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Lawyer turns passion for rare birds into lucrative venture

ostrich quailsPeter King’ara, 44, has always been passionate about birds. He has travelled to different parts of the world looking for rare species to keep at his sanctuary in Gichiche Village, Othaya.

Under his Barefoot Venture project, the farmer-cum-lawyer keeps more than 30 different species of birds.

“I have gone as far as America and Britain to get some of these birds. I love birds and that’s why I have invested so much to grow my sanctuary,” he said.

Although he initially did not have plans of making money out of his bird collection hobby, after going through literature on the various birds at his farm, he discovered that there was potential to cash in on his passion.

“The birds that are rarely eaten like pigeons and peacocks have very beautiful feathers that fetch a lot of money in some countries,” he said.

Mr King’ara started his project in 2005 after visiting a friend, Babu Muthama, at his residence in Karen, Nairobi. The visit marked the beginning of his business.

The farm near Gichiche shopping centre which is 8km from Othaya in Nyeri is now home to birds that are rare elsewhere in the country. “I invested more than Sh2 million to start this project,” Mr King’ara said.

Some of the exotic birds in the farm are white guinea fowls, king pigeons, lion pigeons, fantail doves, Indian peacocks, ostriches, Bantams, Egyptian geese, red normal geese, quails and spotted guinea fowls, crown birds, the crested crane, turkeys, white and spotted ducks, white and spotted geese and local pigeons among others.

He says that ostrich meat can fetch a tidy sum since it is one of the most popular cholesterol-free red meat in the world.

Peacocks are mostly kept for beauty but while their breeding requirements are almost similar to chickens, they rake in earnings almost 100 times more.

“Besides, the bird’s tails fall off and grow back every two years, giving the farmer another opportunity to make some money. A single male peacock feather goes for Sh300.

Mr King’ara has seven ostriches in his farm which he bought from a farmer in Baringo as chicks at Sh12,000 each.

He uses them to promote domestic tourism. Local educational institutions and tourists visit the farm to see the different species of birds.

Mr King’ara says ostriches are on high demand in the Middle East and Europe. An ostrich egg goes for Sh3,000 and one bird produces up to seven eggs a year.

“A mature ostrich fetches about Sh450,000 while sale of peacock stock could earn up to Sh100,000 per bird. Eggs produced by the peacock earn a farmer Sh200,000 every laying season,” adds the lawyer.

He says that because of the nomadic nature of the peacock, it does not make a good breeder because it keeps on moving from the eggs. However, he uses turkeys for breeding of peacock.

The peacock chicks are removed from turkey’s care after 27 days to protect them from possible attack.

But since the land is not large enough to keep many birds, Mr King’ara says he plans to transfer them to his 180-acre ranch in Naru Moru where he will set aside about 40 acres to rear them. Structures to rear the birds at the ranch are under construction.

He says that apart from doing business, he wants to change the perception of many people who consider dry regions as unproductive.

The farmer has already transferred the ostriches to the ranch where he is also setting up Facing Mt Kenya Resort, which he says aims to tap Chinese and domestic tourists.

“I want to make it affordable to the local people and the Chinese market, which has not been taken care of properly in this country,” he says.

Mr King’ara adds that he will use his ostriches and three of the his horses to provide visitors rides around the farm and take for tour of Mt Kenya which is few kilometres away.

However, he says if the number of ostriches increases, he will sell some although a lack of abattoirs for the birds hinders him from selling their meat. A kilogramme of ostrich meat goes for Sh2,000.

The Maasai Ostrich Farm is the only outlet for the birds meat and eggs, which are in high demand.

The resort will cost about Sh250 million upon completion, which Mr King’ara says will be by mid this year.

In the same farm, located in the semi-arid part of Kieni, 50 acres are under horticulture whose produce he sells produce.

Mr King’ara has ready market for his produce which he cultivates on order. In a year, he says, sale of the produce earns him more than Sh15 million.

“I have been very busy with birds during the holidays and weekends. I now see myself transforming from a lawyer to a poultry farmer by investing heavily in this unique bird project,” he adds. “I have alternated between working at my law firm office in Nairobi and rearing rare bird breeds here.”

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) issued him licence several years ago so that he could host some of the protected birds he found during his tours.

KWS officials discovered his unique bird collection after getting several applications from him seeking permission to keep ostriches and quails.

