I am a chick-hatching machine, literally

COVID Chronicles
Melissa M. Fisher, Advertising Sales Representative
Thursday, August 27, 2020

I have kept all breeds of chickens for just over seven years. Silkies are, by far, my favorite.

I have so much invested in them. Not money, just time and heart.

My days start with silkies, ends with my silkies and I spend all hours in between with them, as well.

My silkies are my little buddies. They are very docile. They are even called cats of the chicken world, because they are happy just to chill on your lap.

One of my silkies, Yolko-Ono, enjoys her five toes painted (most other chickens have just four toes).

Silkies get their name from their atypical fluffy plumage. My chicks were homegrown, and home hatched.

And it’s just about time for a new brood to make their debut. According to my calculations, today is the day the eggs in the incubator will hatch. After 21 days of watching the temperatures and humidity we are like kids at Christmas.

You may wonder what happens after 21 days of watching eggs? It’s incredible. You think you are hearing things, but you are not! You are actually hearing chirps from within the eggs.

You think you are seeing things, but you are not! You are seeing little tremors! The eggs are shaking and what’s within is ready to bust out.

So now what? You wait some more. I plan on not sleeping for the next few days.

Then it finally happens — a pip.

A pip is the small hole the tiny chick creates in the shell from inside the egg to help start the hatching process.

Up until this point, I can kind of gauge which eggs will hatch, and which will not. I call them the growers and quitters. I marked them three days before they went on lockdown.

Now we are all kind of on lockdown, right? Lockdown for the eggs means they are in the incubator and there is no touchy-touchy. I cannot turn the eggs or add water for added humidity. Lockdown is go time.

I see one pip, now two, now three. *squeal* And then I see a zipper. In egg terms, a chick zips an egg when they chip through the shell and slowly rotate around the interior of the egg, creating a line in the shell that looks like a zipper. It means the baby chick is cracking out soon.

And by “soon” I mean anywhere from 20 minutes to 24 hours, or more. It’s excruciating to watch — just for me, not them. I watch from behind the glass as the little chicks peck their way out. I want to help them. I am a mom; I hate to see my babies struggling. Much to my relief, they always make it out. They are kind of gooey, but very cute and chirpy as heck.

I am still a novice when it comes to the incubator, but I love to research and my research has told me baby chicks can live up to 72 hours in the incubator due to the nutrition they receive from the egg. So within 24 to 48 hours, or as soon as they are fluffy, I bust them out of the incubator and move them to the brooder.

The brooder, which is a fancy name for chick daycare, has a nice heat lamp, some pine shavings, water and food. The amount of personality these chicks accumulate within a few hours is amazing. They quickly learn the ropes and then BOOM, months later they become beautiful fluffy birds that people admire from social media posts or from visiting the coop.

Melissa M. Fisher, Advertising Sales Representative at Big Horn County News, spends most of her time at her family’s North Valley ranch. On top of her daily chick/chicken duties, she also cares for 12 dogs, seven goats, nine cats and three baby bison, plus one husband and two small humans. She can be reached at ads@bighorncountynews.com or (406) 351-4200.