Here’s a step by step guide for hatching eggs in an incubator for beginners. This is a great way to add to your flock!
It typically takes 21 days for a baby chick to hatch out of its egg. So in less than a month you can grow your backyard flock and get an up close view at the whole process.
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Before marrying Mark I would never have guessed I would love backyard chickens so much. As a girl from the suburbs, I didn’t know anyone with a backyard flock when I was growing up. So raising (and now hatching!) chickens has been a real learning experience for me. Chickens are probably my favorite part of our little backyard farm. I’m definitely no expert, but I’ve learned so much and I’m excited to learn more.
This spring when I took the kids to one of our local feed and supply stores to pick up our baby chicks, I saw they had incubators for sale. Immediately, I called Mark to let him know. He needed a little convincing. He didn’t exactly think we needed more chickens, especially since I was at the store picking up baby chicks…
But with a little help from the kids, we were able to convince him.
So I picked up a Little Giant Egg Incubator and headed home ready to hatch a million eggs.
A Great Little Resource!
When Buddy was about 3 years old his uncle got him a great book and resource; Farm Anatomy by Julia Rothman. This charming book has eye-catching illustrations of all different aspects of farm life. Buddy has always enjoyed reading and being read to, so this book has been well loved.
While the book was a gift for him, it’s also been a great resource for me. The author includes lots of vocabulary about farm equipment and farm animals. There’s a variety of information about barns, vegetables, livestock and more. It is a great little resource for a backyard farmer.
The book has a really neat illustration of the 21 day process of development of a chick inside an egg. The chick begins as a tiny little speck barely noticeable until she basically fills the whole interior of the egg and must bust out.
We’d seen this illustration many times over the years in the book, but now we were going to get to be a part of the process by hatching eggs in an incubator right in our home!
At the time we had about 25 chickens, and we collected 21 eggs that day. We were ready to start the incubation process!
Picking The Right Incubator
This was my first time incubating eggs at home, so I only have experience with this incubator. The Little Giant Incubator was so user friendly. Just perfect for a beginner like me!
It is made of styrofoam and is very light weight. The lid of the incubator has two large clear plastic windows that allow you to see inside. In between the two windows there is a control panel that tells you what the temperature and humidity is inside the incubator.
This particular incubator came with an automatic egg turner, which I would certainly recommend. Without an automatic egg turner you would have to mark and manually turn your eggs at least 4 times a day for the 21 day incubation period. Who has time for that?
Our homesteading neighbors have an incubator that holds 300 eggs at a time! So depending on how quickly you want to grow your flock will determine how many eggs you’ll want your incubator to hold.
Hatching Eggs In An Incubator: Step 1
- Plug in the incubator and let it warm up.
The incubator should reach about 99 degrees F before putting the eggs inside. The temperature should remain relatively steady during the entire incubation period. It’s a good idea to keep the lid on the incubator to keep the eggs nice and warm. Every time you open the lid a little heat escapes. Having the clear windows on the lid is so helpful, because you can see everything inside without lifting the lid.
Our incubator did a great job maintaining the temperature. We even lost power for a few hours one day during the incubation process and the temperature remained constant.
Hatching Eggs In An Incubator: Step 2
- Increase the humidity of the incubator.
The humidity needs to be between 50 – 65%. It is very easy to increase the humidity in the Little Giant Egg Incubator. The bottom of the incubator has little trenches that you can pour water into. I just took a small measuring cup (some people use a turkey baster) and added room temperature water. There is a little plastic grate at the bottom of the incubator, so the eggs are not sitting in the water. If you add too much water there are drain holes for the excess water to escape. So be careful not to overfill the trenches!
Hatching Eggs In An Incubator: Step 3
- Collect eggs and put them in the incubator
It’s truly as simple as that!
Is There A Certain Way To Place Eggs In An Incubator?
Set the eggs in the incubator on the automatic egg turner. The eggs need to be placed pointy end down.
In general, you do not need to wash your backyard chicken eggs before using them. When you wash the eggs you wash off a protective coating called the bloom. The bloom protects the egg from bacteria that may try to enter in the pores of the eggshell.
So no need to wash the eggs before putting them in the incubator.
Plug in the automatic egg turner, and you’re all set!
Hatching Eggs In An Incubator: Step 4
- Candling the eggs
Candling eggs is a way to tell if there is a baby chick growing inside the eggs. You really only want to keep viable eggs in the incubator.
How Do I Candle Eggs?
Originally candling was done with (you guessed it) a candle. The candle was held close to the eggs to check for growth inside.
We have found the best way to candle our eggs is inside a darker space using one of Mark’s headlamps. We will hold the headlamp up the egg and check for signs of life. The kids love helping with this part of the process.
When Should I Candle The Eggs?
You should candle your eggs on day 7 and day 14.
Hatching Eggs In An Incubator: Step 5
- Lock down – Take out the automatic egg turner
On day 18 take out the automatic egg turner. By this time the chicks are almost done developing. They no longer need to rotate. They are ready to get in position for hatching! This step is called lock down for a reason. The chicks no longer need any interference. Take out the turner, close the lid, and let the chicks do what they know to do.
Hatching Eggs In An Incubator: Step 6
- Wait and Watch
It is best to handle the eggs as little as possible in the incubator. As mentioned before, every time you open the lid to the incubator the temperature and humidity level could change. Having the clear windows on the top of our incubator was so nice, because we could constantly keep an eye on things without disturbing the eggs.
Knowing that chickens usually hatch in a 21 day period, I had marked the calendar for our hatch date. I’ll never forget sitting in the living room with the kids and hearing a little cheep sound come from the dining room! We all ran to the incubator to see one little egg spastically rocking back and forth. It was so exciting! We all stared in amazement!
Waiting A Little Bit Longer…
And we stared for quite a while thinking that any moment she would just pop out. It didn’t happen as quickly as I had anticipated. It can actually take up to 24 hour for the little chicks to hatch out of the eggs once they have started.
Over the next 2 days our little incubator was full of little chicks! It was astonishing to see them come out of their shells all tired and wet. I loved watching them take their first little wobbly steps. Honestly, I was as proud as if I had been the mother hen!
Out of the 19 eggs we started with 2 failed the candle test and 2 of the eggs just never hatched. So 15 of our 19 eggs grew to be healthy baby chicks! I was thrilled with the outcome!
Hatching chicken eggs from an incubator was just as exciting as I had hoped! So if you’re looking for a way to increase your flock, or if you want to start a side hustle selling baby chicks I would definitely encourage you to get an incubator and get started.
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