all chicks should not be "helped" to hatch!!!!!!!!How long to wait after "due time'? Sorry, this you have to learn--- to "read" the eggs. Best if no help is ever required!!

In most cases, I do not believe that helping in critical times, leads to a weakness in the breeding flock. A successfully assisted chick is far more likely to have had humidity problem-- too dry during hatch, stuck to the shell unable to turn--or tired, probably nutrition of the hen that laid the egg, nothing hereditary about that. Sometimes a tired chick just needs to have time to rest and will chip its way out by itselfesjpecially, if chipped half way--and, indeed, let it finish and slide out of the lower part by itself, little wet rag of a chick..... PATIENCE.

I never help a chick that does not have a good hole started--and no progress for another day, often longer, before chipping a little further to see if the difficulty can be determined. If bleeding--the chick is not "done yet". STOP, pull the membrane with the vein over the edge of the shell--it will stop bleeding. Leave that egg another 12-24 hours--sometimes the chick will finish hatching on its own.

Late hatch chicks sometimes have crooked legs/toes from being tucked in that sphere too long--bone is not hardened completely at normal hatch time. If late and the bone has hardened--forget it. Easy to fix most Splays/Toes, if done right after hatch. May not be hereditary at all--know your breeding birds and feed them well. Again, this is not hereditary--hen needed better nutrition. Since I switched to Game Bird Breeder, no more chicks with Splay legs. I feed Cod Liver Oil during winter laying time, as Vit A,D, are often no longer fresh in our feeds, and in the North where I live, chickens rarely outside, there is little sun--it makes a world of difference in reliable hatching eggs and strong chicks.. Those of you who live in areas where birds can be outside and on green grass, etc. may not have this part to your poultry projects.

Do not weep for eggs(chicks) that cheep,but do not hatch--or for the chick you tried to help, but didn't make it--Mother Nature is not always kind, and we cannot substitute for Mother Nature, just watch, learn and appreciate the marvelous process!

So much of our small hatch projects cannot be leaned from books or just reading a post--we need to feel it--have hands on experience. And there is never an end to learning. I have appreciated new information on the COOP--thanks to all who share! CJR

Commercial Hatcheries is another experience. I grew up near one of the largest Leghorn Farms in Oregon==YEARS ago--can still recall the special smell of the hatchery room--huge incubators, doors from floor to ceiling and trays of eggs, later trays of 1000s of chicks! Guess that is when I was innoculated with poultry??
Posted by: Mot

Re: Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 04/26/10 08:57 AM

I just incubated six eggs. One hatched and is doing well. The other five had not absorbed their yolk. Was it something I was doing wrong, incubator not working properly, or just the way it goes? Any advice please.
Posted by: Wieslaw

Re: Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 04/26/10 09:48 AM

I'm trying to understand correctly. Did they come out of the shell by themselves with unabsorbed yolk? Were they alive and you pulled them out before they were ready? At any rate, it's not just the way it goes (not in that ratio).
Posted by: Wieslaw

Re: Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 04/26/10 11:06 AM

I'm trying to understand correctly: Did they come out of the shell by themselves with unabsorbed yolk? Were they alive and you pulled them out before they are ready? At any rate, it's not just the way it goes(not in that ratio)
Posted by: Morcar

Re: Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 04/27/10 01:00 PM

What is pipping?
Posted by: Rhea Dean Carter

Re: Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 04/27/10 01:11 PM

Pipping is when the chick begins to break through the shell. Often times the chick will begin by making a small hole in the shell.
Posted by: GSC

Re: Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 07/17/10 10:12 AM

It's a shame this thread ground to a halt. MOT never answered so we will never know the answer to her 'yolk' problem.

I had one like that. 2 eggs set 1 day apart. The first one due never pipped externally although I was sure I could hear it tapping. The one that was due a day later started pipping quite early and then stopped.

My batch of 24 was already fast reaching the point when I should have called it a day. The cheeper was still cheeping and the tapper stopped. I opened up the tapper and it was dead with part of the yolk still not absorbed. No bleeding when I peeled it out.

The cheeper I agonised over but finally opened that up despite a bit of blood and rescued a deaths door very weak chick, now going strong 2 days later.

I would dearly love to know what the unabsorbed yolk means. Of the remainder there were 2 more seemingly fully developed chicks that never pipped.

Posted by: Maria Ricardo

Re: Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 07/17/10 06:54 PM

I had a hen that left the nest after one chick hatched. Two others had hatched but were dead in the nest. I took the cardboard nest box and unhatched eggs to the garden to put in the compost but didn't get around to it til the next day. As I was cracking the eggs to see the innards, one peeped. A third of it's shell was off but the membrane was intact. I put it under one of the broody hens and the next day there was a perfect buff Orpington chick. It was left out overnight and cracked by me and lived. In a way, that was helping it out of the shell.
Posted by: D. Pollock

Re: Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 07/17/10 10:07 PM

It's a shame this thread ground to a halt.

Sorry... but get used to it! If you're not talking genetics...then your voice is MUTE.
Posted by: Uno

Re: Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 07/18/10 12:49 AM

The unabsorbed yolk means the chick didn't cross the finish line. It seems that when a chick begins to hatch, the yolk is still out. Over the next 12 -24 hours as the chick pecks his way out and moves around, the blood that is in the vein system against the shell wall pulls slowly into his body, and so does the yolk. When I help a chick hatch and the membrane bleeds, I know his yolk is still out and I cannot take him out of the shell. Once the membrane no longer bleeds if you tear it, its pretty sure the yolk is all in the gut and the chick is ready to come out (or be helped out).