In addition to the bird sanctuary, King’ara has established fishing ponds where local farmers learn how to keep fish. He also rears eight dairy cows, several dairy goats and keeps bees.

All these projects have four full-time employees.

He has used these projects to train local self-help groups on how to start income generating activities instead of relying on white collar jobs or staying idle due to unemployment.


Source Business Daily Posted  Monday, December 31   2012 

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Former fisherman hatches an idea for poultry business

home made chicken incubatorCommunities in the lakeside region have traditionally relied on fishing as their main source of livelihood but with declining stocks, most fishermen are diversifying their sources of income.

Stephen Ogembo, 39, is one such man who has shifted from fishing in Lake Victoria to poultry farming.

‘‘Fishing has been the main economic activity in the region, but since the invasion of the hyacinth weed which continues to choke the lake, the stocks have been reducing tremendously and fisher mongers are left with nothing to sell,’’ says Mr Ogembo.

He says: Fishing in the lake has recently become a tedious job given that the main species in the fresh water body are disappearing and as some fishermen visit the lake at night with the hope to harvest more species, they get marooned by the deadly weed.

A number of them are forced to spend cold nights in the lake as they try to make ends meet. Some of the fishermen have died after being trapped for several days and nights in the carpet of weed. He however says poultry farming is a lucrative business and since he ventured into the business two years ago, he has not looked back.

The resident of Dunga beach in Kisumu says he made his decision one evening when his family slept hungry after he returned from the lake empty-handed. His nine children and two wives solely depend on him.

He decided to look for an alternative source of livelihood and borrowed Sh20,000 with which he bought 50 crates of indigenous chicken eggs. His brother, a local veterinary doctor, helped him to source for funding.

‘‘Each crate was selling at Sh200 and I bought 50 dozen which amounted to Sh10, 000. The remaining money went into constructing an egg incubator and a poultry kit,” he says.

The incubators can hold between 240 and 1,000 eggs and this translates to 1,240 chickens within 21 days and with all the chickens streaming alive. It takes 21 days for the eggs to be hatched inside the incubator.

He says his success in  poultry farming was motivated by his second wife who developed a passion for the business when he started it in August 2011.

‘‘Every morning, before I place a dozen of eggs into the incubator, I use a poultry kit to check egg fertility and assess progress during incubation,’’ says Mr Ogembo.

The local agricultural innovator says the kit popularly known as candler can assess the defects in an egg and also check its progress.

Lighting system

‘‘I came up with this concept after encountering challenges with  my egg incubators when I wanted to determine the amount of heat in there. Candler kit can select and detect the eggs to be placed inside the incubator and those to leave outside,’’ He says.

He says the innovation is now gaining popularity and that poultry farmers are buying the kit from him. A candler with a lighting system goes for Sh1,200 and one without a lighting system retails at Sh800. But farmers can also use an ordinary torch to examine the eggs.

He says with the candler kit, poultry farmers can determine which hens lay eggs that cannot hatch and are due for culling. It is advisable to select an egg for hatching and it must be less than seven days old because as the egg ages, the air space gets bigger.

During the egg incubation, he advises farmers to check the outward physical appearance of eggs and ensure that they are of uniform colour and size.

The kit is hollow with a lighting fixture which a farmer places inside the hole before lighting it in a dark room. This is done when the farmer wants to check the egg’s condition.

‘‘If the air sac in the less pointed side is sagging and big, it is a sign that the egg has stayed for too long and that it is  dehydrated,’’ says Mr Ogembo.

Two yolks in an egg means that it is unsuitable for incubation. As a result, the egg cannot be placed in an incubator to hatch since it has lost half the amount of water in it.

Since he started the business, Mr Ogembo says he has bought over 30,000 hens which he rears and sells to traders in bulk depending on the orders.
Mr Ogembo’s business has gained popularity in the region with big hotels, local institutions and traders visiting his home to buy the chickens.

‘‘In a day I can sell over 5,000 chickens to my customers depending on the number they order, one chicken retails between Sh200 and Sh300 for indigenous and sh500 for broilers,’ ’he says.

Mr Ogembo says the amount he is earning now cannot be compared with what he used to get from the lake. His earnings, he says, has immensely grown with 80 per cent profit.

Story By Everline Okewo

Source Business Daily Posted  Sunday, March 31   2013 at  17:25


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Poultry farmers adopt improved indigenous breed of chicken

kenbro chicken breed in Kenya

kenbro chicken breed

This comes against a backdrop of increased cost of production for broilers and layers variety, where 70 per cent of the expenditure emanates from feeds, according to the stakeholders.

