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Poultry: Reproduction & Incubation

Chick removal from hatchery

The time period that is normally recommended between hatching and removal of chicks from the hatching unit or incubator is about 1 to 24 hours.

The earliest elapsed time before removal is usually about 1 hour. The ideal chick must be able to walk well and has dried, fluffy down. If the chick is still wet, it should stay in the hatcher even if all other chicks are ready for removal. A wet chick becomes quickly chilled and often dies soon after removal.

If all eggs do not hatch within 24 hours after the first hatchling emerges, open the hatching unit and remove all dry chicks. Leave wet chicks until they are dry and strong. It is best to remove chicks at 18 to 24 hours intervals after the first chick hatches. If chicks are still hatching when the hatcher is opened, it is important to quickly remove dry chicks and close the hatcher before the humidity drops too low.

The primary reason for not allowing the chicks to stay in the hatcher for longer periods is excess dehydration of the chicks. The chicks have enough food reserves to provide their bodies with nourishment for 3 days. They do not have additional moisture reserves and can become dehydrated if left in the hatcher too long. A dehydrated chick is identified by looking at the scaly portion of the legs (shanks). If the shanks are smooth and rounded, the chick is normal and does not immediately need water. If the shanks are angular and show sharp angles on the front and backs, they are dehydrated and in a stage of stress. Be sure that plenty of cool, fresh drinking water is available in the brooding area.

Additional information on proper incubation practices can be found in Hatching Quality Chicks and Hatchery Management Guide.