After the 18th day you should hear the squeak of the first chick, but sometimes the fertile eggs are overdue in hatching. An idea that has worked on many occasions is putting a two or three-day old chick in with the eggs as this seems to encourage the unborn chicks to start hatching – remember to record the move of the chick.
Sometimes the first chick may not have been fed, especially if the hen has not reared chicks before. If this should happen, try removing the chick and replace it with an older one. The extra insistence to be fed from the older chick will often stimulate the hen to feed.
Do not handle chicks when you have unusual smells on your hands. A fancier once told me of an occasion when he picked some tomatoes from his greenhouse before going down to his aviary. He inspected his nest boxes and chicks, the next morning, to his horror, ten of his eleven chicks were dead.
Some fanciers clean out the nest boxes when the chicks have hatched, but so long as the chicks have clean feet and their droppings are dry, the boxes can be left until the end of the first round. If possible, it is best to clean the next box before the hen has laid her first second-round egg.