If you want to join the business of rearing chickens, a large part will be incubation of chicken eggs. The incubation process merely ensures that the eggs are kept in a certain environment to ensure that they develop from mere eggs to chicks. It is possible for a ‘broody’ chicken to sit on the egg during this incubation period to ensure that it incubates properly.
However, not all chickens have this maternal instinct and will be able to do it, so if you are rearing chicks for commercial purposes or simply want to have the incubation within your control it would be better to do the incubation yourself. Do not be confused, by incubating the eggs we do not mean seating on them but rather putting them in a device that will be able to mimic the perfect conditions for incubation. If you want to rear chickens as a hobby or means for a livelihood, we are going to provide you with the go-to guide on how to incubate your eggs so that you get the best out of them.
Like the old question of whether the chicken comes before the egg, does the incubator come before the eggs? We propose that you purchase your incubator before the eggs. This is for one major reason - so that the eggs are fresh during the incubation period. It is possible for newly laid eggs to remain fresh for up to two weeks, however, if the incubation can begin earlier you should consider it.
What to look for in an incubator
So how do you pick an incubator to purchase. Well, as with most electronics there are numerous options to choose from depending on what you want. Do you just need something cheap to try out incubating, do you need a small incubator or a large and efficient incubator for professional use? The internet is your oyster.
Regardless there are certain necessary requirements for a good incubator – regulate temperature and humidity, and promote air circulation. It will be a good idea to have a see-through incubator so you can easily monitor the eggs especially during the last three days for which it is advised not to open the incubator.
Don’t get frustrated trying to work out how you would manage to operate this device, thankfully this age of technology makes things super easy. You do not need to be a rocket scientist to operate an incubator. But the ability to read, understand and follow instructions, plus not being a chicken about handling chickens, get it?!
See more: 15 Best Chicken Egg Incubator
What to look for in an egg
Make sure the egg if fresh and healthy. If the egg is deformed, of abnormal size or has a weak shell it probably will not incubate properly and hatch. Do not store the eggs in the fridge before putting it in the incubator. The temperature of a fridge is too low.
If the eggs are delivered by post, it will be best to leave the eggs to rest for about 12 hours with the pointy end facing downwards, before putting it in the incubator. Make sure the eggs are clean but do not wash them
The middle – Working with the incubator
Now you have your eggs and incubator, it is time for the main part. Set your incubator to the required temperature for chicken eggs which is between 99 and 102 degrees Farenheit and put some water in the incubator. Turn on the incubator and wait for the temperature and humidity to stabilize before putting in the eggs. It is important that the eggs are not crammed into the incubator as they will need proper air circulation to properly develop. They should also be placed with the pointy end facing down at 45 degrees.
A good incubator will have a dashboard to indicate what the temperature and humidity inside the incubator is. You can also use a thermometer to measure the temperature and hygrometer to measure the humidity. If there is not enough water in the incubator, it will become too hot and destroy the eggs. Monitor the level of water and humidity and should they drop, make sure you add water into the incubator gently but be careful not to pour the water on the eggs.
Setting eggs in the Incubator video. Source youtube.com
The incubator should not be opened too often because this is will destabilize the temperature inside. However, it is necessary to open the incubator occasionally. One of the times has already been mentioned above – to add water. Another reason is to turn the eggs. Eggs need to be turned about two to three times a day.
Some incubators come with automatic egg turners, there are also individually sold egg-turners that can be attached to the inside of the incubator. If you wish to do it yourself, you can mark each side of the egg, x and o, or b and t to signify bottom and up. Whatever you want really, the point is to help make sure you know which eggs have been turned and which have not.
Avoid keeping the incubator in direct sunlight. Also make sure to keep away from pets and children, don’t forget there are delicate eggs in the incubator, you don’t want any mistakes to cost you. Whenever you are handling the eggs make sure your hands are clean.
While your eggs are in the incubator developing, it is possible to check how the development is going through candling. This process can be done after about ten days of the eggs being the incubator. Remember that the chicks are still developing in the shell and it is therefore a tricky process and will need a lot of practice.
Again, technology has come to the rescue and there are candling devices with bright LED lights to help with the process. Make sure to do it in a dark place and try not to candle too often, so you do not have to handle to eggs too often or open the incubator.
See more: 10 Best Egg Candlers Reviews
The end – Hatching
This is what you have been waiting for, so make sure not to mess it up. It takes approximately twenty-one (21) days for an egg to hatch. The final three days are very crucial, at this point, the chicks inside are big and develop their own heat so it is important to drop the temperature of the incubator to 98.5 degrees while the humidity is kept at 65 degrees so that the chicks do not stick to the membrane in the egg and therefore will find it easier to hatch. Also, three days before they are due to hatch, take the eggs out of the turner and lay them on the floor of the incubator with the pointy end of the eggs facing upward
Try your best to resist the temptation to help the chicks out of their shells. Allow them to find their way out and dry before bringing them to the world. Plus, if you open the incubator, the chicks that haven’t hatched will be exposed to cool air which will make their shells harder to break through. If you must take out hatched chicks, do it quickly and monitor the temperature.
And for the chicks that might find it difficult to hatch, you might help but carefully taking a tiny bit of shell off to ease their breakthrough. Remember, chicks can be left in the incubator for 24hours after hatching without the need for food or water.Finally, do not be hard on yourself if not all the eggs hatch. No matter the circumstances, it is rare to have 100% hatching success.
After that you also need a chicken feeder for your chicken flock. Read our article for more information: