When Can I Move my Chicks to the Brooder from the Incubator?

After waiting patiently for three long weeks for your eggs to hatch, it's hard to wait a minute more to move your newly hatched chicks to the brooder you have set up for them, but it really is best for them to just leave them right where they are - in the incubator. There's really no rush to move them. 

So when can baby chicks be moved to the brooder?

I would recommend leaving your chicks in the incubator for 12-24 hours after they hatch. They should be completely dry and fluffy - and starting to get active. I generally don't move mine to the brooder until several have hatched and they get active and start to move around and knock into the remaining unhatched eggs. There's really no rush to get them out until the incubator starts getting crowded!


Before you worry about your chicks being hungry or thirsty after they hatch, let's back up a bit. Just before breaking out of the eggshell, the chick absorbs the yolk in the egg. That yolk contains enough nutrition and energy for them to subsist for several days. In fact, an egg yolk provides every nutrient needed for life except Vitamin C. This is what allows breeders and hatcheries to pop newly hatched chicks into boxes and ship them to you across the country. They are just fine without any food or water until they reach their destination. 


But the real reason Mother Nature set things up that way is to allow a mother hen to continue sitting on any unhatched eggs after the first chicks have hatched - and not have to worry about heading out with the early hatchees to search for something to eat.

She can sit for another day or two on the unhatched eggs, and her baby chicks will be just fine. Since most clutches of eggs hatch within 24 hours or so of each other, she has plenty of time to wait for all her eggs to hatch without her firstborns starving!


If you take the chicks out of the incubator too soon and they're not completely dry, they can easily get chilled (even under a heat lamp). In addition, they are so exhausted from hatching, all they do for the first few hours anyway is sleep and recover from their ordeal. The consistent temperature in the incubator is the perfect spot for a nap.

I also believe that the peeping of the hatched chicks helps to encourage the unhatched chicks to break out of their shell. Yet another reason to leave the hatched chicks in the incubator for awhile.


One last reason to wait to move your chicks to the brooder: every time you open the incubator, you're messing with the humidity level inside, so it's best to wait and then move several chicks at a time. (I also remove the broken eggshells and discard them when I take the chicks out.) That way you don't have a single chick alone in the brooder either.


So don't be in a hurry to move your chicks from the incubator into the brooder. Let them rest and then move them in batches when they're completely ready to go. Up to 48 hours in the incubator isn't going to hurt them one bit.
Maxi II Eco Incubator courtesy of Brinsea.com
(use the promo code FRESH for 10% off your purchase at www.brinsea.com)

Resources/Further Reading:
Brinsea Incubation FAQs
Caring for your Baby Chicks from My Pet Chicken
Basic Baby Chick Care

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