If you have not already read Part 1 TO HATCH OR NOT TO HATCH, Part 2 CHOOSING YOUR FERTILIZED EGG(S) and Part 3 GETTING READY TO HATCH THE EGGS of our Hatching Egg(s) series, you may want to take a quick read before moving on to the final Part 4.
In Part 4 we look at the best way to hatch the eggs using a brood hen and using an incubator to hatch the chicken eggs.
FACTS ABOUT HATCHING EGGS
As discussed in Part 3 of our Hatching Eggs series we discussed the various methods of hatching such as using a brood hen or an incubator.
Here are some facts about chickens’ eggs and hatching to know before we get to how to hatch eggs using either one of the methods discussed.
Some egg and hatching facts that are good to know:
- Eggs you buy from the supermarket are not fertile.
- Fertilized eggs are acquired when there is a rooster of age in the flock to fertilize the eggs or the eggs are acquired from a reputed hatchery or registered poultry breeding source.
- If purchasing fertilized eggs, make sure they come from a source that is certified by the NPIP (National Poultry Improvement Plan).
- A fertilized egg can be stored in a room of a steady temperature of 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit prior to incubation for a maximum period of 7 days.
- Egg incubations take 21 weeks.
- There are no guarantees that all your fertilized eggs will hatch.
- You cannot tell the sex of the hatchling until about 4 weeks (unless they are sexlink hybrids)
- There is a 50/50 percent chance of getting either male or females and there are no guarantees which ones you will be getting until they are 4 weeks old.
- Hatchlings will need a brooder after they are born
- You will need a separate coop for the Pullets/Cockerels once they reach 18 weeks old.
HATCHING EGGS WITH A BROOD HEN
- Broody coop –It is best to separate the brood hen from the flock when it/they are sitting on eggs.
- Make sure the broody coop is safe and secure. Well ventilated but insulated at the same time.
- Enough clean food and water for the sitting hen each day.
- Adequate roosting boxes and other accessories for the broody coop.
- The correct brood hen you have chosen to sit the eggs and mother the chicks.
- Incubator (in case it is required)
- Brooder (in case it is required)
this avoids discord in the coop and the chance of eggs getting pecked and broken. Or other non-sitter chickens laying eggs on top of the fertilized one.
It is also safer for when the chicks are born as some hens may take exception to them and that is not something you want in your coop.
Brood hens and the eggs/chicks
- It is quite easy to spot a broody hen. Hens that do get broody will generally do so with the first signs of spring. This is when the days start to get longer, and the trees take on their new leaves.
- Move the broody hen to the broody coop with her eggs
- It is good practice to gently mark the eggs you want to be incubated. This way you will see which eggs she has rejected. Some hens may not want to brood the fertile eggs.
- Place the eggs to be incubated beneath her but ensure she only has the maximum she can cover.
- She may reject them, so you may still need your incubator at the ready.
- If she does not reject them she will go on to sit on them for the next 21 days.
- If she abandons them after a few days, you will have to incubate them
- Keep tabs on any eggs she kicks out the nest as brood hens know if an egg is fertile or not
- You can keep an eye on the hatching process but try not to interfere with her too much
- Once the eggs have hatched and if the breed is a good mother she will feed and nurture them until she thinks they are ready to venture outside.
- She will teach them how to feed and drink.
- Once they are able to go outside she will teach all they need to know about predators, scratching, foraging, grooming, etc.
When the hen lays her eggs she will become more protective over them and fluffed out. She may even peck away some of her breast feathers.
You may also note the other chickens in the flock giving her a wide berth as they can be quite protective and even a little aggressive. They tend to have sort of a broody growl. She may even go for you and try to peck you if you go to check on her eggs.
HATCHING EGGS WITH AN INCUBATOR
If you are using an incubator to hatch your chicken eggs, then you will have to put in some work over the next 21 days in order to hatch the eggs.
Once the incubator is sanitized and dry it is best to turn it on and test it to ensure it is working and you can get the optimum temperature.
Place the incubator in a safe, secure place that is pest and predator-free. A place where the temperature remains constant with no drafts.
Setting up and testing the incubator the incubator
- About a week before you bring home the eggs make sure to set up the incubator.
- Clean it with a safe bleach/special cleaning fluid and wash it down with warm soapy water followed by clean water.
- Place the incubator in a safe, secure place that is pest and predator-free. A place where the temperature remains constant with no drafts
- Once the incubator is sanitized and dry it is best to turn it on and test it to ensure it is working and you can get the optimum temperature.
- Follow this guide for the best-suited temperature
- Day 1 to day 17 the humidity should be at around 50 – 55 percent
- Day 18 to day 21 the humidity should be raised to at least 70 percent
- You will need a hygrometer – this is a device that will measure moisture and humidity in the air in confined spaces such as the incubator.
- Always keep all the water sources in the incubator at the point indicated. This will ensure that the correct humidity is maintained.
