Hatching chicken eggs is a delicate process that requires 100% of your attention. One wrong step in the chicken egg handling process can cause a whole batch to go bad. If you’re not one to pay attention to detail, then you won’t have any chickens hatching from eggs anytime soon.
If you're a beginner at hatching chicken eggs, you'll have to acquire the eggs to start the hatching process. A good place to start looking for chicken eggs would be a poultry farm or hatchery. Even someone who is a hatching hobbyist will have chicken eggs you can use.
A common mistake people make is that assuming a dozen cart of eggs from the supermarket are hatchable. Eggs sold in supermarkets will not hatch, so don’t waste your time incubating those eggs. A general rule of thumb is to go to the same source for all your chicken eggs. If you get them from one farm, you’ll be reducing the risk of disease spreading amongst your hatched chicks.
Also, farms are more likely to have very fertile chicken hatching eggs, so about 50-70% of the eggs you buy will hatch. These odds are good considering you are doing this by yourself.
Getting your eggs from top-quality breeders will increase your chance of having healthy hatched chicks. When you locate a quality breeder, you then have to find the right egg size that's optimal for hatching. Medium-sized eggs work best if you want a lot of healthy chicks.
Small-sized eggs result in small chicks that don't last very long. Only a small percentage of your eggs will hatch when you choose large-sized eggs predominately. Make sure to avoid weirdly shaped eggs because further problems will arise.
When you are ready to start the hatching process, you have the option to work with or without an incubator. For the optimal results, farmer's recommend hatching eggs in an incubator, which you can buy from Amazon or any online retailer.
After you settle on which incubator you'll be using, pick and choose the eggs you are setting in the device.
It's recommended to primarily set eggs that are both undamaged and spotless. These are the eggs that will yield a significant amount of disease-free, healthy chicks.
Make sure to ask the person you are buying the eggs from when they were laid. You should be incubating eggs that have been laid for less than a week. If you get eggs that have been laid for more than a week, only 20% of the eggs will hatch.
You should turn your eggs every 8 hours after you set them in the incubator until day 18 hits. The egg turning process is crucial because it guarantees that the embryos properly develop and hatch into healthy chicks. To keep track of the egg turning, you can use a marker to distinguish each side. Farmers typically use non-toxic markers to draw an O on one side and an X on the other.
Depending on how much money you want to spend on your incubator, you have the option to buy one that has an automatic turning feature. This feature rotates the eggs slowly, so none get damaged in the turning process.
An automatic turner also eliminates the need for you to manually turn the eggs, which makes the hatching process a bit easier. For those who want to be involved in every aspect of the hatching process, you won’t find use out of an automatic turner.
Within an incubator, chicken eggs need the right amount of air space to grow properly. In fact, the eggs should stay dry at all times.
If you have a faulty incubator, your eggs won’t receive the ventilation they require.
When this happens, your eggs will begin to sweat, which creates a breeding ground for organisms that can damage the embryo.
This will spoil a whole batch, which would be a waste of your time and money. The question is when do you open the vents, so your eggs have the proper air space to thrive? During the last three days of the incubation process, you should slowly open the vents as instructed in the manual.
There are two different types of incubators available, and each requires different temperature settings for optimal egg hatching results. If you are placing your eggs in a forced-air incubator, you’ll have to set the temperature to 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit. For those using a still-air incubator, you should set the temperature to 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Still-air incubators are set at higher temperatures because the air will settle in layers, making the distribution of heat uneven. To correctly measure the temperature, you’ll have to place the thermometer at the top of the egg.
Farmers agree that having a hygrometer helps keep humidity levels in check. During the first 18 days of incubation, humidity levels should reach around 40-50%. When the 18th day hits, you should raise humidity levels to 70%.
Using a hygrometer allows you to stay on top of humidity levels within the incubator.
Near the end of the hatching cycle, you’ll notice air bubbles forming underneath the egg’s shell. This bubble is the chick’s only way of breathing once it’s ready to break through the shell.
When you don't keep track of the humidity, the air bubble will reach too large of a size that the chick won't be able to hatch successfully.
Egg candling is a way of checking to make sure that the egg has a developing embryo. All that's required is exposing the egg to light in a dark room. The egg shell's transparency allows you to check on the embryo.
You should have an egg candling schedule, so the temperature differences don’t negatively affect the growth of the chick. If the embryo has a black dot, then the egg is fertile. If the embryo is transparent, then the egg is infertile. If there is a blood surrounding the yolk, then you have a dead embryo.
The optimal time to begin the egg candling process is during days 8 to 12 because this is when you can easily observe the embryos.
Chicken eggs take about 21 days to hatch when incubated at ideal levels. If your eggs were old or were exposed to inconsistent temperature levels, it may take more than 21 days for them to hatch.
Don't give up if 21 days have gone by and no chicks are emerging from those eggs.