Kenbro, which belongs to Kenchic, was developed by a French company. The eggs from this type of chicken are in high demand with one selling at Sh30 compared to Sh15 for those from indigenous breeds and Sh12 for exotic breeds.

“For long, we had registered numerous losses as a result of high cost in maintaining broilers or layers, but with the Kenbro breed, that is now a thing of the past,” says Patrick Shiyuka, a poultry farmer in Uasin Gishu County.

Mr Shiyuka notes that Kenbro chicken, unlike the exotic breeds, are not heavy feeders and they can also feed on other types of feeds, not necessarily commercial ones.

“I feed these birds with cabbages and sukuma wiki, and they feed on them so well. This has played a significant role in cutting down the cost that I incur in buying commercial feeds,” says Mr Shiyuka.

According to the farmer who has 150 birds, he uses a 70-kilogramme bag of commercial feeds every week, which he considers as low compared to those who are rearing layers or broilers.

Triza Wanjiku, a poultry farmer who keeps pure exotic breeds of broilers says she spends a lot on feeds before selling them off after six weeks.

“I use not less than Sh64,000 on feeds alone. This is because the cost of commercial feeds has gone up and this type of breed that I keep is a heavy feeder,” says Ms Wanjiku.

Ms Mwangi who keeps 300 birds uses a 70-kilogramme bag of broiler mash daily that costs Sh3,870. According to Humphrey Mbugua, technical advisor Kenya Poultry Breeders Association, Kenbro is a hardy breed, compared to hybrid chicken and can be farmed free-range like the indigenous birds.

“Kenbro lays more eggs than indigenous chicken and has lean, soft, high quality meat that is very popular with consumers,” says Dr Mbugua.

Dr Mbugua says the breed matures faster than local birds with proper feeding, adding that they start laying eggs at five and a half to six months and can attain up to four kilogrammes.

“With good management, this breed is the best for farmers given their resilient nature,” says Dr Mbugua.

Depending on what the farmer wants, the bird can be managed to produce eggs or meat. When managed as a broiler with commercial feeds, it can achieve 1.5 kg in seven weeks, or after three weeks of brooding it can be managed on free range with minimal supplementary feeding and be ready for consumption or sale after 10 to 14 weeks, according to Dr Mbugua.

Out of 150 hens, Mr Shiyuka collects 149 eggs daily, noting that the production ability of this breed is near a hundred per cent. Another advantage of this breed, he says, is that they do well with any type of commercial feeds, whether high or medium yield.


Source: Business Daily (April 1   2013 )


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Prices of Poultry Egg Incubators in Kenya

48 eggs incubator
48 eggs mini incubator

Ecochicks Poultry Ltd is a supplier incubators for hatching eggs in Kenya. We have a partner manufacturer abroad and this makes our machine highly efficient to more than 90%,  very reduced prices compared to other sellers, warranty, support and maintenance for free for one year. We also offer trainings on handling incubators, hatching and brooding together with general poultry production..

Setting Capacity for Poultry Eggs Hatching Capacity for Poultry Eggs Model No Incubator Price
48 48 Fully Auto Eco48 Ksh20,000
60 60 Semi Auto Manual Egg Turner Ksh12,000
96 96 Huru100 Fully Auto Digital and Auto turner Ksh29,000
176 100 Huru180  Fully Auto Digital and Auto turner Ksh45,000
264 176 Huru280 Fully Auto Digital and Auto turner Ksh54,000
352 176 Huru360  Fully Auto Digital and Auto turner Ksh60,000
528 580 Huru530 Fully Auto Digital and Auto turner Ksh65,000
880 500 Leo900  Fully Auto Digital and Auto turner with a back up generator Ksh85000
1056 Leo1000 Digital Auto turner with a back up generator Ksh90,000
1232 500 Leo1000 Digital Auto turner with a back up generator Ksh100,000
2112 Leo1000 Digital Auto turner with a back up generator Ksh130,000


Mini incubators

These are small capacity incubators from ten eggs to 100 eggs capacity. The come in different shapes and operations. Some are fully automatic and others manual turning and controls.  Manual eggs incubators come in two main categories; manual turning and digital controls of temperature and humidity; manual turning and manual controls. They are best situated for

  • Hatching chicks for small scale poultry farmers
  • poultry and eggs hatching hobbies
  • School laboratory

Mini eggs incubators

Medium capacity incubators

These are capacities ranging 100 eggs to 2000 eggs. All of these eggs incubators are fully automatic. The controls for temperature and humidity are digital and turning is auto. Due to the capacity of this machine they require a ventilation fan, excess heat fan, water and air heating elements and turning motors.

