I have some friends that are absolutely terrified of hatching eggs. And rightfully so. I hear the horror stories all the time on farm forums and facebook pages. The best hatchers have their own horror stories — and they are the best because they have learned from their own mistakes and made sure they didn’t make them again. The best hatchers also understand that just because they’ve done this 100 times, it doesn’t mean everything is always going to go perfect in the end. That’s just the risk you take when trying to play “God”.
First and foremost, don’t freak out. Take a really deep breath before starting.
Next, do your research. If you don’t already have an incubator, don’t just take the cheap route. I took the cheap route, and thankfully it has turned out fine with some tweaking. However, might I suggest the Hovabator Genesis, as it automatically measures temp and humidity for you.
Otherwise, we, personally, have a Little Giant still air incubator. I’ve grown to love it. We do not use an egg turner and we do not use a fan.
There are two different types of incubators — still air and forced air.
A Still Air Incubator (SAI) is normally a styrofoam incubator that does not have a fan to circulate air inside of it. This means that there can be uneven temperature readings throughout the incubator when hatching. It’s the same concept as a regular oven and a convection oven. One has a fan, the other doesn’t. The fan helps circulate the warm air so that the temps are even through out the entire incubator. A still air incubator does not have a fan.
A Forced Air Incubator (FAI) has a fan. It can also be a styrofoam or other form of incubator. You can also buy fans for your still air incubators. The fan allows the air to move about so that temps are even, thus heightening your chances of all chicks growing at the same rate and all eggs pipping simultaneously. Cold and hot spots in your incubator will not be a problem.
With that said, there have been many times when we’ve had 95%-100% hatch rates with our still air incubator. So it’s all in preference and what helps ease your mind.
Here are the steps you should take when beginning an egg hatch:
1. Select quality eggs.
If you are using your own eggs, make sure you choose the larger, more rounded eggs for incubation. Avoid eggs with extra pointy tops or eggs that are porous. Porous eggs can be found by candling before incubating. You’ll see little spots on the eggs during candling. If they are extremely porous, do not use them (photo to left). Porous eggs allow bacteria into the shell and can cause the chick not to grow, or worse, kill it after it has started growing. With that said, I’ve had plenty of porous eggs hatch just fine.
Whether your own or purchased, eggs can sit on the counter for up to one week (fat end up). After that week, fertility begins to diminish.
Now that your incubator is set up and your eggs are ready, you need to place them in the incubator. Place an X on one side of the egg and an O on the other. This will assure you that your turner is turning properly, or will remind you which eggs you have turned manually and which eggs you have not.
If you are not using a turner then make sure your eggs are either laying naturally in the incubator, or that they are setting in an egg carton (so that they don’t roll around). I like to set my eggs on their sides in an egg carton (6 per carton) with fat end slightly raised. You will need to take the eggs out of the carton (or turner) on lock-down day (day 18) so that they do not get stuck or trapped when trying to hatch.
Here is a video of a day 10 candling of our Icelandic Chicken Eggs. I had forgotten to video day 7 candling on these eggs. Forgive the quality!
You may find that the humidity rises as the chicks hatch. If absolutely necessary (especially if condensation begins appearing on the window of your incubator) then you can take some of the water out of the bottom of the incubator. However, it should not rise too much if you have been consistently only adding little bits of water at a time. If you prefer, you can just use a wet sponge during incubation so that you don’t have to worry about putting water in and out of the wells.
|A chick has hatched and several have pipped in this photo above.|
10. Clean up time.
You can clean out your incubator with a white vinegar/water solution, or a simple bleach/water solution. Either works well. Sometimes bleach just seems “better” because it is completely sterile. It is your preference!
Most of all, have fun with it! Go in with the idea that bad things can happen, but so can good things!!