Learn To Successfully Hatch Chicken Eggs

So you're planning on hatching some chicken eggs but lack the eggsperience? Well, we've all been there. I will admit it's a bit intimidating and eggciting too. I have made my mistakes and learned my lessons too. Now, I am successfully hatching eggs with more confidence and you can too!

The first and most important step is to learn as much as you can before getting started. I will help you with that today.

 Ready to get eggucated? lol

  • Understanding biosecurity and health risks: This is one of the least spoken about but very important issues to be aware of when it comes to caring for farm animals. And very much so when you plan on breeding them.
  • To improve your overall hatch and live chick survival and success rates it's important to make sure your flock is healthy and no known illnesses are present.

    When collecting your eggs do not wash them. You do not want to remove the bloom. That protects the egg inside and the growing fetus from bacterial infection. I highly advise making sure nesting boxes are available and clean for egg collections. Collect eggs up to two times a day. This helps keep eggs very clean.

    Always wash hands before and after collecting eggs. Place eggs pointy side down in a clean container such as a cleaned egg carton. Store in home in a dry, room temperature location. Store eggs for up to 7 days, setting them on the 7th day. While eggs can be hatched that have been stored longer than 7 days, the success rate goes down. For optimal results, you want to set by day 7.
  • Picking out the right chicks to hatch for your family: Not all chickens are created equal. There are differences with each breed. We highly suggest to research breeds before getting eggs to hatch if you are new to chickens or are not hatching from your own flock.

    Things to look into:
    Temperament: especially if you have kids. Red breeds like Rhode Island Red, Isa Browns, New Hampshire have aggressive temperaments especially to other chickens but are known to be more docile to people. However, with small kids there is a risk. So, these are things to consider, especially if you have smaller breeds like Bantams and silkies in your flock which are at risk of being bullied by red breeds.

    Weather Tolerance: I was about to get chicks of a certain breed and when i researched them I discovered they tolerate cold weather really well but not so much hot weather. They were very fluffy chickens too. Being I live in the hot, humid south. That is not such a good location for those chickens. So I passed on getting them.

    Egg Count: This is especially important for those who want a lot of eggs but only can keep a few chickens. Some breeds may only lay up to 4 eggs a week. Others you can depend on 6-7 eggs a week. I have chickens that lay everyday even in winter. I also have chickens that lay only 4-5 days a week and some that lay 6-7 and slow down in winter. It can really vary. If you want a lot of eggs from each chicken, look for breeds that lay upwards of 280+ eggs per year. That tends to be the min number of eggs you will get. Keep in mind all chickens tend to stop laying during molting with some exceptions such as based on the diet.
  • Selecting the incubator for your needs: If you are not going to hatch many eggs at once or plan on breeding for selling chicks look for smaller incubators. Larger ones for hatching higher count of eggs.

    Personally, I don't like to put all my eggs in one basket. So to say. I have 3 incubators. All three work great! This way if something goes wrong with one incubator or if an egg explodes inside and is bad.. then only those eggs may be lost, not all of them. It also helps me organize breeds. If I have different breeds but they look similar as chicks, then I can't figure out which chick is which after they all hatch. So I put in different incubators and that solves that.

    Egg turners in incubators are helpful too. Otherwise you will have to turn multiple times everyday until day 18.
  • Collecting Eggs: When you collect your eggs do your best to provide a clean nesting box to reduce collecting dirty eggs. Once collected it's important to set your eggs pointy side down. This helps keep the air sac at the correct end and reduces causing damage to it. 
    If you buy eggs online to be shipped understand that this can cause damage and you will likely get a lower hatch rate then locally purchased or self-collected eggs. 
    You should let all eggs set for up to 24 hours after last collection to allow eggs to get to room temperature before setting eggs, especially if you plan on washing eggs. ** Learn more about washing eggs here
  • Preparing your brooder set up: Before you hatch your eggs you should set up a brooder area and have a brooder ready. While you can do this after it just puts at risk of not having it ready in time due to unforeseen circumstances.

    You also want to make sure the set up is going to work for you where you put it, and that you don't forget something. There are a lot of different styles of brooders and set ups to choose from online. One thing I found super helpful is not to put waterer inside brooder. We drilled a hole in the brooder and put a watering cup trough it attached to a Simply Juice container we sterilized. Then we used a zip tie to hold the empty juice bottle to the brooder. We leave the cap off and fill pouring water with rooster booster in it into the container. Makes refill easy and less mess in the brooder too.

    I do advise to put the cup high enough up where it's above the bedding/straw on the bottom. If it is too low the cup will push up and flood the brooder plus get a lot of bedding and poop in it. If you put it too high you can put a wood block next to it for the chicks to step up on to drink the water. Just show them where it is by gently dipping their beak in it. I also dip my finger and gently splash it to create curiosity. When they walk over I do not remove my hand or they will run away. Once a couple chicks figure it out. They show the rest.
  • Getting together your hatching supplies: For us our hatching supplies consist of incubator(s), white vinegar or peroxide, 20mL syringe, flat (not sharp) needle, sterile sponge, paper towels, rooster booster, hand sanitizer (be sure to let completely dry on hands before touching eggs or chicks), filtered water, tooth picks or cotton swabs.

    If you use a thermometer to monitor temperature, don't use digital ones in store bought incubators. They won't be accurate.