The have the following

  • Digital displaying of temperature, humidity and turning frequency
  • Full automatically temperature controlling
  • Full automatically humidity controlling
  • Full automatically eggs turning
  • Full automatically alarming
  • Full automatically cooling and ventilator
  • Back emergency system
  • Microcomputer, completely automatic incubator
  • Hatching rate more than 90%.

Medium capacity eggs incubators


Get to us on 0727087285 or email us on You can ask any question or leave a comment here or on our twitter handle and on facebook


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A List of poultry farming equipment and their uses

Linear Feeder

Poultry farming is a very lucrative aspect of agriculture under livestock farming. For you to achieve maximum result in your poultry farming business, there are certain equipments that are necessary.

Now for those who are in the process of starting a poultry farming business or you are still in the planning phase, this writeup will prove valuable to you. It is also important you know that this article is a continuation of our poultry business plan publication. Without wasting your time, below is a comprehensive list of poultry equipments and there uses.

A List of Poultry Farming Equipments and their Uses

1.Water equipments

  • Pan and jar type.

This type of waterer is circular in nature, having two compartments i.e. jar for filling water and pan for delivering water.

  • Water basin made of plastic / wood/GI with grill

Basins of different diameters are available (10”, 12”, 14” and 16” diameter).

A separate grill is available to prevent the entry of birds inside the water.

  •  Bell type automatic waterer 

These are made of high-impact plastic in a bell shape usually suspended from separate pipeline for the purpose.

This type of waterers has control over the water flow and maintains the required water level always.

There will be a continuous flow of water so as to ensure water available for the birds throughout the day.

Height at which the water is available can be easily adjusted by simple clamp mechanism and rate of flow water is adjustable by a valve (spring-mounted). Plastic drinkers will be brightly colored (red,blue) and hence are expected to attract layers, especially chicks to water.

No. of bell-drinkers=1.3*(circumference÷ Drinker space)

  • Nipple drinker 

It can be used both in deep-litter and in cage system.Nipple drinker

When used in deep-litter system, it is attached with cup under the nipple to prevent wetting of litter material.

These drinkers look like a nipple and water drops comes out when they are pressed.

They can be used for all types and classes of birds, but most commonly used in laying cages.

One nipple drinkers in each cage housing 3 layers is sufficient.

  •  Manual drinker

In case of chicks during first week of brooding, manual drinkers are popularly used.

They also referred as “fountain drinkers” because water comes out of the holes like that in case of a fountain.manual drinker

The main advantage of manual drinkers is the ease of giving vitamins and other probiotics/medicines/vaccines through water.

Manual drinkers with stand made of high-impact plastic in bright colors (red or blue) are available.

Arrangement of drinkers at an equal distance of 0.6m between any two feeders and feeder and a drinker.

2.Feeding Equipments

Feeders are equipments used in feeding poultry birds. The food is deposited in the feeder and the birds feed from it. The amount of feeders provided for a poultry farm should be according to to amount of birds available. It is important that you always keep the feeders clean to ensure the health safety of the birds.

  •  Linear feeder 

Different sizes of linear feeder with guards are available.

Provision is also made to adjust the height of the feeder.Linear Feeder

Linear feeders are usually made of Galvanized Iron. However it can as well be made out of any locally available material like wood, bamboo, etc.

Provisions for stability and adjustment in height at which the feeder stands have to be made in its design.

Birds can stand on either side of the linear feeder.

Total feeder space available = 2* length.

No of linear feeders = (2*Length of the feeder) ÷ Feeder space with all measurements in cm.

  • Circular feeder 

These are semi-automatic feeders and can hold 5 to 7 kg feed in its cone at a time.

The feed is slowly delivered to the bottom by gravity.

It can also be attached with feed grills to prevent wastage.Circular Feeder

These are made of high plastic and usually suspended from roof/ roof-truss or from separate pipeline for the purpose.

These are also called as ‘hanging feeders’.

These feeders are available in different capacity and when completely full, the feed will suffice 4 to 7 days, depending upon the age and number feeding on them.

