Hatching baby chicks in your own incubator is not only easy — it’s a blast!
by Pascale Pearce
This content is sponsored by Brinsea.
I’ve heard from many backyard poultry enthusiasts who’d like to become more self-sufficient by hatching their own chicks, but who have concerns about the cost and difficulty of doing so. Well, there’s little to worry about, because hatching chicken eggs is fun and easy if you follow a few simple guidelines.
Choose a High-Quality Incubator
Affordable Incubator technology has come a long way from the simply heated wooden boxes that your grandparents might have used. Today, a quality electric incubator that will hatch up to a dozen eggs costs around 120 dollars — below that price, be wary of the safety of the unit’s electric components.
An accurate temperature control is paramount for successful incubation, so look for an incubator with reliable electronic temperature control. Read reviews online and ask other users about the model’s temperature stability.
Next, look for incubators made from impervious materials, such as plastic or stainless steel, and with simple turning mechanisms which are designed for easy cleaning. To protect your chick’s health, make sure that your incubator is not breeding ground for bacteria.
Finally, while you can manually turn your eggs, bear in mind that eggs need to be turned at least three times a day and preferably every hour. Because of this time investment and for the sake of consistency, you may want to consider an automatic turning egg incubator. Some fully digital models like our Mini and Maxi Advance even countdown to hatch day and automatically stop the turning two days prior.
Source High-quality Fertile Eggs
Once you have a quality, easy-to-clean good incubator, you will need fertile eggs. Here’s an important egg fact: Grocery store eggs will not hatch! If you already have a flock of healthy hens and a rooster, you’re all set. If you don’t have a rooster, it’s best to source your fertile eggs locally. They will be fresher and their chances of hatching won’t have been compromised by jostling and extreme temperatures during shipping.
Eggs can be stored up to a week provided they are kept cool (around 55°F with 75% humidity) and stored pointed end down and turned once a day. Misshaped, cracked, or dirty eggs should not be set in an incubator.
Set Up Your Incubator Ahead of Time
You should read the user manual and run the incubator several days before setting eggs to ensure everything is working properly. Allow eggs to warm up to room temperature before placing them in the incubator on their side or pointed end down. Make sure that you don’t adjust the temperature for 24 hours. Finally, don’t forget to regularly check the water reservoirs, following the manufacturer’s recommendations, to achieve the correct humidity level.
Now you’re all set to let nature take its course! Another fun fact: An incubator will not hatch faster — chicks still need 21 days!
Candle Your Eggs for Fun While You Wait
By shining a bright light through the shell, candling allows you to monitor fertility and embryo development. Where actual candles were once used, thus the name, modern candlers are usually LEDs because they are very bright, very efficient, and don’t emit heat that might damage embryos. Some like our OvaScope can be used anywhere (not just darkened rooms), and can be hooked up to a webcam.
Eggs may be candled after 5 days of incubation and every few days thereafter. For best results, you should candle eggs in a darkened room holding the candler right against the shell at the larger end.
At 5 days, you will be able to see a small embryo and a web of blood vessels radiating from it.
As the chick grows it will be hard to make out details, but you should still be able to see movement.
Candling will also help you identify and remove non-viable eggs that could contaminate your hatch with germs. When illuminated with a candler, infertile eggs will remain clear and eggs which have died will show a dark ring.
It will take a little practice to become confident about which eggs are dead and which are healthy, but my advice is to not discard any eggs if you are unsure — take another look a few days later before deciding.
The Magical Hatching!
Two days before the eggs are due to hatch, stop turning and make sure the water reservoirs are well topped up. Humidity needs to be high during hatching, so don’t open the incubator. Finally, hatching takes time — usually give it 24 hours or more from the first bump on the shell until the chicks emerges all wet and exhausted. It’s important to be patient at this point. Don’t be tempted to help the chicks from their shell, and don’t transfer the chicks under a brooder until they are fully fluffed up. Otherwise, they could chill. With a little patience, you will be rewarded with little bundles of fuzzy cuteness that nobody can resist.
One last piece of advice: Hatching you own chicken eggs is highly addictive and a ton of fun! Happy Hatching!
Author – Pascale Pearce
For more information on candling and incubation you can download a free Incubation Handbook from www.brinsea.com.
Brinsea Products are the world leading incubation specialists. They have been manufacturing affordable, quality incubators since 1976 and are the choice of backyard breeders through research establishments. Visit www.brinsea.com or call 1-888-667-7009 for more information on their full line of incubators, brooders and breeding equipment all with a 3-year warranty.