Most people know that if you want to hatch chicks, you’ll need a hen to lay a few eggs. Then, after a little while the chick will break out through the shell and enter the world. Simple, right? Yes, but only in general terms.
To get a chick from an egg the egg will first need to be viable and fertilized and then be incubated one way or the other in order for it to hatch.
So, what we need to know then is how long the incubation period is. Just how long does it take for a chicken egg to hatch?
The incubation period for chicken eggs is about 21 days. However, this is only an average and there can be some variation. Some chicken eggs may take a day or two longer to hatch, while others may hatch a day or two early.
Easy enough, and this figure is usually reliable assuming there aren’t any problems. That being said there is much more to know about the incubation process and other factors associated with correct incubation.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know in order to keep those eggs viable.
What is Incubation Exactly?
Incubation is the process by which eggs are kept at a certain temperature and humidity in order to hatch them.
The process of incubation imitates the conditions that a mother hen would create naturally by sitting on her eggs.
In fact, her sitting on them is also a form of incubation, though most keepers think of incubation as the process of taking over that duty yourself.
In order to properly incubate chicken eggs, you need to be able to control the temperature and humidity.
What’s the Usual Incubation Period for a Chicken Egg?
As mentioned above, the average incubation period for a chicken egg is about 21 days. Some chicken eggs may take a day or two longer to hatch, while others may hatch a day or two early.
What are the Ideal Conditions for Egg Incubation?
You should keep your chicken eggs around 99 to 101 degrees Fahrenheit for proper and timely development.
The ideal humidity level is around 70-75%. Slightly higher humidity near the end of the incubation process will help chicks break through the eggshells a little easier.
These levels can be achieved using an incubator designed for the purpose, or by using a homemade incubator made from a styrofoam cooler so long as you have a way to accurately monitor the conditions.
The incubation temperature and humidity needs to be kept constant throughout the entire incubation process in order for the eggs to develop correctly.
How Long Does it Take for a Hen to Incubate an Egg Naturally?
This process takes the same amount of time: about 21 days on average, the same as artificial incubation.
How Long Does it Take to Incubate an Egg in an Incubator?
The average incubation period for chicken eggs is still 21 days, regardless of whether they are incubated by a hen or in an incubator.
Is an Incubator or Natural Hatching Better?
Both are viable, but incubators offer better control over important conditions. There are a few major differences between the two methods, too.
First, while you can control the temperature and humidity in an incubator, a hen cannot. This means that her eggs will be subject to whatever the temperature and humidity happen to be in her environment, which can lead to problems.
Second, a hen will turn her eggs regularly. This is important because it keeps the embryo from sticking to one side of the eggshell and prevents it from getting tangled up.
When you’re incubating chicken eggs in an incubator, you’ll need to turn them manually yourself about 3-5 times per day. Fail to do this and your chicks could perish in the shell.
Lastly, a hen will instinctively know when her eggs are ready to hatch and will stop sitting on them. This allows the chicks to dry off and start breathing on their own.
However, if you’re using an incubator, you’ll need to remove the eggs yourself once they’ve hatched or you risk them getting too warm and dying.
What are the Stages of Chicken Egg Development?
Once you have your chicken eggs and have them at the correct temperature and humidity, they will go through three main stages of development.
The first stage is when the egg’s cells begin to divide and grow. This happens within the first few days of incubation and is when the embryo’s heart begins to form and beat.
The second stage is when the cells continue to divide and grow, and the bones and feathers begin to develop.
This happens during the middle of the incubation period and is when most of the chick’s development takes place.
The third stage is when the chick begins to turn itself around inside the egg so that it’s in the correct position for hatching.
This happens during the last few days of incubation and is when the chick begins to absorb the yolk sac into its body.
The entire process from start to finish takes about 21 days on average, though some chicken eggs may hatch slightly earlier or later.
How Should You Care for an Egg that is Incubating?
Once you have your chicken eggs and have them at the correct temperature and humidity, there are a few things you need to do in order to ensure they hatch successfully.
You’ll need to turn them regularly, about 3-5 times per day. You’ll also need to make sure that the temperature and humidity remain constant throughout the entire incubation period.
Fluctuating conditions can lead to severe problems with development or even kill your embryos, so it’s important to keep an eye on things.
You’ll also need to “candle” your eggs regularly. This is a process of shining a light through the egg in order to check on the development of the embryo inside.
It’s important to do this because it allows you to see if there are any problems, such as an embryo that has died or stopped developing.
If you notice any problems, it’s important to take corrective action immediately. This may mean adjusting the temperature or humidity, turning the eggs more frequently, or even discarding an egg that appears to be beyond help.
Will an Incubated Egg Always Hatch?
No, sadly. There are a number of things that can go wrong during the incubation process, which can lead to an egg not hatching.
The most common problem is simply that the embryo inside the egg dies for some reason. This can be due to anything from fluctuating temperatures and humidity to poor nutrition.
Another common problem is that the embryo develops abnormally and is unable to hatch successfully. This can be due to any number of factors, such as genetic defects or exposure to toxins.
Sometimes an egg will develop correctly but the embryo will get stuck inside the shell and be unable to hatch.
This is known as “shrinkage”. It can be caused by anything from too much or too little humidity to the egg being turned too frequently.
Finally, there is a chance that an egg will become infected with bacteria or fungus. This can happen if the egg is cracked or damaged in some way, or if the conditions inside the incubator are not clean.
These are just a few of the most common problems that can occur during the incubation process.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.