How do you hatch chicken eggs? If you are interested in hatching chicken eggs to help increase your flock and enjoy some baby chicks, then you need to make sure that you know how to get the best hatch rate. If you are ever in a grid down scenario, then your chickens will become one of your most important and reliable food sources. Rather than simply eating your eggs, when you know how to hatch them, then you can make sure that you will not run out of food and will have a sustainable source.
What You Need to Follow This Incubating Chicken Eggs Tutorial
- Flashlight or egg candler
- Egg turner
- Humidity gauge
- Spray bottle or sponges
Some people swear by using an official egg candler, but I like using my flashlight. As long as you have a powerful enough beam of light, you don’t need to buy a special piece of equipment for checking the viability and fertility of your eggs.
If you do not have a spray bottle that you can use to lightly mist inside your incubator when you need to raise the humidity, then you can cut a sponge into small pieces, wet them, and then place them inside the incubator. While this is a great way to raise humidity quickly, I have found that it can be tricky to get the right amount of water in the sponge. However, for newbies, since you can reach in and pull out the sponge if the humidity gets too high, it’s a great option.
Hatch Chickens Eggs Step by Step Instructions
#1 Choosing or Making an Incubator
If you are going to incubate eggs so you can hatch chickens, then you need to make sure that you have a high-quality incubator and that you have it up and running before you gather your eggs. It’s important that it is at the right temperature and humidity before you put your chicken eggs inside or you can run into problems. No matter whether you decide to make your own or buy one, such as this option, you need to have a reliable incubator up and running before gathering your chicken eggs.
#2 Storing Eggs to Incubate
After a chicken lays an egg, there is an air bubble that begins to form in the large end of the egg. This is what will give the chicken air to breathe during pipping and hatching so that it can live. When it is dry out, the bubble will grow faster, which can deplete fluids that your chick needs. It’s important that you keep your eggs at a constant humidity and store them with the large end up higher than the small end while you wait until you have enough eggs to put in the incubator. When a chicken egg has the smaller end elevated, then the embryo can actually misorient in the egg, facing away from the air sack, and it can drown while they are trying to pip. Before incubating, store your eggs as they did at Kitchen How.
#3 Checking Viability
While it’s too early to see if your chicken eggs are fertile, you can check them to make sure that they are not broken. When your incubator is ready for your eggs, simply take each egg, one at a time, and candle them before placing them in the incubator. I have found that using a very powerful flashlight and placing the egg on the light will allow me to see if there are cracks in the shell. If there are, then I discard the egg, as you will have much better results using the highest quality chicken eggs available and then place the remaining eggs in the incubator like they show at Organic Daily Post.
#4 Keeping an Eye on the Temperature
One of the most important things that you will need to do when you hatch chicken eggs is constantly monitor the temperature. If you have a still air incubator then your temperature needs to remain between 100 and 102 degrees F, while you need to keep the temperature between 99 and 99.5 degrees F if you are using a forced air incubator. You want the air inside of the eggs to be as near to 99.5 degrees F as possible at all times. You can’t check the temperature inside your eggs, which is why you need to monitor the air temperature inside the incubator and make adjustments as needed. See how to watch the temperature at Modern Farmer.
#5 Maintaining Humidity
Another important step in incubating chicken eggs is to monitor the humidity. This takes much more work than simply monitoring the temperature, as you will need to adjust the humidity as the chicks get ready to hatch. Keep the humidity low, between 40 and 50% for the first 18 days of incubation, and then increase it to 50-60% for the last three days. If the humidity is too low, then you risk your chicks not being able to easily hatch and dying during the process, which I have found can be very upsetting. Use a spray bottle or wet sponges to raise the humidity, if necessary. The Chicken Hub uses a glass of water to maintain humidity.
#6 Turning Eggs
While you are monitoring your temperature and humidity, you need to make sure that you turn your chicken eggs regularly to ensure a good hatch. The eggs need to be turned an odd times every single day until day 18, and then not turned, to allow the chick to turn and prepare for hatching. By turning the eggs, you prevent the embryo from sticking to the shell of the egg, which is why you need to turn them regularly. Failing to do so can result in a very low hatch rate. If you buy an incubator that turns your eggs automatically then you do not need to worry about this step. Check out eggs in an automatic turner at Backyard Chickens.
#7 Candling Eggs
After day 7, you can start candling your eggs to check for fertility. You will first see veins that have formed inside the egg, and then finally a chick moving inside. If you do not see any veins by day 10, then you will want to discard the egg. This can happen because the chicken egg wasn’t fertile or because the egg simply didn’t develop, but you do not want to keep them in your incubator. You can see what candling looks like at Backyard Chickens.
Lockdown refers to the last three days of incubation. During this time you are going to increase the humidity in the incubator and stop turning them so that you will have the best possible hatch. If you continue to disturb your eggs during this time or do not increase the humidity, then you are likely to have a failed hatch, and most of your chicks will die during the time. If you have an automatic turner, then you need to make sure to turn it off so that your eggs can be still. I have found that this is a great time to really watch your eggs, as you will see that they are starting to move and jostle as the chicks inside turn themselves and prepare for hatching. Check out pipping chicks at Murano Chicken Farm.
#9 Let Them All Hatch
I know how tempting it can be when your chicks start hatching, but you do not want to open the incubator and pull them out while others are still attempting to hatch. Doing so can cause the humidity inside the incubator to drop significantly and can also cause dangerous temperature fluctuations. Allow all of the hatching chickens to fully hatch before you even think about lifting the lid. Check out hatching eggs at Murano Chicken Farm.
#10 Let Them Fluff Up
It’s surprising how long chicks can stay in the incubator before moving to the brooder. You want to make sure that they are fluffed up and dry before taking them out and moving them, as the incubator is hot enough to keep them comfortable and warm. Moving your new chicks too soon can shock them, so allow them all to stay in the warm incubator after they hatch until they are all fluffed up and can be moved at once. At Raising Happy Chickens you can see how wet the chicks are when they first hatch.
#11 Moving Chicks to Brooder
When your eggs hatch and your chicks are dry and fluffy, then you can move them to the brooder. Once they are safe in the brooder, it’s time to clean out your incubator and get ready to incubate your next group of eggs. There will be bits of shell and other debris that you want to clean out right away, so you can then sanitize the incubator to get it ready. Trying to hatch chicken eggs in a dirty incubator is a recipe for disaster, as incubation will allow bacteria to grow inside. See what happy chicks in a brooder look like at The Frugal Chicken.
Chicken Egg Hatching Final Thoughts
As you can see, a lot goes into chicken hatching, but with patience and the right equipment, it’s rather straightforward. Did you learn from this tutorial? It’s really important to me to know how to incubate and hatch chicken eggs because I always wanted to be prepared for the inevitability of a grid down situation. Please let me know what you thought in the comments and share this article with anyone who is looking to hatch chicken eggs themselves. Remember, if you are in the market for an incubator and want to buy a great one, then this option from Amazon is a great choice.