The height at which the feed is available can be easily adjusted by simple clamp mechanism.

Plastic feeders will be brightly colored (red or blue, generally) and hence are expected to attract layers, especially chicks to feed.

No. of hanging feeders = 1.3* (Circumference ÷ Feeder space) with all measurements in cm.

30% more birds can be accommodated in a hanging feeder when compared to that in linear feeder.

  • Shell grit box 

It is used to provide shell grit to the layer birds as a supplemental source of grit box

  • Automatic feeder 

In case of automatic feeder the feed is supplied to the entire length of the poultry Automatic Feederhouse by specially designed feed troughs with auger type or chain type devices to move the feed from the feed bins to the other end.

These are operated with electricity and the height of the feeder can be adjusted depending upon the age of the birds.

  • Heaters or Brooders

It is essential that the temperature of the poultry farm be regulated especially during cold weather. The heater or brooder is an equipment used in regulating and increasing the temperature of the poultry farm. These helps to keep the birds warm when the weather is cold.

  • Charcoal stove / kerosene stove

Charcoal stoveThese are used in places where electricity is not available or costly and where power failure is quite common.

These stoves are covered with plates or pans to sustain the heat in the brooding area.

  •  Gas brooder

Gas brooderNatural gas, LPG or methane is connected to heating element which is hanged 3 to 5 feet above the chick to provide heat.

It is attached with canopy type reflectors to reflect the heat towards the chicks.


  •  Infra-red bulbsinfra-red bulbs

It is a self reflecting bulb and hence no need of reflector over the bulbs.

150 and 250 watt bulbs are available to provide sufficient heat to 150 and 250 chicks, respectively.  

  •  Reflectors/ Hovers 

These reflectors are called Hovers.Light reflector

These are reflectors of heat and light.

These hovers are flat provided with heating element, heating mechanism and pilot lamp and in some cases thermometer are also there in order to record the temperature.

Generally they are mounted with stands on all four corners, instead of hanging from the roof.

Other Poultry Farming Equipments and their Uses
  • Incubator

This is an instrument used in hatching eggs. Egg hatchery with an incubator can be described as a means of hatching of eggs in an unnatural way. These means can be employed when there are many eggs to be hatched.

  • Chick box

The chick box is an equipment where the poultry birds are kept for egg laying. It has a roll away egg tray attached to it so that when eggs are layed, they roll away and the birds will not trample on the eggs. This particular equipment help in preventing egg damage.

  • Fly Tray

Fly trap is an equipments used in controlling the number of  flies around a poultry farm. It helps to poultry farmer reduce the number of  flies in the poultry.

  • Poultry Plucker Rubber Finger

This is an equipment applied to chicken dressing machine. These rubber fingers are fixed to the bottom and side plate of the of the dressing machine in order to produce many dressed chicken in a short period.

  • Egg Tray

This is an equipments used in setting the eggs. Just like the name, it is a tray-like equipment where the eggs are place for sampling.

  • Poultry Incubator Controller

Poultry incubator controller is an equipments used for controlling the incubator and timer counter. It displays the temperature and humidity condition of the incubator.

  • Ventilation Fan

The ventilation fan is an equipments used for ensuring maximum ventilation in the poultry farm. It is also an equipments used in reducing the temperature of the poultry farm  during a hot weather.

  • Laying Nest

Laying nest is another equipment that help the birds for laying of eggs. One of the advantages of this equipment is that it increases the egg productivity of the poultry birds.

  • Egg Scale

This is an equipments used in weighing the weight of the eggs. It helps the poultry farmer know the eggs that are fertile enough for hatchery because it is assumed that an under weight egg does not have what it take to form a chick.

  • Egg Washer

Egg washer is an equipment  that makes use of a powder called the egg washing powder. Water is added into the egg washer and then the egg washing powder is added also. It is used for washing the eggs before delivery.

  • Water Pots and Drinkers

Neat water is required for growth and digestion in poultry birds just like in humans. Therefore, the drinkers are equipments used for supplying water to the birds. You must ensure that the drinkers are washed regularly to avoid disease.

  • Cages and Coops

This poultry equipments is used for keeping poultry birds. Coops and cages are poultry equipments suitable for small scale poultry farming.

  • Dressing Machine

This is an equipment used for feathering birds after slaughter. The use of a dressing machine  makes chicken dressing easier, clean and hygienic.

