Learning how to hatch chicken eggs is easy. Decide upon which method works best for you, such as learning to hatch chicken eggs with an incubator or naturally from a hen. Either way, the process of hatching chicken eggs is simple, but a disciplined approach is necessary to have success.
Hatching chicken eggs with an incubator
To have success hatching chicken eggs with the incubator, having the proper tools impact success which include:
- Standard Incubator: Needed to house the eggs.
- Thermometer: Needed to monitor the incubator’s temperature.
- Hygrometer: Needed to monitor the humidity of the incubator.
- Harmless Marker: Needed to mark eggs.
There are three simple steps to follow to have success hatching chicken eggs using an incubator.
1. Prepare the incubator to the right temperature
To have healthy chicken eggs, the temperature of the incubator should be consistent with the warmth of the mother (although the mother will not be present during the process). The proper temperature should be around 99°F or 37.5°C.
For a forced air incubator, studies have shown that this is the best range for the healthy development of eggs—consequently, a temperature of about 101.5°F and 38.5°C for a still air incubator.
Once the temperature has reached 101.5°F or 38.5°C, managing the humidity is just as necessary and should be appropriately adjusted throughout the incubation process. For example, in a 21-day cycle, within the first 18 days, the humidity is set at 45 to 50%. The remaining three days must have an increase in humidity to around 65%.
2. Properly mark each egg
It is natural for a mother hen to rotate each egg for the proper setting, but humans have more of a challenge. Using a harmless marker and placing two indicators such as an X and O on opposite sides of each egg. The markings notify the caretaker of the eggs flipped. A minimum of three flips per egg each day is imperative.
3. Carefully set each egg in the incubator
Once the temperature and humidity reconcile, place the eggs inside of the incubator. However, it is necessary to put the narrower end of the egg at the lower end of elevation compared to the broader end of the egg.
Within the first 18 of 21 days, rotating the eggs five times per day is necessary. Beginning on day 19, no further rotation of the eggs is essential, and the eggs will hatch about three days later.
Hatching chicken eggs without an incubator
Hatching chicken eggs in the absence of an incubator is easy for a mother hen. Her natural processes and instincts take over throughout the entire clutch cycle. If you have the space available, there is less work involved during the process of hatching healthy chicken eggs.
If this is your preference, there are five simple steps to follow to hatching chicken eggs in their most natural environment, which are:
1. Find a maternal hen
The “broody” season is typically spring and summer for hens. One indication that the mother hen is ready is that there is more time spent in the nesting area versus other times throughout the year.
During the nesting time, if you try to remove any eggs that she is nesting over, the revelation of aggression will appear instantly. So be careful and monitor not only your movements but the mother hen’s responses also.
2. Designate specific housing for the process
It is destructive to allow a broody hen to nest over eggs too close to other chickens. Allowing the co-mingling of the broody hen, nesting eggs, chicks and fellow chickens within proximity is a recipe for disaster.
The mature chickens often pick at the eggs along with the chicks when the opportunity presents itself. Attacks will stress the broody hen within the entire group. Therefore, create a separate space for this cycle. This space provides minimal stress and disruption.
3. Place fertile eggs in the designated space for their development
Removing the eggs and placing them into the new nesting area along with resettling the broody hen is appropriate to ensure that the eggs experience less exposure to harm.
4. Keep the broody hen nutritionally sound
Although it is natural for a broody hens to starve themselves while nesting a new clutch, they must continue to eat and drink daily. Encouraging the broody hen to do so allows the hen to remain healthy and reliable along with being viable and energetic during the nesting process.
Even though the motherly instincts may cause the broody hen concern for the chicks, a healthy balance of sound nutrition and protection for the eggs is necessary.
5. Allow the broody hen the space to activate her instincts
Once the chicks arrive, provide chicken feed for each, and the mother will guide them toward the water and other sources of food. Be confident that the mother hen will allow her instincts to develop her young as nature allows.
Egg Incubator Diy Plan
There are times when your desire to have eggs hatched and the mother hen will not be broody enough. When the two passions are not in line, creating DIY incubator is necessary for hatching chicken eggs. But how do we accomplish this? It is done through a natural process as follows:
- Locate a clear plastic bin with a lid. The purpose of being transparent is so that you can see the eggs as frequently as needed.
- Get a desk lamp size large enough that will provide enough lighting for the eggs.
- Proper spacing is necessary. A towel is needed at the bottom of the bin. The cloth should restrict the eggs from rolling around quickly and also to provide soft padding while in the developmental stages. The lamp should be inside the bin to light all eggs.
- Mark the eggs with an X and O on opposite sides. Carefully place the eggs inside the bin. To monitor temperature settings, adjust the lamp as needed. Once the bulb is positioned correctly, sprinkle water on the eggs to create the desired humidity. Use the temperature and humidity gauges to ensure that the environment is conducive for hatching chicken eggs properly.
- Frequently turn the eggs throughout the day at least five times. The entire incubation process remains at about 21 days.
Frequently asked questions
What is the average time for an egg to hatch?
From inception to hatching, on average, takes about 21 days. However, these times may vary based upon clutch and breed.
When can I expect all eggs to hatch?
The entire process may take up to five days for all eggs, so do not be alarmed with any delays once the hatching process begins.
What do I do if an egg explodes during the process?
The number one reason why the egg exploded was because it contains bacteria. Carefully clean out the entire incubator. Remove any residue from the remaining eggs, readjust the settings for proper egg development and continue with the process until the egg hatching cycle completes, the 21 days.
What is the benefit of a broody hen?
A broody hen will take care of just about all of the work necessary. Hatching chicken eggs in their most natural environment will allow the chicks to learn and develop on how to be a chicken. The mother will do all the work she can do and teach what a human cannot.
Can chicks drink from a bowl?
You should never allow a chick to drink water from a bowl. Chicks have no idea of the dangers or depths of a bowl and the impact of an error while drinking. There are chick drinkers that are available if you choose to have a close water source.
What kind of chick food should I buy?
First and foremost, a high protein source of food is best for chicks. Some ideal options include carrots, oatmeal, dried oregano, garlic, cottage cheese and onions. Some of the excellent sources of protein are fish sources and dry nettles.
After the eggs hatch, how low will it take for the hen to leave the nest?
Typically, a mother hen will leave the nest after about 2 to 3 days. She will leave the nest even if there are unhatched eggs. Departing the nest allows any unhatched eggs to be secured, but be careful, the hen is still a protective mother and will aggressively defend her young.
Regardless of the process that you select in your quest of hatching chicken eggs, take a disciplined and focused approach on the preparation and implementation of the methods as necessary. Although 21 days is typical for hatching chicken eggs, there may be occasions where it may take a day or so longer.
Consequently, if an unfortunate incident such as an exploded egg appears, swiftly clean the incubator and nesting area and continue with the 21-day process. Follow the procedures for hatching chicken eggs and enjoy your results. Good luck!
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken Scratch The Foundry.