    You can chick out our Chick-A-Roo Shoppe for supplies we recommend.
  • Setting up your hatching location: You can set up hatching location anywhere there is little foot traffic and safely out of the way. Make sure it's a safe place, not too much surrounding noise, not a fire risk, and dry. We have put ours in our living room inside the t.v stand where we close the door. But, it causes me some allergies, so we moved it into our attached shop on a shelf. Works great there. We have a camera inside the shop and can see at all times to monitor, even in the dark. It also makes us less tempted to bother them during hatching.
  • Setting Eggs for hatch: Now it's time to prepare to hatch eggs. First you want to clean the incubator, even if it was brand new. Take the paper towels, filtered water, and white vinegar or peroxide. First, I use only white vinegar/peroxide to clean the incubator making sure to take apart any parts that are meant to be removed. If it's a used incubator you can use the tooth picks or cotton swabs to get to the tiny feathers that may have been missed in initial cleaning and any dirt in the tight areas and fans. Afterwards, I do a rinse with the filtered water avoiding getting water into the electronic parts. Then I use a clean, wet paper towel to wipe down the incubator. Finally, I dry with the paper towel.

    This is super important to make sure your incubator is clean to reduce bacterias killing your developing fetuses.

    I always let my incubators air out the vinegar smell for at least 30 mins so it won't affect the the eggs once in the incubator and it heats up with the humidity. I am sure others don't bother and hatch just fine. For me it's a small step to add to reduce risks.

    Now your incubator is clean. Be sure to read all the instructions. I will warn you now. I am going to advise many of you to not follow all the instructions on the actual hatching of the eggs. You'll see why. However, it's important you do follow the rest of the instructions provided to you by the manufacturer.

    I am going to point out that this information is for educational purposes and simply a tip on our experiances of hatching eggs. Changing steps on the manufacture advise is at your own risk.

    With your incubator set up according to the manufacture and plugged in. It's time to place your eggs in the incubator. Ours says to put eggs fat side outward and pointy side facing the center. We put them in-between the spots of the turner as instructed. Put the top on and make sure it clicks into place.

    We do not add water to the incubator. Instead we do what is called a dry hatch. We keep the humidity at 35% or higher. We do not add water as instructed to keep incubator at 55% or higher in the first 18 days. The reason for this is if there is too much humidity the air sac inside won't shrink enough causing the chick to drown at hatch time.

    If you live in a dry desert area or low humidity area I advise that you monitor the humidity to make sure it doesn't drop below 35% if you use this method. You should add water if it does. You can add just enough to keep it between 35%-55%.

    I live in a very humid area, so this is not an issue for me.

    Now your eggs are set and the incubator is going - It's time to wait for them to grow!
  • 2 1/2 week (17 day) wait: This is a time to really have some patience. Now, some incubators have egg candlers and some do not. We can use the lights on our phones if we don't use the incubators candlers or have one.

    I do not advise to candle eggs in this time frame for newbies. Once you are more experienced you can candle around day 9-11 to make sure the eggs are progressing and you do not have any unfertilized or bad eggs. One thing to look for is blood rings that indicate a bad egg that should be removed. Please be sure to put good eggs back the same way you found them.

    After checking for unfertilized and bad eggs you should leave the remaining eggs alone. This reduces risk of temperature and humidity issues in the incubator, bacteria exposers, and most especially dropped eggs from handling too much.
  • 18 day getting eggs ready for hatch: This is an exciting day to know it's so close to hatch day. For those using egg turners you will need to carefully remove the egg turner. You can candle eggs if you want to make sure there isn't any bad eggs. But, honestly I do not believe it's worth the risk to do this at this point for inexperienced persons. However, it is up to you. Many would advise in order to prevent any problems when chicks are hatching. Just be aware it is risky on dropping the eggs and you're so close to hatch.

    I take a dry, clean, sterile sponge and cut it into 3 or 4 pieces then place one piece in each incubator near a hole like the air vent or if there's holes where the lid connects to the bottom.

    After removing the egg turner and putting back any parts (if any) that keep chicks from falling into bottom, put the lid carefully back on and make sure it clicks into place. Add water according to instructions to incubator to bring up to 70% or higher. The temperature and humidity will go back up. Make sure to open the air vent, if one, fully too.

    If you notice the humidity drops below 70% and you have water in the incubator, you can add water to the sponge with the syringe through the holes.
  • Hatch Day: Yay!! It's hatch day. This is typically day 21 but can be sooner. Please do not open the lid during this time. Avoid the temptation to try to aide chicks. They rest a lot. So you may see them pip and then not do much for hours and then pip a little and rest again for a while. That is normal.

    If for any reason you do need to open the lid after chicks have pipped or hatched you can use the syringe to add water to the sponge to bump up the humidity and keep it from drying out membranes on pipped chicks during hatching.

    Do not remove hatched chicks during this time. They can bump the other eggs, and they can go up to 72 hours without food and water. So please let them be if there is no reasonable reason to remove them. It's safer for them and the hatching chicks.
  • Brooder Time: After chicks have hatched and dried, or most chicks if its getting too tight in the incubator, you can transfer dried chicks to the incubator. Be sure the heat lamp was already on, food and water is ready for them too.

    Only half the brooder should have heat lamp facing it and the other half should not, so they can move around adjusting their body temperature. Be sure their water has probiotics and vitamins for chicks like rooster booster in it.Their feed should be a chick crumble.

    Make sure to monitor them to make sure they are not having any troubles. And also show them their feed and water.
  • Cleaning your incubator: Take the paper towels, filtered water, and white vinegar. First, I use only white vinegar to clean the incubator making sure to take apart any parts that are meant to be removed. Use the tooth picks or cotton swabs to get to the tiny feathers that get into small places and any dirt in the tight areas and fans. Afterwards, I do a rinse with the filtered water avoiding getting water into the electronic parts. Then I use a clean, wet paper towel to wipe down the incubator. Finally, I dry with the paper towel.

    Put back in incubator box with the manual and store in a safe, dry place.
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