Hatching Chicks In A Homemade Hatchery - Hudson Valley Handymom Blog at Allrecipes.com - 289899

Hudson Valley Handymom

Hatching Chicks in a Homemade Hatchery 
Nov. 17, 2012 10:52 am 
Updated: Nov. 20, 2012 7:13 pm


One of my daughters decided to take a science research class this year.  She wanted to think of something great and wonderful - like the kid who decided to hatch up some sea monkeys.  "Did you know they're just shrimp, Mom?"   As a matter of fact, as a child, the discovery that sea monkeys were just shrimp was actually one of my biggest disappointments in life.   They never quite looked like the 1970's advertising display of sea monkeys that looked like they were crowned king and queen of the sea world.  I never did get to see the happy faces of those sea monkeys.

Deceptive Sea Monkey advertising of the '70s - with small children across America feeling duped when they came to realize they hatched shrimp.

For quite a few years, I've had a desire to own chickens.  I've been reading about them and have wanted to have my own for fresh eggs.  Until I called our town, I wasn't even aware that I was allowed to own them here.  When the discovery came that I could have my own chickens, I said to my daughter, "I have an idea.  How about building a homemade hatchery?"  According to her teacher, building a homemade hatchery, and trying to hatch chicken eggs just wasn't enough.  There needed to be something more...a comparison....

I suggested, "How about using two different homemade hatcheries?  We'll have one with automatic temperature control and air circulation and one with just a light bulb.  Then, you can compare which one has a better hatching."

After gaining her teacher's approval, we kept an eye out for a cooler.  Within a day, we passed by a yard sale with a Rubbermaid Cooler.  Our neighbor gave us another old cooler so that we had our two.  Then, we set out to buy two rectangular pieces of plexiglass at the local hardware store.

We traced around the top of the cooler with the plexiglass.  Then, we went in an inch on each side and drew straight lines.  I drilled holes into each corner so I'd be able to use a jigsaw to cut out the rectangle.
After cutting out the rectangle, we placed the plexiglass over the top of the cooler lid and taped it down with Gorilla tape.  Gorilla tape is extremely strong duct tape that can actually hold the plexiglass down and assist with the prevention of other pet access.
We used a simple ceramic light hookup, and I pulled a cord out of an old lamp that was broken to hook up to the fixture for it to have a plug.  I screwed the fixture into the back of the cooler and just cut out a little corner at the top to drape the cord rather than make a hole through the back and pull it through. My thought process was to make sure the heat didn't have a lot of avenues to escape. Making a notch that fit the cord allowed the lid to close nicely without allowing a lot of heat to escape. Then, we cut out wire mesh to fit the bottom of the cooler and turned it under on each side so the eggs would have a place to lay.
I purchased two thermostat and humidity readers on ebay for $11 a piece.  I placed one of them in the cooler.  With some trial and error, we determined that a 25 watt bulb was the one best used to maintain the temperature in the cooler around 99-102 degrees.

A sponge soaked in water was placed inside the cooler for humidity.  We were able to visibly control the humidity due to the temperature and humidity reader allowing us to see  the percentage of humidity.

In the other cooler, we attached a water heater thermostat control to the light so that it would turn off if the temperatures reached over 102 degrees.  We also attached a computer fan to a plug and placed it in the cooler to keep the temperature circulated.  I will post more about this particular hatchery in another post due to...HURRICANE SANDY!

The eggs arrived, and we determined that Hurricane Sandy was going to be an impending problem.  Instead of dividing the eggs into each cooler like we originally planned, we placed them all in the one cooler since we had not been able to maintain a proper temperature in the temperature controlled unit prior to the storm hitting.

The storm came.  The power went out for four days.  The first night that the power went out, the temperatures dropped to 76 degrees.  This was a drastic change for the eggs.  We hooked the plug up to a generator, but due to it being generator controlled, the temperature wasn't getting as high as it should have.  In an act of desperation, someone placed a blanket over the hatchery, causing the temperature to skyrocket to 104 degrees.  My heart dropped.

I was positive the temperature changes were going to kill the baby chicks.  However, I hoped that we caught things in time and did our best to make sure the unregulated temperature would be somewhat regulated.  After all, chicks are related to dinosaurs, and they must be somewhat resilient, no?

Day 21 - the day the chicks were SUPPOSE to hatch.  Nothing happened.  Nothing at all.  I put a flashlight to one of the eggs and saw something moving around inside.  I thought, "Maybe we should wait this out."

Day 22 - Nothing happened.  Still waiting.

Then, day 23 arrived.  Sure enough, a chick pipped through.  We heard the chirping around 7 am through the egg.  It took until 5:30 am the next morning, on day 24, for the chick to arrive.  By that time, almost all 10 fertilized eggs had pipped.

An egg that pipped.  Sides of the eggs are marked with X's and O's because the eggs need to be turned three times a day, and the markings assist with regulating turning.


Throughout the day, chicks started to hatch.  Sadly, the second chick to hatch passed away shortly after hatching.  Nine chicks made their arrival by day 25.

One of our chicks hatching with an excited hatched chick standing nearby.


After each hatching, we put the chicks under a heat lamp to dry out and fluff up.

A wet chick drying out.

Chicks making their arrival.

Despite the long amount of time it took for them to hatch, we are thankful that the temperature changes didn't seem to affect them and that they look so healthy and vibrant.

