Updated: Mar 23
Spring is the time for new life. Hens are going broody and farmers are incubating eggs. Raising your own chickens is a great way to provide for your family and it's so rewarding when you bring them into the world yourself. All you need is an incubator and accessories, and fertilized eggs that you can find from a neighbor who has a flock or at a hatchery online. A couple of places you can find incubators online are at https://incubatorwarehouse.com/ or https://www.gqfmfg.com/. Sometimes you may find incubators at a neighborhood feed store. It's easy to incubate your chicks and it can be a lot of fun as well.
Sterilize Incubator and Accessories
First, we thoroughly clean our incubators and hatchers and all the drawers, lids, tubs, and trays with a solution of bleach. Be careful when using bleach on metals, because it can cause corrosion and prevent moving parts from doing their job. Our incubators are cabinet incubators that have 3 shelves holding 2 trays each. No matter what size incubator you use it should be sterilized.
Choose the Best Eggs
Secondly, we choose our best eggs to fill our incubators. What we look for are eggs that are of normal size for the breed of chicken. Extra-large eggs don't usually produce anything, but you can try. Smaller eggs than what usually product weak chicks that grow out small. Small eggs is normal for hens that have just begun to lay. As they mature their eggs get bigger.
Choose the Cleanest Eggs
Also, we do not want any kind of manure inside our incubator, so we look for clean eggs. We don't recommend washing eggs because it removes the bloom. The bloom is nature's antibacterial sealant that covers the eggs. Unless the egg gets wet, and the bloom is washed off this will seal the egg from bacteria. The way we get clean eggs is by keeping the hen's nest clean. Whenever there's a mess in the nest, we pull it out and add clean shavings. It only takes a minute and is nice to get clean eggs.
Set the Temperature and Humidity
The incubator is set on 98.5 degrees with 55% humidity. All the equipment and tables are cleaned with bleach solution. We treat our incubator room like a nursery as far as germs and contaminates. After 18 days in an incubator, we candle them and put the good ones in the hatcher to finish the process for the next 3 days. Some people take their eggs out of the incubator every so many days to candle. I don't see a good reason for doing this unless you have a foul smell coming from the incubator then you want to find and remove it before it explodes. More than likely you have a rotten egg in that case. But it's best to leave the incubator shut unless you need to add water. We want to keep the temperature and humidity as stable as possible during the incubation process which is accomplished if the heat and humidity is not let out during the incubation period.
Day Eighteen Time To Candle
When candling we look for the body of a chick which is usually a dark shadow inside the egg. A candler can be as simple as a bright flashlight or one you purchase. When candling dark brown eggs, it's best to do candle in a dark room with the candler as the only light. It's easy to spot the eggs without a chick in it they can clearly be seen. In most cases we can see all the way through the eggs. Sometimes a dark substance is moving from one side to the other like liquid, this is not a chick. We dispose of all the rejects as soon as possible. I hate when these things bust after they aged, it is a terrible smell. On day 18, the egg turner gets turned off and the egg turner is removed. The candled eggs with development showing goes either into a drawer of a hatcher or lay in the bottom of the table top incubator. For the next 3 days the eggs should lay still.
Humidity is Higher the Last Three Days
The hatcher is set at 99.5 degrees with 65% humidity for the next 3 days. It's extremely important to keep an eye on the humidity on these last 3 days. It's so important for the healthy development of the chicks. Usually, we have some that hatches a day or two early. We take the early ones out as they hatch to keep down the fuzz dust.
Remove Chicks to a Warm Dry Brooder
As soon as the chicks dry, we add them to a warm inviting brooder with a paper towel loaded with chick starter and water setting on something about an inch high above the pine shaving. Setting the waterer on a platform will help prevent chicks from drowning. It's so much fun bringing new life into the world. I can't think of anything more rewarding.