People have been hatching eggs for centuries! If you’ve never hatched eggs before, don’t worry – it’s actually a really easy process.
This blog post will tell you everything you need to know about hatching and incubating eggs.
Whether you’re an experienced chicken keeper or a complete beginner, read on to learn more!
Incubating Eggs vs. Broody Hen
When it comes to incubating eggs, there are two main methods: using an incubator or letting a broody hen sit on the eggs.
Both methods have their pros and cons, so it’s important to choose the right method for your situation.
Incubators provide a controlled environment for the eggs, which can help to ensure that they hatch successfully. However, they can be expensive, and they require regular maintenance.
Broody hens, on the other hand, are free, but they may not be as reliable. Hens can go off their nests for long periods of time, and they may not be able to keep the eggs at a consistent temperature.
In addition, hens may accidentally break their eggs while sitting on them.
Ultimately, the best method for incubating eggs will depend on your individual circumstances.
In this post, I’ll walk you through the process of how to hatch chicks with an incubator simply because it is more hands-on for you than the broody hen method.
What to Look For When Buying an Incubator
When it comes to buying an incubator for incubating eggs, there are a few key factors to keep in mind.
First, consider the egg capacity. A larger incubator will be more expensive, but it will also allow you to incubate more eggs at once, which can be a time-saver.
Next, think about whether you want a fully automatic incubator or one that requires some manual input. A fully automatic incubator will be more expensive, but it will also be less work for you in the long run.
Finally, consider whether you want to add a fan and turner. These two items will help to circulate air and ensure that the eggs are turned regularly, but they will also add to the cost of the incubator.
Ultimately, the best incubator for you will be the one that best meets your needs and budget.
How to Set Up an Incubator
Properly preparing an incubator is crucial for anyone hoping to hatch fertilized eggs.
It’s important to start with a clean slate, so the incubator should be washed with a 10 percent bleach solution, followed by warm soapy water and a rinse.
After it’s dry, turn on the incubator and check that the temperature and humidity levels will remain constant.
The next step is to find a location for the incubator where there are no drafts and the ambient temperature is steady.
Remember, the temperature inside the incubator is key – 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal, but the temperature range should be between 99-102 degrees Fahrenheit.
If it drops below 99 degrees or goes above 102, the hatching process will be compromised.
You’ll need to maintain a relative humidity of 50-55 percent. This is equivalent to a wet bulb temperature of 85-87 degrees Fahrenheit.
To help with this, be sure to keep the water channels in your incubator full. On day 18, you’ll need to raise the relative humidity to 70 percent.
Use a hygrometer to check the levels throughout the incubation period to ensure they are correct.
Only open the incubator when necessary, as doing so can let heat and humidity escape and affect the success of the hatch. As the embryos grow bigger, you’ll need to increase ventilation, especially from days 18-21.
By following these simple steps, you’ll be on your way to hatching healthy chicks.
Gathering Eggs to Hatch
If you’re looking to hatch some eggs of your own, there are a few things you need to know. First, make sure the eggs are less than 10 days old – the older an egg is, the less likely it is to hatch.
Second, store the eggs in a cool, dry place at 40-70 degrees Fahrenheit with 75% relative humidity. Change their position every day or so to prevent them from becoming stuck to the shell.
Finally, when you’re ready to set the eggs, make sure to do so with the large end up and three to 10 days after they have been laid. Avoid washing the eggs before storing them, as this can remove vital nutrients.
And be sure to discard any eggs that are oval or football-shaped, as these are unlikely to hatch.
How to Incubate Eggs
Incubating eggs is a fascinating process that allows you to watch new life emerge before your very eyes. While it may seem daunting at first, it is actually quite straightforward once you know the basics.
1. Mark Each Egg With a Graphite Pencil
One of the most important steps is marking each egg with a graphite pencil. This will help you keep track of which eggs are fertile and which are not.
You should do this even if your incubator has an automatic turner – that way, you will know if the turner is working.
2. Set the Temperature and Humidity to the Ideal Range
When it comes to incubating eggs, temperature and humidity are two of the most important factors.
If the temperature is too high or too low, the eggs will not develop properly. Likewise, if the humidity is too high or too low, the eggs will suffer from dehydration and may not hatch at all.
By keeping the temperature and humidity within the ideal range, you can give your eggs the best chance of successfully hatching.
3. Load the Eggs
When you’re ready to start incubating, simply load the eggs into the incubator and turn it on.
Try to hatch at least six eggs at a time – especially if the eggs were shipped to you, trying to hatch fewer than six eggs can cause failures. Chickens are flock animals that need other companions!
4. Don’t Check the Incubator Constantly
Checking the incubator too often will actually decrease your hatch rate. Every time you open the incubator, you are letting out warm air and introducing cold air.
The temperature inside the incubator needs to be as stable as possible to ensure that the eggs develop properly.
Checking the incubator too frequently will cause the temperature to fluctuate, which can lead to problems with the development of the embryos.
If you must check on the eggs, try to do so only once a day, and be very careful not to let any cold air into the incubator.
5. Candle Your Eggs
Candling eggs involves using a bright light to look inside the egg to check on the development of the embryo. This method allows you to see if the embryo is developing properly and whether or not it is healthy.
To candle your eggs, you will need a bright light source, such as a flashlight or a desk lamp. You will also need a dark room to work in.
Start by turning off all the lights in the room and closing the curtains or blinds. This will help you to see the light better when you are candling your eggs.
Once the room is dark, hold the egg up to the light so that you can see through the shell.
You should be able to see the outline of the embryo and its blood vessels. You can also assess the quality of the egg by looking at the size and shape of the air sac.
The candling process is important because it allows you to monitor the development of your embryos and ensure that they are healthy.
