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Days 17-21: Happy Birthday!

How the Chick Hatches

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The following description of how the chick hatches from its shell comes from our online resource From Egg To Chick. Pictures have been added to illustrate the process being described.

From Egg To Chick contains many pieces of useful information, though some of that information we have written about in greater detail here in these embryology pages. The instructions on how to build an incubator and how to take care of the chicks after they hatch are invaluable, and are recommended reading.

HOW THE CHICK EMERGES FROM THE SHELL

The head of the chick develops at the large end of the egg. Between the 15th and 16th days, the chick orients itself so that its head is near the air cell at the large end of the egg. Not long before the chick is ready to attempt to make its way out of the shell its neck acquires a double bend so that its beak is under its right wing and pointed toward the air cell. About the 19th day the chick thrusts its head forward. Its beak quickly breaks through the inner shell membrane, and the chick's lungs begin to function. Complete breathing by the lungs usually does not occur until the 20th day of incubation.

Pipping at the Shell

Using its egg tooth (a tiny, sharp, horny projection on the end of its beak), the chick pecks at the shell thousands of times. Finally, the young bird pips its way through the shell and begins to breathe air directly from the outside. After the chick has made a hole in the shell, it stops pipping for three to eight hours and rests. During this time, it is acclimating its lungs to the outside atmosphere. After the resting stage is completed, the second stage of pipping begins.

The chick begins to turn slowly inside the egg. Pushing Through As it turns, usually counter-clockwise, the cutting edge of the chick tooth continues to chip away. In two to five hours, the chick has made about three quarters of a turn inside the egg. As the chick progresses in its movement around the shell, it begins pushing on the egg cap (large end). Squirming and struggling, the chick works feverishly for about 40 minutes pushing at the cap. Finally with a vigorous shove, the chick breaks free from the shell, still wet and panting.

Wet and Exhausted

When the chick is freed completely from the shell, it lies still. Its energy has been virtually exhausted, and it is extremely tired. After a rest of some few minutes, the chick begins to rise to its feet and gain coordination of its muscles. Within a few days the egg tooth, its usefulness over, will disappear.







Fluffy and Fresh


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