Frequently Asked Questions
How long will it take for a chicken to hatch?
Once the chick has started to pip the egg (put the first hole in it so you can see the tip of its beak), it will take between 2 hours and 24 hours.
How do we care for the chicks once they hatch?
Once the chicks hatch it will be wet and weak. It needs stay in the incubator for the next 24 hours until it is dry and fluffy. It won't require any food over this time.
It may be transfered to the brooding box after 24 hours where it can start pecking at the starter crumbs and drinking water.
A booklet will be provided on looking after the chick.
Help. Not all of the eggs hatched!
Sometimes the weak chicks are not strong enough to hatch and can die inside the shell. It is OK to help any chicks that have been struggling for a long time out of their shells. In nature only the strongest survive. If by Friday there are still eggs that have not hatched they need to be wrapped in a plastic bag and disposed of.
Can we pick the chicks up?
Yes! Once the chicks are in the brooder box they can be picked up gently under supervision of a responsible adult. You must wash your hands before and after handling the chicks.
How do we pick the chicks up and hold them?
Slowly and gently reach under the chick and pick it up. Allow the chick to stand on one hand with the other hand cupped around the chick. If you cup both your hands around the chick it will think it is still in its egg and shut its eyes and fall asleep.
Can we keep the chickens at the end of the program?
Yes!! As long as you have facilities to care for the chickens on a permanent basis. An enclosed chicken pen is best for keeping predators away from your chickens at night. It is ideal for the chickens to also have access to grass to graze on.
Keep in mind that half the chickens will be hens and half will be roosters. Remember due to a roosters crowing they are illegal to keep in some built up areas.
How do I care for the chicks?
The chicks should go home in groups of at least 3 as they are very social animals and need company.
For the first 6 weeks you will need:
A cardboard box for the chicken to sleep in at night, lined with newspaper
A heat lamp or 2 hot water bottles covered with a towel to keep the chicks warm all night
A small cage or chicken coop that they can run around in during the day on the grass with shelter
Permanent Access to water and chicken starter crumbs. Available at most pet shops for about $4
Safety away from cats, dogs and other animals that may harm your chicks
When the chicks are about 6 weeks old or fully feathered they shouldn't require heat. They will need a dry place to roost at night.
Can I hatch an egg I bought from the shops in an incubator?
No. An egg needs to be fertile to hatch. The eggs we use must be laid by hens who have been fertilised by a rooster. Also if eggs are put in the refrigerator the egg becomes infertile.
What happens to the chickens if we do not want to keep them at the end of the program?
The chickens will go to a purpose built free range farm where they have an acre of land to spread their wings and scratch all day long.
How can we tell the difference between the males and the females?
It is very difficult to distinguish between male and female chickens as their reproductive organs are internal. There are a number of methods but none are 100% accurate. The most accurate method is vent sexing but this is a very specialised skill which requires years of experience and a keen eye. This method is about 95% accurate.
The second method is the sourcing of breeds that are sex linked where the males will be a difference colour to females, this method is only 80% accurate. The third method is feather sexing but this only works on specific breeds. The best way for the average backyard chicken keeper is to wait until 6-8 weeks and look carefully at the chickens. The roosters will generally develop bigger combs and wattles and their legs will be longer and thicker.
How long does it take for my chicken to start laying eggs?
A pullet (young female chicket) will start laying eggs between 22-26 weeks. The first eggs will be tiny and may not have a shell.
How many eggs will a hen lay?
Hens lay between 250-300 eggs a year.
How long does a hen live for?
Chickens live for between 5-8 years.