Hatching eggs is such an exciting process. Seeing your flock grow up from the time they were in the egg is an intimate process. It makes you feel close to your chickens. And it’s also a great learning experience for both you and your kids. Incubating eggs indoors is a fascinating process that everyone should try at least once. No matter if you use your flock’s eggs or purchase them, we will show you how to incubate chicken eggs.
Get Your Incubator
The first step in how to incubate chicken eggs is to get an incubator. There are plenty of great options to buy an incubator online. But you can also make your own. If you are just starting, buying online is probably the best option, and they are more reliable. Here are our recommendations on the best incubators.
Brinsea Mini II Advance
If you only have a few eggs, we recommend the Brinsea Mini II Advance. This tiny incubator is excellent for up to seven eggs, perfect for someone just starting. It has a digital countdown and an automatic rotator. And to top it all off, these small incubators don’t have tiny cracks that smaller birds can get stuck in.
Harris Farms Nurture Right 360
For a medium-sized incubator, you need the Nurture Right 360. This incubator has everything you need for a successful hatch for up to 22 eggs. It has everything from a digital temperature and humidity to an automatic turner. And as a bonus, this incubator also has a light in the bottom to candle the eggs. So you can check on your babies without opening the incubator and losing the precious humidity and heat.
And finally, for those of you looking for a large incubator, the 2370 HovaBator is perfect. The HovaBator holds up to 42 eggs and is entirely self-sufficient. It keeps the temperature and humidity perfect. And it even rotates your eggs six times a day, up until three days before hatch.
Doing A Test Run
Now that you have your incubator, we recommend doing a test run on it before hatching eggs. You might be wondering what temperature to incubate chicken eggs. The ideal is 99.5, but you should place a thermometer inside to verify the inside temperatures are accurate. If it’s not, you can exchange it without losing any chicks.
It would help if you also kept an eye on the humidity levels. For the first 18 days, you should keep the humidity at 40-50%. And for the last few days, 65-75%. Using a hygrometer designed for reptiles is an easy way to keep track of this. If you’re lucky, you can find a hygrometer/thermometer combo to make the test run easier.
When doing your test run, we recommend testing for at least 24 hours. But the longer you do it, the better. Chicken incubator temperature and humidity malfunctions are the most common. If something were to go wrong, it would happen within the first couple of days. And once you have it verified that the incubator works, you can put your next clutch in immediately.
Getting Your Eggs
So, where do you get the eggs from for your incubator? You can get your eggs from several places. Your existing flock is always a great option if you are diving into the breeding realm. Or if you have a nearby farm, they could sell you a few fertilized eggs. And, of course, you could buy your eggs online. Each of these has its pros and cons. So you might want to do your research about which is the best option for you.
Incubation By Day
You have your eggs and incubator all ready, so what can you expect? How long does it take for a chicken egg to hatch naturally? The average is 21 days, but in an incubator, it can take up to 30. So we are going to break up these 21 days to show you how to incubate chicken eggs.
Once you get your eggs home, you should first mark them. Putting an “X” and “O” on the egg’s front and back will help you know which egg needs turning still. With all of your eggs marked, you are ready to place them in the incubator.
You should set the incubator to 99.5 degrees and 40-50% humidity. At least three times a day, you will need to check these parameters. And while you are at it, you will also need to rotate the eggs if your incubator isn’t automatic.
Gently rotate your eggs 180 degrees from side to side an odd number of times a day. At the very least, you should turn them three times a day. But if you choose to do more, choose odd numbers like 5,7,9 times a day. And every day, you should switch which way you turn your eggs. This task aims to keep the growing chick from sticking to the membrane of the egg.
Now that your eggs have taken the time to grow and mature, it’s time to candle them. You should candle them at this time to check that your eggs are viable and growing well. But what should you look for?
What you want to see is a lot of red blood vessels throughout. Blood vessels mean that the eggs are viable and growing well. Clear eggs are infertile, so you can remove them at this time. If you see a red ring within the egg, it means that the embryo has stopped growing. You can also remove these eggs at this time.
During this time, all you need to do is keep up your eggs’ humidity and temperature. And don’t forget to keep on turning those eggs. If your incubator has a light built-in, you can check on them often for development.
Many breeders also swear by making noises to the eggs for development during this time. Just like we talk to our pregnant bellies, mother hens coo to their chicks too. We don’t mean that you have to start making chicken noises. But anything to let them know that they are loved and wanted helps with their development process.
Days 18 To Hatch Day
Now you are in your final incubation days. You will stop turning your eggs at this time and position your eggs with the large end up. You will also need to up the incubator’s humidity to 65-75% at this time. And then you wait. At about 21 days, your eggs should be making movements and starting to hatch.
It isn’t uncommon for a chick to break a hole and stop for 12 hours before continuing. You shouldn’t try to assist these chicks during this time. They are adjusting to breathing and could get hurt if you try to help them.
If your chicks haven’t made an appearance by 27 days, you should candle them again. Checking for movement, development, and sounds will give you an idea if the eggs are just delayed. It’s not common, but it does happen.
They’ve Hatched, Now What?
Now that your chicks have made an appearance, you might be wondering what to do now. Hopefully, you have used these last 21 days to get the broody ready and cozy for your new generation.
When all of your chicks have hatched, you will notice that they might still have a little yolk still attached. You should wait until your chicks have dried and the yolk is gone. If you take your chicks out too quickly, it leaves them exposed to the cold and potential illness. So it’s best to be patient and wait until they are dried and fluffy.
How To Incubate Chicken Eggs Without An Incubator
While incubators are nice to have around, you might find yourself in a situation where you don’t have one. Whether your incubator breaks or you come across the eggs by accident, you should always have a backup plan. And luckily, hatching chicken eggs naturally isn’t that much different.
All you need is:
- Plastic tub
- Surface thermometer
Line your plastic tub with towels to make a lovely warm nest. Then prep your eggs by marking them and arranging them. Next, place your lamp close enough for the surface temperature of your eggs to be 100 degrees.
You will follow most of the same methods as the chicken egg incubation chart above. The only thing you will need to add is spraying the eggs with a mister daily to keep the humidity up. And within 21-30 days, you will have a naturally hatched clutch.
Of course, the best way to naturally hatch an egg is to give them to a broody hen. But unless you or a close friend has one, it can be hard to get ahold of. So it’s a good idea to have a few backup plans.
Are You Prepared?
Now that you know how to incubate chicken eggs in almost every possibility, are you ready? Hatching chicks is a fun and exciting experience. It’s something you will look forward to doing every year. And with the help of this article, you will always know what to do next.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!