When Do Chicks Need Food And Water After Hatching?


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Your chicks have started hatching but you’re not sure what to do next you may be wondering when do chicks need food and water after hatching?

Chicks can safely stay inside the incubator for 24-48 hours after they have hatched. Once they have fully dried off they can be moved to the brooder where they will have food and water.

If you are new to raising baby chicks you probably have many questions about how to do it right.

You’ve waited a long time for your chicks to hatch and you want to give them the best start possible.

But sometimes what we think is the best choice to make might be the wrong one.

When should you feed chicks after hatching text overlaid on a photo of a yellow chick being held in a woman's hands.

For example, you might think that it’s a good idea to feed newly hatched chicks right away. But opening up your incubator or removing the chicks from it too soon can actually cause harm to the chicks.

The truth is that chicks can safely stay inside the incubator for up to 48 hours so there is no rush to move them into the brooder.

How Do You Count The Time From Pip or Hatch?

Newly hatched chicks in their brooder.
Newly hatched chicks in their brooder.

The hatching process goes through 3 stages. The first is the pip when the chick uses its beak to break a small hole in the shell.

The next is called the zip. This is when the chick works its way around the middle of the eggshell breaking a line open.

It starts from the pip hole and continues all the way around until the eggshell is weak enough to break open.

The final stage is when the chick finally breaks the shell open and has hatched. This is the time that they can stay another 24-48 hours in the incubator from.

You don’t have to leave your chicks in the incubator that long though. They do need to stay inside until they are fully dried off.

Why Chicks Don’t Need Food Right Away

During the hatching process chicks are slowly absorbing their yolk sack.

This provides moisture and nutrients for their first few days out of the shell. This means that newly hatched chicks can go 1-3 days without needing to eat easily if they have to.

This natural behavior helps the mother hen stay on the nest while the chicks hatch over a period of 24 to 36 hours.

Otherwise, she would have to leave the nest to teach the first chicks that hatched how to find food and water.

This would cause many healthy chicks to be abandoned in their shells before they had a chance to hatch.

So you can see that if you need to wait a day or two before removing the chicks from the incubator while you wait for the rest of the eggs to hatch isn’t a bad thing.

This is why it’s so easy for nurseries to ship day-old chicks all around the country without having to feed and water them in the shipping boxes.

When Do Chicks Need Food And Water After Hatching

A newly hatched yellow chick.
A newly hatched yellow chick.

Once they have fully dried off and you move them to the brooder you will want to make sure you have food and water ready for them.

As you put each chick inside take a second to dip the tip of their beak into the water, then into the food. This helps to teach them where to find it on their own.

It’s very important that you use the right containers for young chicks. They aren’t the strongest little ones and it’s easy for them to drown in water containers that are too deep.

Feeding Chicks Hatched Out By A Hen

Caring for chicks that have been hatched out by your hens is the easiest because the mother hen does most of the work for you.

The mother will teach the chicks by talking and showing them what food they should be eating as well as how to drink water.

It’s best to still provide chick safe feeders and water containers. Water being the most important as chicks can easily fall into large containers and drown.

Place a shallow container filled with chick starting crumbles on the ground close to where the hen has her nest.

This will make sure the chicks have easy access to food as soon as possible without the hen needing to leave the nest before all the eggs have finished hatching.

But Do You Have To Wait?

It’s important to remember that although chicks can go a few days without eating when they first hatch out, that doesn’t mean they have to.

If all of your eggs have hatched in the incubator at the same time and the chicks have dried off it’s certainly ok to move them to the brooder and place food and water out.

The only real reason to wait on removing the baby chicks from the incubator is that opening it can lower the humidity inside.

That can cause chicks that are still in the process of pipping out to get shrink-wrapped. Basically, the membrane around them gets very dry and hard making it a much harder task for them to get out of the egg.

Just remember you don’t need to worry about feeding chicks as soon as they hatch. Let them fully dry off and wait until the rest of the chicks have hatched to move them to the brooder if possible.

Before your chicks hatch out make sure you have at least these things ready for them too.

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