Why chicks die this close to hatch is a mystery that the average person will not solve. I just know that at time I will have a pile of dead bodies, all perfect looking, except for that yolk sticking out. But I have learned that I have a high percentage of drowned chicks and thus am a bonafide DRY HATCHER. That is another topic for another post though.

PS we are not all cerebral, brainiac geneticists. I know a few and generally I like them, but I still blather on about topics that are NOT genetic in nature, although lately I've been a bit scarce around here.
Posted by: GSC

Re: Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 07/18/10 01:01 AM

Thanks Uno (and D.Pollock for that valuable insight ;))

One of the things about my last hatch that I noticed after the event was that the front fan wasn't working. The humidity was carefully monitored by 2 addtional hygrometers as well as temp but maybe the air ciculation wasn't as good as it should have been.

Ah well I will keep asking questions and in time hopefully will have more answers.
Posted by: tabch

Re: Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 05/03/16 05:41 AM

Here is the just of it: NEVER EVER help a chick hatch.
I learned it the hard way, many a time I lost many of them because I simply could not handle my anticipation smile
This is an old thread, but I had to throw my 2 cents, it might help some others smile

Reading this forum, you probably are a newbie as I am.
I know how impatient you could be waiting to see the baby chick out of the shell, I know I was, and still am whenever there is a clutch in the incubator, I was also a bit afraid that they would die if the hatching takes too long. You have probably read many times that you should not even open the incubator until all the chicks are out of their shells, much less help them hatch, it is dangerous and can often lead to bleeding & the death of the baby birds.

Here is the thing: do not worry for their safety!
As long as they cracked the shell and thus they can breath, there is nowhere in the world safer for them than inside that shell.

A chick can survive without food or water for up to 3 days, add to that 1 day (because inside the shell it is not moving nor spending energy). Besides, if it did not get out yet, chances are that it did not finish absorbing its yolk yet, so add 1 more day.
All in all, you can leave the chicks in their shell for up to 5 days (in most extreme cases) after they make the first crack !!!

Hope this would help some of you smile
Posted by: Robbie

Re: Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 05/03/16 06:46 AM

Definitely helpful, it is tempting to help but of course it's really counter productive.
However, is a chick that can't hatch on it's own too weak to keep? I want to maintain a vigorous, healthy flock.

I see that this has been well discussed in this thread, my personal belief after reading all the pros/cons is to just keep the ones that hatch by themselves.
Posted by: Robbie

Re: Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 05/03/16 06:58 AM

Just one more comment- It seems that whenever I have read a University extension publication they recommend much higher rates of humidity 60%+) than what others are recommending (I've read from 30-50% RH) .
Why the difference? Any thoughts?
I have a new-to- me (used) Sportsman incubator, I tried 50% RH but the air sac still seemed too small at lockdown. Next time I'm going with 40-45% RH.
Posted by: Redcap

Re: Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 05/03/16 11:33 AM

This is no definite answer to the initial question but somehow interesting
Løtvedt, P., & Jensen, P. (2014). Effects of Hatching Time on Behavior and Weight Development of Chickens. PLoS ONE, 9(7), e103040.
Posted by: Uno

Re: Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 06/08/16 06:57 AM

This is one of those endless debates, do I help? Don't I?

My own feelings are that I help. Here is why.

An INCUBATOR is an artificial contraption that we place eggs in and hope like crazy and cross our fingers that it mimics a hen. But it does not. A hen does NOT blow hot air on her eggs. She does not carry water to them in a little bucket and add humidity. Yet in an incubator we do both of those unnatural and perhaps ridiculous things to an egg. We place it in a completely artificial environment. And when OUR invention (the bator) fails to do it's job properly (and most of them do fail) we blame the chick for being weak and condemn him to death by not helping.

TO me this seems to be blaming the chick for our own failure. Oh, the chick didn't hatch because he's weak. Maybe not. Maybe the chick didn't hatch because your incubator is stupid and it's a miracle that anything hatched at all!

So I will help a chick hatch because the slow hatchers get stuck and it does NOT matter what the humidity is, the slow ones get stuck. Period. So it's not that they are 'weak' just that they get glued in, and that is a situation that they cannot control and cannot be blamed for. So I help.

If they are floppy and pitiful, as per the wise advise of CJR that she gave many years ago, I give them a little cod liver oil. With heat, water and some cod oil, if they do not perk up, I will cull them. But I think since I am the one who set those eggs in a bator, it is not right to blame the eggs for being 'weak' if they have a hard time hatching. So I help. I DO NOT help eggs under a hen, because everything about how she hatches is perfect and eggs that do not hatch there are not meant to - in my opinion.
Posted by: Robbie

Re: Why not help chicks finish hatching? - 06/11/16 09:15 AM

Just like the perfect incubator, you need the perfect broody. I suspected my Cornish hens were too big to incubate well, and I was right! They have crushed eggs onto the others, so much for that hatch. I think chickens were not meant to be 8 pounds.
At least my Sportsman leaves the eggs whole ;-)