It also allows you to discard any eggs that are not developing properly, which can help improve your overall hatch rate.
6. Stop Turning on Day 18
Turning eggs is an essential part of hatching chicks in an incubator. By gently rolling the eggs a few times each day, you ensure that the embryo doesn’t become stuck to the side of the eggshell.
However, it’s important to stop turning the eggs on Day 18. At this point, the chicks are getting ready to hatch, and they need to be able to position themselves in the correct way in order to break out of their shells.
If you continue to turn the eggs, you may prevent them from being able to hatch successfully.
7. Prepare the Brooder
You’ve waited 21 long days, and finally, it’s time to move your chicks from the incubator to the brooder.
Preparing the brooder ahead of time will help the transition go smoothly for both you and your chicks.
First, make sure the brooder is set up in a quiet, draft-free location. Then, line the bottom of the brooder with absorbent material, such as pine shavings or straw.
Next, set up a heat lamp to provide warmth, and place a dish of water and a dish of feed within easy reach of the chicks.
Finally, add some toys or other objects to help keep the chicks entertained and stimulate their natural curiosity.
By taking these simple steps, you’ll create a safe and comfortable environment for your new arrivals.
8. Get Ready to Hatch!
When the first chick starts hatching inside your incubator, it’s an exciting moment! But it’s also important to make sure that everything goes smoothly. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
First, don’t open the incubator door too often. The chicks need humidity to stay healthy, and each time you open the door, some of that humidity escapes. Only open it when absolutely necessary, and be sure to close it quickly afterwards.
Second, keep an eye on the temperature. The chicks need to be warm enough to survive, but if the temperature gets too high, they can overheat and die.
Most incubators have a thermostat to help regulate the temperature, but it’s still a good idea to check on the chicks regularly to make sure they’re not getting too hot.
Last, make sure the chicks have enough food and water. They’ll need a special chick feeder and waterer, which you can find at any pet store.
Fill them up with fresh food and water every day, and watch to make sure the chicks are eating and drinking well.
Common Incubating Questions and Troubleshooting
Though it can seem daunting at first, incubating chicken eggs is relatively straightforward as long as you follow a few simple guidelines.
Here are some answers to common questions about incubating chicken eggs, as well as some tips for troubleshooting common problems.
Should I Help a Stuck Chick?
When a chick becomes stuck during the hatching process, it is tempting to want to help.
However, it is important to resist the urge to intervene, as the chick needs to complete the hatching process on its own in order to develop properly.
The hatching process is strenuous, and by the time the chick is ready to hatch, it will have used up all of its stored energy.
If you help a chick that is stuck, you may end up damaging its internal organs or causing it to drown.
Instead, allow the chick to take its time and wait for it to hatch on its own. The majority of chicks will be able to successfully hatch without any assistance.
Why Did My Chicks Hatch Early?
If your chicks hatched early, there are a few possible reasons. One possibility is that the incubator was set too warm, averaging a bit above 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Constant heat will cause the eggs to develop faster, resulting in an early hatch.
Another possibility is that the incubator was set too cold, averaging a bit below 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit. This can cause the embryos to develop more slowly, leading to a late hatch.
If you’re not sure what temperature your incubator was set at, you can check the manufacturer’s instructions or ask a qualified chicken expert for help.
Regardless of the reason, an early hatch is nothing to worry about – your chicks will be just fine!
Unfortunately, not all chicken eggs will hatch successfully. If your eggs stop developing or show signs of abnormalities, there are a few steps you can take to troubleshoot the problem.
One option is candling, which involves shining a light through the eggshell in order to check on the development of the embryo inside. This can give you a good indication of whether or not the egg is still viable.
Another option is to consult with an experienced poultry farmer or veterinarian who can offer more specific advice based on your situation.
How Many Eggs Can I Hatch at Once?
One of the most common questions about incubating chicken eggs is how many can be placed in the incubator at once.
It’s important to note that the size of your incubator will play a role in determining how many eggs you can fit inside.
Generally speaking, however, most incubators can accommodate between 24 and 40 chicken eggs. If you’re using a smaller incubator, you may need to reduce the number of eggs accordingly.
Why Do I Stop Turning The Last Three Days?
After 21 days of incubation, the chicks are fully formed and ready to hatch.
The incubation process is complete when the embryo’s blood vessels have grown into the chorion (the outermost layer of the eggshell), and the allantois (a sac filled with fluid) has joined with the chorion.
Once this happens, the embryo can no longer get oxygen from the air cell at the large end of the egg and must rely on oxygen diffusing through the eggshell from the pores.
At this point, it is no longer necessary to turn the eggs, as they can get all the oxygen they need from diffusion. If you continue to turn them, you risk damaging the delicate blood vessels.
How Do I Clean the Incubator After Hatching?
After your chicks have hatched and left the incubator, it’s important to clean the incubator to prepare it for future use.
Remove any shells or fluids, wipe the lid, and be careful around the electrical components. Store it in a place where it will be safe from rodents.
How Long Does it Take for Chicks to Hatch?
It takes 21 days for a chick to hatch. The chick starts by pecking its way out of the eggshell.
It then spends the next few hours drying off and fluffing up its feathers. Once it is dry, the chick is ready to start exploring its new home!
So, now you know all there is to incubating eggs. It’s not hard, but it is important to follow the guidelines carefully so that your eggs have the best chance of hatching healthy chicks.
We hope you will give incubation a try – it can be a fun and rewarding experience!
Rebekah is a full-time homesteader. On her 22 acres, she raises chickens, sheep, and bees, not to mention she grows a wide variety of veggies. She has a huge greenhouse and does lots of DIY projects with her husband in her ever-growing homesteading endeavor. Learn more about Rebekah here.