This site contains affiliate links. We may earn a commission if you purchase from one of these links. Learn more Here.
You already have fertile eggs, you know what you need to hatch chicks and how to hatch chicks with an incubator. Now that you are incubating chicks, it is inevitable that at some point you may need to help a chick hatch.
You should only help chicks hatch if they have been stuck for a considerable time and otherwise seem healthy. One of the main reasons a chick may get stuck is due to humidity fluctuations during hatching. If humidity drops, it can dry out the membrane and shrink wrap the chick. In cases such as these, you will need to slowly chip the eggshell and membrane off the chick to help it out of the shell.
How to Help a Chick Hatch
Before going through the process of helping a chick hatch, let’s review a few things that you need to know before you get started.
The first thing that you should know is that if you help a chick hatch it may not be very strong and may not survive. This is because often times chicks that cannot hatch on their own are weak or have some other genetic issue which is why they can’t get out of the shell on their own in the first place.
So, be prepared if you help them hatch that they may not make it. Or, they may need some extra attention to get going strong.
Second, you should give the chick as much time as possible to get itself out. Sometimes they pip and start zipping, but do not fully hatch because they aren’t ready (they may still have blood vessels to clear up or the yolk to absorb).
When to Help A Chick Hatch
You should not assist in hatch in all cases. The fact is that not all chicks will fully hatch for one reason or another. Also, some chicks take longer than others, so make sure to assess that it is the right time to help.
Here are the time’s to help you chick out of the shell.
Shrink wrapping is when a chicks membrane has dried to it. This often happens when their are humidity issues during hatch. However, it can sometimes happen if the chick pips the shell into the air cell and doesn’t hatch quickly enough. Or if, for some reason, you have had to open the incubator during hatch.
If a chick gets shrink wrapped, often times the membrane will hold it in place and it will physically be unable to move enough to zip the shell top the rest of the way off.
This is one time to definitely assist hatching as even healthy and strong chicks can get stuck if this happens to them.
Chick Seems Otherwise Strong
If the chick has seemed active and strong, but otherwise is stuck, then you should try to help it out. Sometimes you will find they are shrink wrapped under the intact shell in a place you couldn’t see. And sometimes, they have simply gotten themselves turned around and essentially lost in the shell.
Either way, if the chick has been active, peeping and moving previously, it is probably a good candidate to try and help out.
24hrs With No Progress
This third scenario of 24hours with no progress can really be hit or miss. Sometimes you get a chick that pips and then somehow gets turned around inside the shell and can’t finish hatching.
Other times, you will get a chick that pips, but is just too weak to hatch. In this case, even with assistance their survival is not guaranteed and it sometimes is better to not help these weaker chicks as they will not make it anyway. However, you don’t always know until you try.
In general the hatching process, even for a healthy chick may take up to 24 hours. So, it is important to give them at least that amount of time without intervening. If you intervene in the hatching process too soon, they may not be fully ready to hatch and blood vessels may not be absorbed yet.
How to Help a Chick Hatch
Need some help keeping your chickens health and care taken care of? Check out the Organized Chicken Keeper for an easy to follow system.
1) Use a Wet Paper Towel.
Take a standard sized paper towel. Wet it with warm water (you don’t want to get it chilled).
2) Identify the Pipped spot
Find the spot where the chick has started to pip – the area where they have pecked a small hole in the shell with their beak.
Slowly chip some of the shell away. Pay attention to if you see any blood. If you do, stop. The chick needs more time before it hatches.
3) Keep the membrane moist
Once you get the shell removed on part, you may need to wet the membrane with the warm water from the paper towel to start peeling it back.
This may take quite a bit of work, especially if the chick is shrink wrapped. Because you will need to get it wet enough to peel the hardened membrane off of the chicks fluff without injuring the chick.
Be sure you aren’t dripping water into it’s beak.
You will also want to be slow and meticulous while doing this. Depending on how dry the membrane has become, it may have actually dried and bonded to the chicks feathers and skin.
If this happens, don’t worry. Just continue to drip warm water from your paper towel of the membrane and slowly peel it away being careful not to pull out too much chick fluff.
Important: make sure to keep your paper towel warm – the chick can easily get chilled which will cause a whole other set of issues.
4) There are two membranes.
You want to separate and pull back the thicker top layer outer membrane first. Sometimes, both membranes will peel off together. If so, stop if you run into any blood.
5) Now the second membrane.
Once the first membrane is pulled back, you can pull back the thinner second membrane (Again, they may pull apart together).
There are blood vessels that run through the inner membrane and are a part of the chicks developmental circulation. If they are not ready to hatch and bleed too much, they can bleed out and die.
If you see these blood vessels, you want to just stop, wrap the chick in the wet paper towel, put it back in the incubator and wait a little more time.
6) Wrap in Wet paper Towel
Once you have freed the chick some, you can wrap the chick with the wet paper towel (again being sure not to cover it’s beak). And place it back in the incubator so that it can finish hatching.
7) Check in and More Assistance
If it has not made more progress after some time, you can check on it and give it some more assistance.
Keep doing this until it either hatches on it’s own, or you have been able to safely get it out of the shell.
If the chick was trapped for a long time, it may be too tired to hatch on it’s own after a certain point and may need you to help it all the way out. You can usually tell based on how much energy it is showing and how much moving it is doing.
If you need more help with taking care of your chickens, check out The Organized Chicken Keeper for a complete system for managing their health through keeping their supplies stocked and coop clean.