Raising your own chickens means you don't need to look over the many varieties of store-bought eggs trying to assess if they are actually free range. You are in control of what your chickens eat and how they spend their days. Starting with the egg instead of chicks is a super fun endeavor that results in a beautiful supply of eggs grown in your very own backyard! This is a project that requires precision. Utilizing an incubator can make the process super simple! The purpose of an incubator is to allow you to control three things: temperature, humidity and ventilation. Below, we will go over how to incubate eggs so you can start raising your very own chickens!
To get started, find your eggs. A local hatchery is recommended over purchasing eggs online since the shipping often yields eggs that don't hatch. Some of your neighboring farms may allow you to purchase fresh farm eggs from them. Shop around and be sure you find the breed(s) you want. Not only do different varieties lay less or more frequently, but chicken eggs also come in a variety of sizes and colors, each with a hint of their own flavor as well as different nutritional content. If all else fails, purchase online, but be sure to purchase at least six since more often than not, they won't all hatch.
Prepare your egg hatching incubator. If you don't already have one, you can pick up a high-quality incubator online, complete with an egg turner, that holds up to 41 eggs and is preset for a good hatch! There are also manual incubator options that are see-through, allowing you to watch the entire process. Depending on which option you choose, there are a variety of supplies you potentially need to regulate the temperature and humidity.
- Be sure to select a location that has a constant temperature. Having it by a window or somewhere outdoors will cause too much temperature variation for your eggs to mature.
- Review the instruction manual for your incubator and begin to familiarize yourself with the controls. Make sure you understand how to control the three items: temperature, humidity, and ventilation. You will be monitoring these eggs for the next 21 days, and a minor hiccup at the start can throw the whole project off track.
- Maintain a temperature between 99 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity at 50 to 65 percent.
Set the eggs in your incubator. After you have managed to work the controls and maintain and adjust the temperature and humidity for at least 24-48 hours, you are ready to get started. Carefully place your eggs in the incubator with the eggs on their sides and the larger, rounder end of the egg slightly higher than the pointier end. Take note of the date.
Turn your eggs. Eggs should be turned a minimum of three times per day. In order to ensure they are all getting turned if you are not using an automatic turner, it is a good idea to draw an X on one side to keep track. Continue to turn the eggs three times daily until day 18.
Monitor your eggs. After 7 days, you can take a peek inside your eggs using an Egg Candler to assess the growth of the embryo. By this time, you will be able to tell if the egg is a dud or not. Replenish the water in the humidifier regularly and measure the humidity level using a wet bulb thermometer if your setup does not have one built in. Ensure the incubator has adequate ventilation.
Prepare for the hatch. Discontinue turning and rotating eggs 3 days prior to the estimated hatch date. Most viable eggs will hatch within a 24-hour period. Many people prefer to gently place a cloth below the eggs to keep the eggshells contained and provide a soft landing for the chicks.