Frequently Asked Questions
I've never done anything like this before - what if something goes wrong or I am unsure about anything?
We understand first time hatchers can find the responsibility of caring for newly hatched living creatures a little nerve-wracking. Full instructions are given when the kit is set up for you. The vast majority of hatches are problem free. However, on occasion a chick or duckling can hatch with problems or questions can arise. We provide a contact number throughout the hire period. With our service you can rest assured you will be supported with expert information and advice if and when needed.
Is it safe?
Hatching chicks and ducklings is an extremely low risk activity, which simply requires common sense, such as ensuring equipment is positioned safely and general hygiene rules are followed.
All pet animals have the capacity to carry disease, whether a dog, cat, fish, small mammal, reptile or bird. Common sense actions such as good husbandry and washing hands after handling both the animal and droppings will manage this risk.
We provide all settings with a risk assessment during the week prior to the commencement of their booking. This outlines what the supervising adult needs to be aware of, but these risks are minimal. We have full public liability insurance.
A note about ‘pathogen-free’ chicken eggs…
‘Pathogen-free’ is a term often used to describe the status of chicken eggs originating from large, industrial, factory farmed hatcheries. These are intensive, disease-prone environments. This means they require additional health safeguards and labelling to ensure the eggs and birds leaving them are deemed fit to enter the human food chain.
Although these ‘pathogen-free’ eggs are readily available cheaply by the thousands and used by some hatching providers in their hatching kits, we choose not to source our chicken eggs from these types of highly intensive units. This is for both ethical and practical reasons: the parent birds are not kept in the natural manner to which we subscribe and hatched birds are of such little economic value compared to pure or rare breeds that they are sadly very difficult to rehome after the hatching experience is over.
The risk of catching a disease from birds raised in traditional, low-intensity farm settings is deemed so small that the eggs our birds produce are not subject to the same certification as that of a factory farm. We are proud that our birds are not reared in the category of environment which legally requires these additional health safeguards to ensure our eggs are safe. As smallholders have done for centuries, and as people in every civilisation do on a daily basis across the globe, we eat eggs from our own birds – straight from the field! We also supply free range eggs for human consumption to local people wishing to avoid factory farmed products.
It is of course up to individual teachers and managers to decide which method of farming they would rather support; intensive factory farms or ethical, low-intensity, high-welfare producers. The eggs themselves may look similar when incubating in your classroom or nursing home, but as with eating eggs and chicken sold in shops and supermarkets, there are enormous differences between how the two came to be.
Please visit ‘About Us’ to see our practices for yourself – we very much doubt those hatching providers using factory farmed ‘pathogen-free’ chicken eggs will be willing to do the same!
All chicken AND duck eggs used in our hatching kits are from DEFRA registered flocks where applicable.
Don't the eggs need turning?
All our eggs are incubated in professional incubators prior to arrival, where they are automatically turned, and temperature and humidity is constantly monitored and accurately controlled. In the final days of incubation, the eggs should no longer be turned. This is when we deliver your eggs, so there is no need for you to rotate the eggs any further. With natural incubation, a mother bird would also stop turning the eggs. This is to allow the hatchling to position and orientate itself to hatch. On delivery we will show you how to monitor the temperature in the incubator, and how to easily maintain the high levels of humidity required in these final stages.
Don't baby birds need a mother?
A mother hen nurturing her chicks or a mother duck with her ducklings is a very natural and wonderful sight. However, it is a little known fact that many domestic chicken and duck breeds never – or very rarely – ‘go broody’, which is the hormonal state they need to reach in order to sit and incubate their own eggs. Although they lay lots of eggs, these eggs would simply never hatch unless they were incubated by other means. Many of our fabulous old heritage breeds would therefore very quickly become extinct. Even with breeds which do ‘go broody’, only a tiny fraction of the eggs they produce each year are ever hatched naturally by their mother into chicks or ducklings. If nature were left to its own devices, there would be far fewer chickens or ducks on the planet than there are now – certainly nowhere near enough to satisfy our demands for eggs and meat. This is why humans have been incubating eggs since at least Ancient Egyptian times.
Unlike mammals, the offspring of poultry do not feed from their parents, so their needs can quite easily be met by humans.
Why do so many domestic breeds never want to rear their own young?
In the same way that all domestic dog breeds are thought to have descended from wolves, all chicken breeds are descended from a wild bird known as Red Junglefowl. All duck breeds are descendants of either wild Mallards or Muscovies. Once these wild birds have laid a clutch of eggs, they go broody, incubate them and then rear their young. It’s thought that we humans started to domesticate poultry for our own use about 8000 years ago. We began to develop new breeds and wanted birds which produced more eggs and were less inclined to ‘go broody’, because broodiness stops egg production. This was achieved by selectively breeding the best layers, who were also less prone to broodiness. Over time the number of eggs domestic breeds could produce far outnumbered that of any wild bird, whilst their instinct to incubate their own eggs declined. Eventually this instinct was simply bred out of some breeds altogether. To illustrate: The Red Junglefowl – the bird from which all domestic chicken breeds are descended – lays an average of 8-12 eggs a year. In comparison, a Rhode Island Red (a breed of chicken developed in the nineteenth century) can lay about 250 eggs a year! However, the hens do not go broody. This means the breeds very survival depends entirely upon other means of egg incubation. Rhode Island Reds are just one of the many pure breeds we preserve here at Incredible Eggs – the eggs of which are often included in our hatching kits!
