Hatching chicks is one of the most rewarding things a person can do. Bringing life into the world from a seemingly lifeless shell. In 21 days, sweet chirps and fuzzy balls pecking at feed is the most delightful experience. All you need are eggs and incubators and you can make something wonderful happen.
If you’re looking for incubators, you have a lot to choose from with plenty of bells and whistles. If you don’t plan to use yours much, I would recommend looking for the basic, which works just as well as the ones that are bold and beautiful. I started with a simple foam incubator that had a knob to control the heat. It worked great. There’s plenty of options on the internet. Try looking for incubator reviews to get a feel for what you think would work for you.
Temperature and Humidity
The temperature when incubating should remain between 99.5 to 100-degree Fahrenheit and depending on your incubator the humidity needs to remain between 40% to 55% until day 18. I find that Thermometer Hygrometer work best for measuring the temperature and humidity. Thermometer Hygrometer combination can usually be found at a low price.
I find that having an egg turner included with the incubator takes all the worry out and adds more fun. If you don’t have an egg turner the eggs will need to be turned until day 18 at least 3 times a day, more is better. The way to keep up with which side to turn is by marking each side of the egg with a nontoxic marker X on one side and 0 on the other. When you turn it write down the time and which side the eggs were last turned.
Test the Incubator
Always check the incubator before putting in your eggs. The things you want to check for is fluctuations in the temperature and humidity. I don’t recommend incubators that are still air, though some people have great success. I have found the hatch rate much higher in incubators that have forced air.
Chicken eggs usually hatch within 21 days, though some may hatch a day or two late after the incubation period began. Incubation does not begin until after the first 24 hours; that’s day one. If you set your eggs on a Saturday, it will usually be a Saturday on day 2
You need to select or purchase clean, well-shaped eggs that are inspected for cracks. You do not want cracked eggs in the incubators. It’s better for your unborn chick if you don’t wash the eggs. The eggs are covered with a nature protective sealant called the bloom that prevents bacteria from entering the safe area inside the shell.
But if you don’t have any other choice than to wash, first get as much of the nasty off by gently scrapping without scratching. Then dip in 105-degree water that has 2 tablespoons of Betadine per quart. Then gently blot off the dirty areas. Water that is at 105-degree will not absorb in the shell, which is why you want to keep it at that temperature.
Not Old Eggs
Fertile eggs will lose their viability after 10 days, so don’t store them no longer than 10 days from the day of collection. Ideally eggs should be set within a week after being laid and after 10 days they’re probably only good as eating eggs. Store the eggs in a cool place no cooler than 55-degrees, and no warmer than 75-degrees. Try to turn them once a day to keep the yolks centered.
If you have received your eggs by shipment through the post office you should allow the eggs to rest. They need to rest around 24 hours prior to setting in the incubator. They have probably been shaken quite a bit, depending on the distance. If they’re getting too close to the expiration deadline then at least let have them set for 6 to 8 hours. Shipped eggs need to be taken out of their wrapping to allow them to breathe.
Place eggs upright with the fat end of the egg up and the small end down in an egg carton, or something similar. The fat end of the egg is the air pocket where the developed embryo will get it’s breathing air, so it’s important to place the egg so the air sac rising to the top of the larger end of the egg. Shipped eggs often have loose or damaged air cells and should ideally be incubated upright, with the fat end up.
Egg Fertility and Candling
I have had good success with shipped eggs except for 3 different times. I found that shipped eggs can give very good hatch rate. The trick with buying hatching eggs online is to read the reviews. I have found some that are excellent and give great hatch rates, and there are some that seem to be rip off and ship their very old eggs with no chance of hatching. It’s that way with everything, so if you get yours online, do the research, check reviews. Also, there are plenty of farms that sells hatching eggs, and chances are you have one around the corner. Check at the feed stores and farmers markets for your local poultry farmers.
Once incubation has begun, a light colored-shelled egg can be candled to see if embryos are developing. It’s difficult to see veining through a dark egg shell. In a dark room/area shine a bright light into the egg, and usually you can see something is happening by day 6. This is a process called candling.