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Take the guesswork out of backyard chicken keeping with MY Printable Bundle

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How To Incubate Chicken Eggs

Here on the Gubba Homestead, I just got through incubating my first batch of eggs! I discussed a little bit about my reasoning for incubating and hatching my own eggs here. I essentially wanted to give incubating eggs a go, and I got heritage chicken breed eggs from a local farm. These kinds of breeds aren’t common around here, so incubating eggs was the only way to potentially get some neat breeds!

What is the best egg incubator?

When I was diving into the idea of incubating my own eggs, I researched all kinds of incubators and settled on The Nurture Right Egg Incubator and it has been AMAZING! Across the board, it has great reviews. I loved that it has an automatic egg rotator, so you never have to open the lid to rotate the eggs. Opening the incubator too many times can be problematic because it will fluctuate the temperature and humidity causing problems with hatching and development. This incubator has a screen on top, so you can easily see the temperature and humidity and can easily know if there is a problem you need to address.

It is an investment because it is on the pricier side, but it makes incubating eggs so easy! To recoup some of the investment money, you can sell some of the chicks that you hatch. Here is an incubator for half the price but the investment may reflect in the hatching success, so keep that in mind. 


Why should you incubate chicken eggs at home?

If you don’t have any broody hens, you will have to manually incubate eggs yourself with the help of an incubator. Broody hens are hens that will sit on their eggs and have a motherly instinct to hatch their babies. I personally think this is a good thing, but it has been broodiness has been bred out of chicken genetics. Broody hens allow your flock to stay self-sufficing, but if you don’t manage it you can end up with a lot of chickens.

Incubating eggs at home has been a fun experience, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to raise chickens! Chicken eggs aren’t the only eggs you can incubate, you can also incubate other kinds of eggs like duck, turkey, and goose. Incubating eggs provides a great opportunity to learn about the process of egg hatching and the development of chicks. Involve your kids in this homestead activity to help them learn about the cycles of life.

eggs to hatch in carton

How do you select eggs for incubating?

The first step in incubating eggs at home is selecting the right eggs. If you are planning to hatch eggs from your own flock, it is important to choose eggs from healthy, disease-free hens that are of good breeding age. You should also avoid using eggs from hens that are too old or have not been laying regularly.

If you do not have your own flock, you can purchase fertile eggs from a reputable breeder or hatchery. Make sure to choose eggs from a breed that is suitable for your climate and intended use, such as meat or egg production. Discuss with the farmer or breeder that you are purchasing your eggs from about the kinds of traits you are hoping to have in your chickens. They can help pinpoint the breed(s) of chickens that will be suitable for you.

It is also important to handle the eggs carefully to avoid cracking or damaging them. Use clean hands and avoid dropping or jostling the eggs. Essentially, as soon as you get the eggs, take them hope and put into the incubator if possible. Make sure the eggs are fresh and have been laid within seven days because the viability of eggs diminishes overtime. 

How do you prepare an incubator for eggs?

Once you have selected your eggs, the next step is to prepare your incubator. There are many different types of incubators available, from basic models that require manual temperature and humidity control to more advanced models with automated controls. Again, I LOVED my Nurture Right Egg Incubator I would 100% recommend investing in a nicer model upfront like one that does automatic turning and has gauges to measure the temperature and humidity. If you are having to invest copious amounts of time to manually turn the eggs and check the temperature and humidity, you may regret incubating eggs at all!

Before setting up your incubator, make sure to clean it thoroughly with warm, soapy water and disinfectant to prevent the spread of bacteria. You should also calibrate the temperature and humidity controls to ensure they are accurate. Follow the directions on your specific incubator and make sure to clean it after every batch of hatched eggs.

When setting up the incubator, make sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully. You can use an egg turner to automatically rotate the eggs or turn them manually at least three times a day. Rotating the eggs is important for development, so do not skip this step if you don’t have an automatic egg-turning incubator. 

chicken incubator temp and humidity

What is the right temperature and humidity for egg incubation?

Maintaining the right temperature and humidity levels is crucial for successful egg incubation. The ideal temperature for incubating most types of poultry eggs is around 99.5°F (37.5°C), although this may vary slightly depending on the type of egg and the incubator you are using.
To monitor the temperature, you should use a thermometer placed at egg level. It is also important to maintain a consistent temperature throughout the incubation period, as fluctuations can negatively impact the development of the embryos. I suggest having an incubator that reads out the internal temperature for you, so you don’t have to manually check the temperature. This saves time for you and creates a less intrusive environment for the eggs.

Humidity is also important for egg incubation. Humidity helps to keep the eggs moist and facilitates the hatching process. The ideal humidity level for most types of poultry eggs is around 48-55%, although this may vary depending on the breed and the incubator. Read the instructions and know what is appropriate for the type of egg you are trying to hatch.

To maintain the right humidity level, you should use a hygrometer to measure the humidity inside the incubator. You can increase the humidity by adding water to the incubator or using a humidity tray. It is important to avoid over-saturating the eggs, as this can lead to bacterial growth and reduce hatch rates. The Nurture Right Egg Incubator displayed the humidity percentage inside of the egg incubator on an easy to read screen. Humidity is adjusted by a little opening and by adding water.

How do you candle eggs?

Candling is the process of shining a light through the egg to check its development. It is typically done after a week of incubation to check for signs of embryo development and to remove any infertile or damaged eggs.

To candle the eggs, you can use a bright flashlight or a specialized candling lamp. Hold the egg up to the light and look for the presence of veins and a developing embryo. Infertile or damaged eggs will appear clear or may have blood rings or dark spots.

It is important to remove any infertile or damaged eggs from the incubator to prevent the spread of bacteria and to give the developing embryos more space.

Why do eggs explode in the incubator?

Thankfully, I never dealt with any eggs exploding in my incubator, but it is a possibility. Eggs can explode due to a buildup of gasses inside the eggs. Common causes for eggs exploding in the incubator: high humidity levels, improper ventilation, and eggs that are too old or have been improperly stored before incubating.

If any eggs happen to explode, remove them immediately to prevent contamination of other eggs.

How long do chicken eggs incubate?

The cycle of incubation for chickens in 21 days. On day 18, you will remove the automatic turner from the incubator, or if you are doing it manually, stop rotating the eggs. You will increase the humidity to around 70% and anxiously await any chicks to start hatching!

chicks pipping

What are pipped eggs?

Pipped eggs are when the chick inside the eggs begins to make the first holes in the egg by pecking. The first pip is internal and won’t be visible to the eye and this is where they break the air cell inside of the egg. Shortly after, the chick will create an external pip which is visible.

chicks in brooder

When should you remove chicks from the incubator?

Chicks can survive in the incubator for up to 72 hours then you will want to move them to a brooder. This is how hatcheries are able to mail out day-old chicks. They are still surviving off the nutrients from their yolk. You can remove chicks when they are dry and fluffed. You don’t want to remove chicks when they are wet because they could catch a cold draft and die. You also don’t want to remove chicks from the incubator when another egg is pipping because that will fluctuate the humidity levels and affect the hatching egg.

I incubated 12 eggs. Seven hatched and six survived. I had one chick die because it was born with the yolk still attached and the other chicks pecked at it, so it didn’t get to absorb the last of its nutrients sadly. I removed the other chicks as quickly as possible, but the little chick still didn’t survive. Most likely, not all of your eggs will hatch and some may even pass away like mine did. Overall, it has been a fun experience and I plan to do it again with the eggs from my own flock. I’m hoping the little chicks I do have are hens and will bring viable eggs to the homestead! Happy incubating!

How To Incubate Chicken Eggs