Beginners Guide To Incubating and Hatching Chicken Eggs

Last week we hatched 13 chicks. It’s always an exciting time to watch chicks pip their eggs for the first time, and then practice the patience it takes for them to get out of the eggshell.

Incubating chicken eggs is easy enough for the beginner, but there are several things you can do to get a better hatch rate, and stronger chicks.

We’ve been incubating chicken eggs for several years now. First, we bought a $100 incubator. Being newbies with incubating, plus having an incubator that didn’t work well from the start was a pain.

This year we purchased a Brinsea 28-egg automatic incubator, and it’s been an eye-opening experience what a piece of junk we had previously! Yes, this one was quite a bit more expensive, but it has been worth it.

An incubator needs to keep the correct temperature as much as possible. Our first incubator lost heat right from the beginning.

While the chicks still hatched, the chicks were a lot weaker than they should have been.

When first starting incubating eggs, it can be confusing. I found a lot of conflicting information online and needed a simple and straightforward guide

An egg temperature and humidity chart is included at the bottom, which is really helpful when just starting out. Since I’m Canadian, I included Celsius and Fahrenheit in the chart.

Incubating eggs without an incubator is not something I have any experience with, so I won’t be sharing any tips for that here.

chicks hatching

What Kind of Eggs Do You Need To Hatch In An Incubator

In an incubator, you can hatch chick eggs, as well as duck, turkey, quail, and even parrot eggs (if you have access to them).

The most important thing to ask yourself when sourcing eggs for hatching, is whether or not they are fertilized. We placed 24 chicken eggs into our incubator, but because we had a poor fertility rate, only 15 of them were fertilized.

It depends on the ratio of males to females at the source. We were aware that the eggs might not be all fertilized, and because this was our first run with the new incubator, we were okay with that.

Next, I ordered rare breeds of chicken eggs. These have a proven fertility rate, so the hatch rate should be much higher.

When purchasing eggs, ask for the fertility rate.

What Type of Incubator Is Best

Incubator prices aren’t for the faint of heart. They can run pretty pricey, especially if you want an automatic egg turner (which I highly recommend).

However, there are cheaper options available. Usually, these have room for fewer eggs, but if you’re ok with only hatching 8-12 chicks at a time, then these would be fine.

When shopping for an incubator, look out for automatic egg turners.

Eggs need to be turned every 2 hours, and while some choose to do this by hand, I recommend an automatic egg turner.

Watch labels and descriptions carefully. Nurture Right incubators have the option of buying an egg turner that connects with the basic incubator.

Brinsea ones all come with the automatic egg turner (from what I could tell).

Nurture Right 360 Incubators are available on Amazon and have several options to choose from. They come with a clear top so that you can see what’s happening as they hatch.

This one can hold 22 eggs at a time and is a great option.

Are Incubators worth It

Another thing to consider before purchasing an expensive incubator is if you are only doing this as a fun thing to do.

f you plan to hatch meat birds for the freezer, or even laying hens to sell, the cost of a more sophisticated unit will have paid for itself quickly.

Especially with chicken prices today, which can run anywhere from $5-$10/chick. Specialty chickens go even more expensive.

On Facebook today I saw chicks selling for $25 a chick! You only need to sell 24 chicks to get back the cost of a $600/incubator.

Best Fully Automatic Incubator

There are probably more brands of incubators that are great, but I can only recommend two brands: Nurture Rights and Brinsea.

We purchased the Brinsea 28 Ovation from (A Canadian company), but is a great place to start.

They are also both available on Amazon.

What is the Success Rate of Incubating Eggs

Incubated eggs can have a success rate of up to 90%. After taking out the non-fertilized eggs, we had a success rate of 86%. That’s really good.

The Brinsea incubator kept perfect temperature through all 21 days. The humidity level was also really easy to keep steady.

The old incubator we’ve had a success rate of 75%. This only happened once, our second time using it. Temperature fluctuations were our biggest problem because fertility rates were great.

With a good incubator, and fertilized eggs, expect a 75-95% hatch rate.

How to Prepare Eggs For Incubating

You need unwashed eggs when incubating. Clean them off with a paper towel if there is some poop, or straw. Store them in a cool, damp area until ready to incubate.

Eggs with the bloom can keep up to 2 weeks before incubating, but I recommend as fresh as possible. Daily turning of eggs can also maintain hatchability.

Don’t use cracked or misshapen eggs.

How to Set Up Your Incubator

Turn on the incubator an hour before setting in the eggs. You will get the best results in a heated room free from wide temperature fluctuations (our kitchen worked well).

Make sure the room temperature will not drop drastically during the night. Ideally, the room should be between 68-75°F (20-24°C) degrees. Place the incubator out of direct sunlight and on a flat level surface.

Add some water to the incubator (your manual will tell you how much), and set the eggs into the carriers provided. The eggs need to be set laying flat, or their pointed ends facing down.

Wait For 21 Days

Check the water level every two days, or keep a close eye on the humidity level. After 7 days, candle the eggs to check fertility.

You’ll be able to see blood vessels in the shell of the egg for the fertilized eggs. Discard any clear, infertile eggs.

On day 18, stop turning the eggs. Add some water if necessary. Turn off the automatic turner (some incubators will do this automatically), and lock down the incubator.

Don’t open the incubator during this time. At this time you want the humidity to be at 55-60%.

On day 21 you’ll start noticing pipping, which is the chick making its first break through the shell. Be patient as this can take several hours before the chick will be completely free of the egg.

You’ll hear quiet cheeping sounds coming from that first pip.

The humidity level will rise as chicks are hatched. Too high of humidity, chicks can drown in their shell. Too low, and the chicks can shrink-wrap in their shell.

Try to keep the humidity between 60-75%. Our incubator at one point completely fogged up, so we opened the vent completely. That helped quickly.

Baby chicks are not fluffy immediately out of the shell. They are wet but will dry and fluff up within a couple of hours.

They seem very weak right out of the shell, but they quickly gain their strength and will soon be running around.

The chicks don’t need food right away. They are fine for 1-2 days without food, so refrain from removing them immediately.

Wait until the majority of the chicks have hatched before removing the chicks from the incubator.

You did it! You hatched eggs in an incubator! Way to go. For a complete guide to caring for baby chicks, go here.

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