Hatching Assistance Guide

I recently had an e-mail from a dedicated fancier, who was having trouble with moderate hatchability problems requiring him to help developed chicks to emerge from their eggs.

When I wrote “The Challenge”, I omitted a guide that first appeared in my first book – “Best In Show”, published in 1974.

So, I am now pleased to correct the situation with this handy reference guide for breeders, enabling them to know exactly when to assist the struggling chick and particularly when not to intervene!

As we know, opening too early can reveal the chick which still has not absorbed the yolk into its body and it is pale and weak. The outcome is death! Opening too late and the chick for various reasons also dies, unless helped a fraction earlier. Close observation and timing are therefore vital assets to your husbandry.

Sound Appearance Action
Quiet tapping 2 mm crack Too soon – replace
Quiet tapping Group of fine cracks Too soon – replace
Quiet tapping Cracks + a brown line Too soon – replace
Weak squeaks Cracks + a tiny hole Too soon – replace
Medium squeaks Cracks & early discolouration Too soon – replace
Loud squeaks Crack line round the circumference – creamy patches, moist membrane Normal hatching – replace
Loud squeaks Crack line round the circumference – creamy patches, dried membrane Assist immediately
Loud squeaks Large hole – drying membrane Assist immediatley
Silence! Large hole – drying membrane Dead in shell

Remember, if it is the first chick to hatch, leave the empty shell in situ and move the tiny chick to a pair you know feeds small hatchlings really well to increase its chances of survival. Also bear in mind that a pale chick may not make much squeaking noise.

It is the bright red chicks you want. A red chick will be fed as the hen will feed it easily, but if the chick does not call because it is exhausted and weak it may not be fed and will die.

Fanciers frequently blame a hen for “crushing” tiny chicks. Occasionally this is true especially when young hens are in use and have no idea what to do when a chick hatches. However, the most common reason is that non red chicks have not demanded to be fed and consequently look “flattened”.

A warmed incubatorAt my stud at “Tanglewood”, I managed to lay my hands on an incubator. This is used entirely for two purposes, but strangely not for hatching eggs!

It contains large plastic eggs, from Germany in my case, plus a surgical mask that is there to warm up “cold” eggs that a hen has deserted, or, kicked to one side in the nest and also for chicks that have similarly been left to go cold.

Deserted chicks may often look dead and white, but it is surprising after a few hours how some can recover using an incubator. Remember it is vital to attempt to save every chick for your end of year tally and some of those could be Best In Show possible contenders.


Filed Under: Breeding



About the Author: Gerald Binks began breeding budgerigars when he was 12 years old and is now arguably the most knowledgeable budgerigar fancier in the world. He has bred his fair share of Best in Show birds, judged in no less than 20 countries, founded the World Budgerigar Association, and has published two of the three classic books on the hobby. His stud in the UK attracts fanciers from near and far and is always high on the list for those wishing to purchase BA23 quality budgerigars.

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  1. Thanks for putting this on your site – but also thanks for sending me this way of working after I sent you my e-mail about this.

    I am sure this will help a lot of fanciers to have a lot more surviving chicks.

    Patrick Duyck

    P.S. Looking forward to reading your book

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