Should we hatch chicks, ducklings or partridges?
Due to their different sizes and needs, we do not mix different species eggs within the same kit, although you are of course free to hire different kits at the same time for the ultimate hatching experience! There are links at the top of the homepage with points to consider when making your choice.
How many eggs come in the Kits?
We provide approximately 7 eggs in our chick hatching kits.
Due to their large size and the speed of their growth, we supply 5 eggs in our duckling hatching kits.
We provide approximately 10 eggs in our partridge kits.
How many can we expect to hatch?
Hatch rates vary, but you can expect a hatch rate of between 4-7 chicks, 3-5 ducklings and 5-10 partridges.
What happens to the birds over the weekend during the hire period?
A) The complete kit and hatchlings may go home with a member of staff or responsible adult. The kit is fully portable and fits in the back of a car. Please ensure car heating is turned up for the journey!
B) The complete kit may remain within the setting and be tended to by any staff member wearing a face mask and disposable gloves.
We are a 'pack-away' setting. Can we take part?
The incubator is about the size of a football and needs to be undisturbed with an uninterrupted electricity supply until the baby birds have hatched in approximately 2-3 days after delivery. It should only be very carefully moved a very short distance, for example to the room next door. The whole operation becomes much more portable once the birds have hatched and have then been moved to the brooding cage, where they will live for the rest of the hire period. It is then possible to move them over greater distances, although the brooding plate should only be left unplugged for about 20 minutes, or the hatchlings will get cold. We recommend that a responsible adult takes the kit and the hatchlings home over the weekend, unless someone is available on site to tend to them. The kit is fully portable and fits in the back of a car. Please ensure car heating is turned up for the journey!
Who owns the birds which hatch from the eggs we have purchased?
All birds which hatch from the eggs purchased as part of hire kits are the property and responsibility of The Customer who made the purchase (The school, nursery, care home or individual in the case of private bookings). However, if no suitable permanent homes are available ownership can be transferred to Incredible Eggs at the end of the hire period. We will collect them along with the hire equipment.
Young birds are small and very appealing and it is tempting to want to keep them. However, they do not stay this way for long! They grow a lot bigger and need ongoing care and attention, as well as the correct facilities. They are a long term commitment and ownership should not be embarked upon lightly. We provide The Customer with information and a checklist, so that they can make an informed decision about the suitability of any third parties who wish to keep the birds after the hire period. This decision will rest with The Customer.
Incredible Eggs does not support the rehoming of birds hatched from the eggs we have sold with animal sanctuaries or rescue centres. These organisations are often already over-stretched and working with limited resources, which should be kept available for genuine animal welfare cases. Your Incredible Eggs branch has the necessary facilities and experience in place to responsibly accommodate all birds hatched, should you wish to sign ownership over to us at the end of the hire period.
What happens to the birds after they leave if we choose to sign ownership over to Incredible Eggs?
Ownership of birds may be signed over to us at the end of the hire period from settings who have chosen not to embark on poultry keeping or who have not managed to find suitable homes.
We are established, reputable small-scale poultry breeders and conservationists in our own right, with high-welfare, non-intensive facilities and the necessary experience to responsibly offer this service. We NEVER sell more hatching eggs than we can comfortably accommodate as birds after the hire period is over.
As poultry breeders, we provide a local service by supplying poultry enthusiasts, hobbyists and smallholders with quality livestock.
It is important to have a realistic, basic understanding of farming when embarking on ANY poultry hatching project. If we find we have an unhealthy ratio of cockerels to hens and our hens are suffering as a result, it is sometimes necessary to control the number of males through humane culling. This is a reality which those who have limited knowledge of poultry keeping sometimes find shocking. However, it is a very necessary practice to ensure the overall health and well-being of a flock and has been the case for thousands of years, ever since poultry first became domesticated.
Some of our ducks and cockerels may be raised to maturity as table birds. They enjoy a first-rate quality of life. Please see your regional branch farm gallery page for individual branch information, as this varies from branch to branch.
If the rearing of farm animals for food or the culling of excess cockerels is something you find unacceptable, regardless of how ethically and humanely it may be practiced, hatching projects are unlikely to be the right choice for you. Please beware of those hatching providers who claim otherwise or who choose to provide little/no information on this subject. Our ‘Operation Grey Partridge’ project may be of interest, as ALL hatched birds are released into the wild.
Is it safe for pregnant women to take part in hatching projects?
We are unaware of any risks to pregnant women taking part in hatching projects (unlike with exposure to cat litter trays, lambing etc), but always advise pregnant women to discuss with their doctor or midwife first.