The cost of the homemade hatchery was under $25 due to us having the mesh, plug from the lamp to wire to the light, and Gorilla duct tape.  The cost of the ceramic light fixture was under $4.00.  The cost of the plexiglass was around $5.00.  The cooler was $5, and the temperature and humidity reader was $11.  The hatch was a success which proves that expensive hatcheries don't need to be purchased.  However, information regarding the temperature, monitoring of the humidity, and turning of the eggs three times every day are important steps to remember for a successful hatch.

Depending on how well insulated the cooler is, the wattage of the light bulb used may need to be changed.  Humidity can be controlled using a sponge soaked in water, and if the heat gets too high, just raising the lid to lower the temperature may be enough to keep in controlled.



Nov. 19, 2012 6:26 pm
Great blog! I might have to make one of these as my broody hens keep insisting on setting on their eggs somewhere the chicks can't get back into, so as soon as she hatches one, she goes to eat, it follows her and since it can't return to the nest and she won't leave it, the rest of the eggs go cold! You're gonna love your fresh eggs in about 5 months!
Nov. 20, 2012 7:13 pm
Thanks, Petey! We have 12 more in a hatchery. Our town only lets us keep three, but I have friends willing to take on our bunch. It's incredible how fast they grow!
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I am an Allrecipes Allstar Brand Ambassador (a volunteer position), and I am not compensated for my work with Allrecipes.com. Products received from advertisers are only used for experience-based reviews on my personal blog. The reviews, content, and opinions expressed in this blog are all my own. **************** By the age of seven, I would wander into the local library to check out cookbooks to make creations at home. When I became a mother to four daughters, I had a good sized family to feed. I became great with saving money and making wonderful meals without breaking the bank. I started using the original Allrecipes sites when I was in my 20's in 1997. I made the discovery by typing in "cookierecipes.com" to see what would happen. From then on, I became an Allrecipes.com addict. I didn't "officially" join until 2010, but I've been here the entire time. :) Allrecipes saved me many times over for parties, pot lucks, graduations-even my oldest daughter's college senior recital.
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I love to bake breads, cookies, cakes, and pies. I have a smoker and love to grill. Whenever I want some company, I fire up the smoker and make my own homemade BBQ sauce for pulled pork. If that doesn't get you company in NY, nothing will. I create my own recipes, but love learning from other people. I love to see ideas, promote them, and share creativity. I can't think of anything I don't enjoy making. I just love trying to make anything. Holidays are some of my favorite times of the year. Allrecipes contains the secret to my success regarding making succulent turkey (yes, I once was a dry turkey person- NOT ANYMORE). I enjoy coming up with new ideas, new ways to use products, and I always like to test out new items that hit the shelves at the stores. I consider my kitchen to be my laboratory. However, I'm not opposed to quick and easy meals when life makes the call for it! After all, life was meant to be enjoyed...and, sometimes, that means quick and easy meals!
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Holidays and birthdays are my favorite times of the year. I enjoy making old family favorites and spending time together with my family. For Thanksgiving, I turned to Allrecipes years ago and discovered what putting a turkey in a brine can do. I tried it that year and never turned back. My husband proclaimed that I made the best turkey he ever ate. So, every year, I cut up all the vegetables ahead of time for the Thanksgiving meal. Then, I put the remains into a stockpot and create my own vegetable stock for a turkey brine. After soaking the turkey, I cook the turkey in a bag to make the most succulent turkey around. It's so juicy that it's hard to believe it's Thanksgiving - and there's no need to buy a special brand of turkey to get this result. I also love the old family go-to recipes. However, for stuffing, I found that making a homemade Challah bread creates the most unbelievable stuffing ever. Using a bread machine can make the whole process easier. You won't regret it!
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I started creating my own recipes when I had to live out of a pantry with little funds. I enjoy being creative, and this led to me becoming published. Later, I became an Allstars Brand Ambassador. I love the program because it let me be a part of a company that I respect and love so much in a way that I couldn't have imagined. Being a Brand Ambassador has been such a huge honor and great experience. I've met so many wonderful people due to it, and was thrilled to have the opportunity to represent Allrecipes through roasting pumpkin seeds on the Better TV show. I just want to give a big shout out to Better TV for giving me the opportunity to represent Allrecipes - a website I've been visiting for over 15 years. Here are the links to the pumpkin seed roasting: http://better.tv/view/food--amp--recipes2-food--amp--recipes-how-to-roast-pumpkin-seeds http://better.tv/view/food--amp--recipes2-food--amp--recipes-roasting-pumpkin-seeds-part-2
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I started cooking at a young age, and most of my mistakes took place during that time period. As a child, company was constant in our home. My mother knew I loved to cook and asked if I could make some of my Blonde Brownies for dessert that night for our company. I was 12 years old, and gladly started to prepare the dish. Unfortunately, my mother was out of vegetable oil. I went to the fridge and took out some reserve oil she had filtered after using it for deep frying. I figured it was still good and added it to the brownies. That night, when dinner was finished, the brownies were brought out. I took a bite of mine, and dropped it on the plate. The company ate the brownies and stated how good they were. My brownie had a horrible taste. It was at that moment that I realized the reserved oil was from my mother frying fish. Never again did I test the waters of used oil.
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