Lastly, the use of protective clothing for humans is very necessary. Special protective clothing like hair caps, disposable sleeves, boots and coverall are required to avoid  transfer or contamination from the birds to man or from man to the birds. Also, it is important to ensure that visitor disinfect their hands before touching the birds.

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How to make mobile Poultry Structures

Technically, the pastured poultry method doesn’t allow chickens to roam
freely, eating whatever they want. Instead, it’s a system of confining chickens
on a piece of grass or pasture that should be managed or cared for so that it
provides the maximum benefits for chickens. Most pastured poultry are also
fed some commercial feed or grains.
Chickens that are pastured can be kept in small, moveable housing units with
built-in shelters or confined in large, fenced areas that are moved, with a freestanding
shelter that is also moved with the chickens. Chickens can also be
rotated through a series of permanently fenced areas. Each area may have its
own shelter, or one shelter may move with the chickens among the areas.

Pastured poultry is often thought of as easy poultry-keeping, but it requires
some intensive management to be successful. While the costs for feed may be
greatly reduced and the birds get a natural, healthy diet, work is involved with
managing the pasture and moving the enclosures. Poultry manure is hard on
grasses, as is the scratching of chickens. Pastured poultry need to be rotated
to a clean pen before the vegetation in their enclosure is seriously damaged.

Tractor-type coops can be used to raise meat birds, although the hybrid
broilers may do better in more conventional housing. Tractor coops can also
be used with young pullets being raised to laying age or even with laying
hens. In the case of hens, nest boxes must be included in the coop and the
hens must have easy access to them. Tractor coops can also be used with
pet or show chickens.

The drawbacks to this type of housing include the following:
✓ It works best in mild weather. Really hot, cold, or wet weather causes
✓ There must be space to move the coops to a clean spot, and the housing
must be moved regularly.
✓ The chickens may be vulnerable to predators. The coops are often placed
far away from the human housing, so strong wire must be used on the
sides, or predators will break in. Predators may also dig under the frame.
✓ In most of these setups, it’s hard to catch chickens if the need arises.
You can’t easily get inside some of the smaller units, and when you lift a
side, you may have chickens everywhere.
✓ Feed and water containers may be hard to access.

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Helping a chick hatch

Sometimes people feel sorry for a chick that appears to be having trouble
getting out of an egg. It may have pipped (made a tiny hole) and have its beak
out, but it may seem unable to proceed any farther.
The temptation is great to help these chicks, but doing so can cause more
harm than good. You can’t just pull the shell off. Hatching is a slow process
even in ideal conditions — you have to be patient.
Generally, when eggs pip but then fail to hatch, the temperature, oxygen
level, or humidity is too low. The temperature may drop because someone is
constantly opening the incubator to check on the chicks’ progress. Poor ventilation
may cause the chicks to become weak because of a lack of oxygen.
And humidity can get too high and actually drown hatching chicks because
they can’t breathe. Many experienced chicken owners believe that chicks
that can’t hatch on their own when conditions are right are doomed to either
die anyway or live a weak, unhealthy life.

Sometimes the membrane has dried out too much around the chick, or the
chick is in a bad position for hatching. If the pipped hole isn’t in the large end
of the egg, the chick is in the wrong position. If you see no hole but hear peeping
inside, the chick also may be in the wrong position. If there’s a hole in the
right area but the chick can’t seem to finish hatching, the membranes may be
dried out.
In these cases, helping — slowly and carefully — can save a healthy chick.
Make sure the chick is still alive — it will move or peep if it is. If you’ve
decided to try to help the chick, start by making a warm operating area with
a padded, clean surface. Sterilize a small pair of nail scissors and a pair of
tweezers with rubbing alcohol or by boiling them for a few minutes. Have
some clean, warm water nearby.
Under the shell is a thick membrane, loaded with blood veins. The chick has
already pierced the membrane in one spot if it has started to hatch. If you tear
the membrane too early, it will bleed profusely and either weaken the chick or
kill it.

