When it comes to hatching eggs, we believe in natural selection, where we let our chicks hatch on their own. After hatching literally thousands of eggs, we know that from time to time, manual assistance is required. In general, chicks that cannot work their way out of the shell on their own, in our opinion, have a much lower survival rate.
Patience is key. If a chick created a pip hole, sometimes it can take 48 hours for them to emerge. They are fine in the shell during that time, as the egg yolk that they absorbed has enough nutrients to feed them for about 3 days and the pip hole allows them to take in oxygen. We wanted to show a scenario where we feel its ok to intervene and lend a helping hand.
In this scenario, the chick unzipped a good portion of the egg - then stopped. The chick was still alive and had strong chirps, but for whatever reason, the hatching process stalled. By the 2nd day in that condition, the chirps were getting weaker. Although its on a case by case basis, at that point, we usually decide to manually intervene. One of the key things we look for is the condition of the inner membrane of the egg showing from the pip breakage. If it looks somewhat dry, its a good indication (as it should after being exposed to the air for some time) to us that the egg yolk was most likely successfully absorbed and that the next step will not lead to any membrane ruptures and bleeding.
As you will see in the pictures, the incubator becomes the operating room for all of 10-15 seconds, as we don't want too much heat and humidity to escape, which could lead to shock for the chick and internal membrane shrink wrapping of any other eggs that are in the incubator that haven't hatched yet. We usually put on sterilized gloves or sterilize our hands with alcohol (make sure your hands are dry before reaching in there!) and gently pull the egg apart enough for the chick to emerge on its own, placing the shell portions and semi-attached chick back on the incubator floor. We used to remove the egg from the incubator and place it in a warm moist hand towel and do the same maneuver, then place the egg and chick quickly back into the incubator, but we've had far greater success doing it in the incubator itself.
It's a 50/50 chance of survival, but if it looks like it was a 100% certainty they weren't going to make it, you tipped the odds in your favor. We saved one of our most beautiful hens today with this procedure. Remember, exhibit patience first and let the chick try to emerge on its own. As always, do what you feel is best for your hatching eggs, but we hope this was helpful!