how to hatch chicken eggs the ultimate guide

The Ultimate Guide On How To Hatch Chicken Eggs In 6 Easy Steps

Have you ever wanted to hatch chicken eggs? We were right there with you years ago, so we wanted to share with you everything we learned about how to hatch chicken eggs! Hatching your own eggs is an amazing experience, it’s truly incredible to watch life grow before your eyes.
Over the years we’ve watched dozens and dozens of eggs hatch bringing tiny wet balls of fluff into the world and each time it is so rewarding. No hatch is alike, some times you have an amazing hatch, and sometimes you are lucky to get just a couple- but it’s so worth it.
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how to hatch chicken eggs the ultimate guide
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Before You, Hatch – Is Hatching Chicken Eggs Right For You?

Is hatching your own chickens the right option for you? You’re going to need:
  • 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.


How Long Does It Take For A Chicken Egg To Hatch Naturally?


It takes 21 days (give or take) to hatch chicken eggs. Before putting the eggs inside your incubator, turn it on and measure the temperature and humidity over a 24-hour period, making adjustments as necessary to create the right environment.


Can You Hatch A Chicken From Store Bought Eggs?


Typically no it’s not possible to hatch a chick from an egg purchased from a grocery store. Most eggs sold commercially in the grocery store are from poultry farms and have not been fertilized. However, if you buy eggs from a local farm, or farmer’s market it’s possible.


Will Eggs Still Hatch If They Get Cold?


Eggs that have been exposed to freezing conditions (in the coop or in shipping) are very unlikely to hatch. The cold damages the internal structure of the egg. 


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
  • Incubator


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

  1. 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].

  2. 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 your 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.

  3.  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


  Now that your incubator is all set up it’s time to select your eggs. You can get eggs from local farmers (make sure they know you plan to hatch them so they don’t wash or refrigerate them) order them online from places like:  


If you are planning to hatch your own eggs begin by selecting clean, large eggs that are not malformed. DO NOT WASH THE EGGS, a bit of dirt is ok- if they are super dirty don’t use it as a hatching egg. You can stockpile eggs at room temperature place for several days (after the first 10 days eggs hatchability drops considerably, so keep that in mind). Try not to jostle, shake or handle them too much. 

Not sure if your chicken eggs are fertilized? Check out our article on how to tell if your chicken eggs are fertilized.  


If you went ahead and ordered hatching eggs, allow them to rest for 24 hours before putting them into the incubator. To do this place shipped eggs upright, with the fat end of the egg up, in an egg carton to allow the contents to settle.  


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. After 7-8 days of incubation candle your chicken eggs


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 their 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.


There isn’t a way to make your chicken eggs hatch faster than 21 days. They need time to develop and grow before they emerge into the world. The best thing you can do is make sure that your incubator is set up for optimal conditions. 


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.


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