With the scissors and tweezers, carefully pick little pieces of shell off the
membrane, around the hole in the egg. Ideally you work like the chick would,
circling the large end of the egg and removing half the shell. Around the air
cell there may be no membrane, allowing you to remove shell pieces easily. If
the chick has started a hole in the side or small end of the egg, the chick is in
the wrong position, which is why it’s having difficulty hatching. You need to
be even more careful in this case.
Be careful not to cut the chick. If you cut a vein in the membrane and it
bleeds, stop at once and put the chick in the incubator. There’s nothing you
can do to stop the bleeding. The bleeding will probably stop, but it weakens
the chick. You can start again in an hour or so if the chick is still alive and
not free.
If half the shell is removed and the head and neck are exposed, the chick
should become active and wiggle out of the rest of the membrane and egg.
Moisten the membrane that’s left with a little warm water and place the chick
with some shell still attached back in the incubator. It will probably just lay
there for awhile. If the chick isn’t up and walking within an hour or so, it’s
probably too weak to survive.

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Looking Inside the Egg

When you’re incubating eggs, you may want to know what’s going on inside
them. If you’re new to incubation or you have children, you may want to
open an egg every couple of days and look inside. This will kill the embryo, of
course, but it gives you a fascinating look at the miracle of a chick forming in
just 21 short days — from a glob of cells to a baby chick that can run around
and feed itself. If you decide to open eggs and look inside, we suggest opening
them on the 3rd, 7th, 12th, and 16th days of incubation.
You may even want to set extra eggs so you have eggs to sacrifice for this little
biology lesson. You may hit some eggs that didn’t develop embryos, so set
even a few more. For example, if you intend to open four eggs, you may want
to start eight more eggs than you want to end up with.

If you don’t want to open eggs and sacrifice the chicks inside just for a biology
lesson, you’ll be relieved to know that you can get a glimpse inside without
opening an egg. In this section, we show you how.

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Hatching eggs

On the 18th day of incubation, you also need to increase the humidity in the
incubator to 65 to 70 percent. You may want to increase the ventilation —
refer to your incubator’s directions to see whether doing so is advised. Get
your brooder set up and warmed on the 20th day so you can transfer the
chicks to it (see Chapter 14 for more on brooders).
Eggs that were put in the incubator at the same time should hatch within
18 hours of each other (see the section “Knowing what to look for: Stages of
embryonic growth” later in this chapter for more on embryo growth). Chicks
struggle to get out of the egg, and it may take some time for a chick to fully
hatch. If a chick requires help hatching, it usually isn’t a strong, healthy chick.

When chicks start hatching, people get excited, and they want to open the incubator
and handle the chicks. Stop right there!Leave the chicks alone until they
are dry and fluffy. They’re fine in the incubator for a few hours while the others
hatch. Remove the dry fluffy ones every six hours and put them in the brooder.
Every time you open the incubator, you lower the temperature and humidity
and make it harder for those still hatching. If there are eggs left after 18 hours
from the time the first chick hatched, you can leave them for another 24 hours,
but after that, examine some of them for signs of pipping or just throw them out.

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Caring for eggs in the incubator

A mother hen seems to know instinctively what her eggs need. If it’s very hot,
she gets off the eggs to let them cool a little; if it’s cold, she sits tightly. Her
body provides the perfect humidity, and she fills it with water herself. When
you take over the job of incubation, you can never be as good as a hen, but,
with careful attention to details, you can have a successful hatch from an

Turning eggs

Hens don’t actually turn their eggs with their beaks on a regular basis as
many people think. (They do occasionally rearrange them with their beaks,
but it’s usually for their own comfort.) Instead, their coming and going from
the nest and shifting positions to get comfortable alter the position of the egg
several times a day.

There’s some debate about turning eggs, but most experts believe the position
of eggs should be changed two or three times a day for the first 18 days
of incubation. Automatic egg turners can do this for you, or you can do it
yourself by rolling the eggs to a new position. The turning keeps the embryo
from becoming attached to the outer membranes and the eggshell. If you’re
turning the eggs yourself, do it quickly so you don’t chill the eggs too much.

If you have egg racks for turning eggs in your incubator, place the eggs in the
racks with the small end down. If you’re using an incubator without racks, lay
the eggs on their sides. Cluster them in the center of the incubator if there’s
lots of room.

Wash your hands before handling eggs. Oil or bacteria from your hands
can cause hatching problems. Warm hands are much friendlier to eggs than
cold ones. (How do you feel when someone touches you suddenly with cold
hands?) And be sure to wash your hands again after touching the eggs.

On the 18th day, stop turning the eggs. If you’re using an automatic egg
turner, be sure to turn it off. The chicks are getting in position to hatch, and
they don’t have much room to move around anyway. If you change the position
of the eggs at this point, the chicks have to reposition themselves for
hatching, and doing so wastes valuable energy and may even make it impossible
for them to hatch.