Pipping is a wonderful site to the homesteader incubating and hatching eggs.
When a baby chick starts the hatching process they pip. But hatching really starts inside the egg. Remember the air sac you saw from candling? As the chick’s lungs develop she takes her first breath around day 19 through the air in that sac. As the egg fills with carbon dioxide the chick begins to need more air. So it takes it’s beak and busts the inner membrane of the egg puncturing through the outer shell. At this point you may simply see a small crack in the shell.
As the chick needs more air she pips a larger hole. What I found was that I could see the birds beak through the whole and the inner membrane (a thin white layer) moving with each breath the baby chick takes.
It’s the bird’s instinct to move around in the shell making larger pips either circular from wear it started (this is known as zipping) or in the same area just making the pip larger.
Now it can take 12-24 hours for the hatch after its first pip. My chicks pipped once and then it was 8-10 hours before they pipped again. It takes a lot of energy to be born, so they rest significantly in between pips.
Also while they are resting, their bodies are preparing for birth. There is still a portion of the yolk of the egg that is present. The chick’s abdomen will absorb this prior to hatching and the nutrients in the yolk will sustain the bird through hatching. Most baby chicks don’t need to eat for up to 48 hours after birth.
This is why it’s important not to rush them. It’s very tempting to want to open that lid and help them out, but there is still so much more going on inside that egg any interruption can cause malformation or even death.
Once they have absorbed the yolk they start pipping more and more, resting for smaller intervals between pips. Gradually the shell will get looser and looser. The chick will then be able to push against the shell and open it the rest of the way.
My baby chicks were pretty active right away. They untangled themselves from that egg and started trying to walk. They were climbing the walls trying to get out of the incubator! Any afterbirth should fall off on its own and the egg shell will be pushed out of the way as the chick moves about the incubator.
Leave the chicks in the incubator until all of the hatching has taken place. That is where I went wrong and had too many fluctuations in humidity levels to sustain a good hatch rate and healthy chicks. I had three that did not hatch properly. So avoid my mistakes and stay in lockdown until all the chicks have hatched.
Next up we will talk about moving chicks to the brooder!
Pipping and hatching is an incredible thing to watch. Have you seen it? If not, check out my video on my facebook page @thehallheritagehomestead!