- The temperature range should be between 99 degrees Fahrenheit to 102 degrees Fahrenheit
- You will need a decent temperature thermometer for the incubator to ensure the correct temperatures at all times
- The incubator should never stay at 102 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 2 hours at a time
- The incubators temperature should never drop below that of 92 degrees Fahrenheit
- It is a good idea to keep a spare thermometer handy to ensure the one for the incubator is working correctly. As maintain the correct temperature is crucial to hatching the eggs.
- Do not open the incubator too much preferably only when absolutely necessary.
- Day 18 to 21 you will have to increase the ventilation inside the incubator
- Make sure you are comfortable with using the incubator and have read all the instructions and have met all the requirements for the incubator you are using.
The first day
- Putting the eggs in the readied incubator is called “setting the eggs”. You do this by placing the larger side of the egg at the bottom of the incubator egg tray and the smaller end facing upwards.
- The temperature should be at 100 degrees Fahrenheit
- The humidity should at around 50 to 55 percent
- Only put the maximum and or minimum amount of eggs in the incubator at one time. Do not try to squeeze in any more.
- You can determine if the embryos are growing between day 7 through to 10
- You can do this by candling as explained in Part 2 of the Hatching Eggs series. You can do this with a lit candle, a strong flashlight or if you want to splash out there is equipment that can do this.
- Clear egg means the egg is not fertile and must be removed from the incubator
- Sometimes you will see a red ring in the egg. This means that embryo that may have been in that egg has died. The egg must be removed from the incubator
- If you see blood vessels, then there is a live embryo in the egg and it is starting to grow.
- Any eggs that you find to be cracked and or leaking must instantly be removed from the incubator as they will not produce a viable chick. The leakage will more than likely contaminate the incubator.
- You can only keep the egg out of the incubator for no longer than 5 minutes at a time
- As soon as you have determined if the egg is viable or not either return it to the incubator right away or remove it.
Day 1 to Day 17 procedure for incubating eggs
- Each day the eggs will have to be turned at least a day and a maximum of 5 times a day. If you can turn them 5 times a day this is the better option of the two.
- Turning the egg up to 5 times a day will ensure the embryo and the yolk stay in the correct position.
- If you have an automatic egg turning in your incubator it will do this for you.
- It is best to have an automatic turner as constantly opening and closing the apparatus can lead to unregulated humidity and temperatures.
- If you do not wash your hands or wear gloves to turn the eggs you can transfer harmful germs and oils to the egg
- If you do have an automatic turner it is best to gently mark the top and bottom of the eggs with a pencil (do this for manual turning too) to ensure the turner is working. For manual use, it is good to keep track that the eggs have been turned.
- You may want to make a chart to mark off the turning during the day.
- Check the incubator regularly to ensure the humidity and temperature are constant and the apparatus is working correctly
- You may see the egg move as the embryo develops and you may even see the embryo outline taking shape in the egg.
Turning the eggs
Why do eggs need to be Turned?
The embryo should be positioned on the top of the yolk in order to stop the embryo from becoming damaged.
The yolk will slowly start to float towards the top of the egg white (albumin) and nearer the shell. This has the potential to trap the embryo between the shell and the yolk. If this happens the embryo can be stuck to the shell, badly deformed or die.
Day 18 to Day 20
- The embryo will now be taking up most of the egg as it will be now have developed into a chick
- If you are manually turning the egg you can safely stop doing so
- To help the chick as it readies itself to hatch position the egg with the larger part upwards.
- You may need to set it in an automatic incubator as well
- The humidity will now need to be increased to 70 percent
- The temperature should be set to 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit
- The chick will start to get into position to hatch
Day 21 to Day 23
- Most eggs hatch at day 21 but some may take a bit longer. There are a few factors that could account for this like the egg having been stored for a few days before incubation, etc.
- If there is no movement at day 21 give the chick to at least day 23. If they still have not hatched by then you can check to see if their chick is alive in the egg by candling it. If there is no movement at all the chick may be dead and you will need to discard the egg.
- You may hear a peeping from the shell before, during and after the chick hatches. This is the baby calling to its mother and other hatchlings. Some people will peep back or play a recording of chickens peeping to their hatchlings. It is for encouragement as hatching is a really exhausting and stressful time for the new hatchling.
- When they start to break through it is important that you DO NOT TOUCH them or help them in any way. This could potentially harm the little hatchling as it is not just a simple process of breaking through and hopping out of the egg. There may still be live blood vessels that are attaching the chick the shell. These need to be completely dried up or they could fatally wound the little chick.
- Hatching usually takes around 5 to 6 hours but can go on for as long as 24 hours.
- Make sure you have food (chick starter feed) and fresh water in the incubator for the fully hatched chicks.
- Once all the chicks have hatched the incubator can be turned down to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
- They need to have their little feathers dried and all be completely hatched before moving them to the brooder.
END OF HATCHING EGG(S) PART 4
This brings us to end of our Hatching Eggs series.
If you are new to owning chickens, looking to starting out before making a choice of chicken breed it is best to have a clear vision as to what you are wanting to get out of owning chickens. Are you looking for fresh eggs, a pet, etc? For advice on keeping chickens see our “The first-time chicken owners starter guide”.