Before You, Hatch – Is Hatching Chicken Eggs Right For You?
- Patience – the 20 some days of your hatch will feel like an eternity. If you want a quick result you may want to opt for started chicks from a hatchery or local farm store.
- Dedication – you can’t just put the eggs in the incubator and forget about it. You’ll need to check them daily to ensure everything is going well.
- There is no guarantee the chicks you want will be hens or roosters. If you aren’t open to a rooster and don’t want to deal with having to figure out what to do with one, this may not be the option for you.
What You Need To Hatch Chicken Eggs
Have you always wanted to hatch your own eggs, but didn’t know what you needed? Wonder no more! All you need is:
- Hatching eggs
That’s it! With these two things, you are ready to hatch your own chicks.
How To Hatch Chicken Eggs
Hatching chicken eggs is one of my favorite parts of keeping chickens! This is a great activity if you have kids- it’s so amazing to watch them hatch. With some prep, you can set yourself up for a great hatch!
Hatching Chicken Eggs: Setting Up Your Incubator
- The first step when it comes to how to hatch chicken eggs is starting with a clean incubator. If you bought it used, or are borrowing it make sure you clean it before you use it. You can use a bleach-water mixture to kill any bacteria or use our method of a GSE Cleaner [check out our GSE cleaner recipe here].
- Once your incubator is clean and dry, find a place that isn’t exposed to drafts and the temperature stays really consistent. You’ll also want to make sure that it’s out of the way. Plug your incubator in and let it sit for about 24 hours. You’ll be ready to put in your hatching eggs when you forced air incubator consistently stays at 99-99.5 F (37 celsius) or in a still air incubator the temperature should be 101-102 F (38 celsius). You don’t want your incubator temperature to rise above 104F (40.5 celsius) or chances are no embryos will develop.
- Your incubator should come with instructions, if not do a quick search for your brand and follow the directions for where to put the water. Keeping your humidity consistent when hatching eggs is super important. I like to use a hygrometer in my to make sure the humidity is right. For day one through eighteen, you want the humidity between forty-five and fifty percent.
Hatching Chicken Eggs
- Cackle Hatchery
- Murray McMurray Hatchery
- Hoover’s Hatchery
- Meyer Hatchery
- Freedom Ranger Hatchery
- Alchemist Farm
Not sure if your chicken eggs are fertilized? Check out our article on how to tell if your chicken eggs are fertilized.
How To Hatch Chicken Eggs Without An Egg Turner
Use a colored pencil and mark each of your hatching eggs, I like to put an “X” on one side of each egg and an “O” on the other. This will help you keep track of which eggs have been turned later on. Place your hatching eggs in the incubator and close the lid.
Mark on a calendar twenty-one days (hatch day!). Over the next 17 days flip or roll the eggs back and forth between “X” and “O” twice a day. Check the water in your incubator every couple of days to make sure the water hasn’t run out. On day 18 stop flipping eggs and increase humidity to sixty-five percent by adding more water (check the instruction manual for where to add it). Do not open the incubator again unless absolutely necessary.
As your eggs begin to hatch it’s really important not top open the incubator and to resist the urge to help them from there shells, I know it’s super hard but you must. They need the struggle of getting out of their shells to help them to thrive [side note after all the others have hatched we have helped a few by ripping the hardened membrane or remoistening it but try not to make it not a habit].
If your eggs do not hatch on day twenty-one give them a few more days Don’t freak out if all the eggs do not hatch. I usually give it a week just to make sure they aren’t just a bit behind (which has happened).
How To Hatch Chicken Eggs With An Egg Turner
Egg turners are really helpful if you don’t want to hand flip your eggs twice a day or you are just hatching too many to do by hand. Just place your egg turner into your incubator and fill it with eggs. Plug the egg turner in and let it be. 3 days before your hatch date, unplug the egg turner and remove it placing the eggs on the incubator floor.
How To Hatch Chicken Eggs: 24 Hours After The Hatch
After about 24 hours the chicks should be dried out and fluffed up, now you can remove chicks to a brooder [or if you are anything like me finally get to hold them!!]. It’s best to have the brooder set up before you have to transfer your new chicks into it. You’ll need:
- A feeder – the size will depend on the number of chicks you have
- A waterer – same idea as the feeder. You may also want to place marbles in the water tray for the first couple of days so they don’t drown.
- Shavings – Do not ever use cedar shavings in your brooder or coop. Pine shavings or even straw can be used you just want to cover the floor of your brooder for easy cleaning and to protect the chicks legs if it is slippery.
- Heat source – you can use a heat light, or go with a heating plate. My friend over at Butterfly-Mourn Farm had the genius idea of using a ceramic reptile heat emitter in place of a normal light bulb in a heat light.
- A plastic tote/another large container with good ventilation or brooder.
Related article: How to care for chicks
How To Hatch Chicken Eggs: After Hatch Clean Up
Around 24-48 hours after the last chick is free and removed from the incubator, unplug the incubator and remove the leftover shells and any eggs that didn’t hatch. You can compost the shells, and bury or throw away the bad eggs. Try to avoid breaking them because they will smell really bad. Clean the incubator once more and let it dry. Once dry put it back together and store it until the next time.
Before you go, check these out!