How to Incubate Your Hatching Eggs
The following is a guideline for hatching eggs only - if you have prior experience hatching eggs, please follow whichever practices you are most familiar with.
DO NOT THROW YOUR EGGS RIGHT INTO THE INCUBATOR WHEN YOU GET THEM. DO NOT WARM THEM UP FAST IF THEY ARE COLD WHEN YOU GET THEM.
Biological systems don't like to be shocked, they are much more forgiving of large changes if the changes are done GRADUALLY. Take your time, and don't be worrying about that "freshness" idea, that eggs need to be incubated ASAP. You will do more harm hurrying.
CHOOSING AN INCUBATOR
We have the Brinsea Cabinet incubators for our homestead. We also have had good success with our GQF Genesis Hovabator (model 1588), and have purchased incubators from Fleet Farm in the past which worked very well (for about a year+). For Giveaways, we've used the Brinsea Mini II Advance (for reliability). Find the most popular Incubators here.
PRIOR TO INCUBATING
- WASH HANDS — Handle your eggs with clean hands. In particular, you don't want oils from your hands getting onto the eggs, potentially clogging the egg pores.
- CAREFULLY UNRWRAP EGGS — Make sure you do not accidentally 'clink' the eggs against any hard surfaces during unpackaging. Place eggs back into egg carton or room-temperature incubation trays with the small pointy ends of the eggs facing down. The blunt side contains the natural large air space in eggs, and this should NOT be on the bottom, or the embryo will develop wrong.
- DISCARD DAMAGED EGGS — Discard any egg that shows hairline cracks from shipping in the shell. The last thing you want to do is contaminate all the OTHER eggs with a rotten egg that has blown up in your incubator, so only put perfect eggs in your incubator.
- REST EGGS — Rest eggs in a somewhat humid, moderately cool, room temperature environment (60 ºF) for 12-24 hours in egg carton to let air cells settle (such as a basement).
- ROTATE EGGS — Rotate your eggs a couple times a day while they sit. This will encourage the yolks to stay mobile. If the eggs are on their sides, just turn them at least a quarter turn. If the eggs are upright in an egg carton, put a thick book under one end of the carton, and to "rotate" them later, put the book under the OTHER end of the carton.
- TURN ON INCUBATOR — the temperature should be set to between 99.5 to 100.5 ºF (if temperatures are higher than 99.6, chicks may hatch early).
- SET EGGS — Place eggs inside warm incubator.
- If your incubator has no egg turner, punch large holes in the bottom of your egg carton (approx. the width of your pinky fingernail), and place the entire carton inside your incubator, making sure the cartons do not come into contact with any water that might be inside the incubator to maintain proper relative humidity (RH) levels.
- MAINTAIN RELATIVE HUMIDITY (RH) — I recommend dry incubation or keeping humidity very low (between 30-35%) during the first 18 days.
- PREPARING FOR LOCKDOWN — At day 18 or 19, carefully take the eggs out of the cartons and lay the eggs down. Increase the humidity levels to between 55-60% for the remainder of the hatch.
A note about candling - do not over-candle your eggs and create 'hot-spots' with your candling flashlight. Your little chicks-to-be need uninterrupted time to develop. Be extra careful to use clean hands and not to 'clink' your eggs if you are pulling them in and out of your incubator while candling (candling in place is fine as well - just make sure you don't leave the lid off your incubator for longer than necessary).
A note about dark shell color: because of the layers of pigment on darker eggshells, you may not be able to candle Marans eggs to check the progress of embryo development, air cell integrity, etc.
Candling Guide #1
Candling Guide #2
LOCKDOWN & HATCHING
- LOCKDOWN — At day  you are now in lockdown, and should not open the incubator for any reason. Once the eggs have 'pipped', chicks could become 'shrink-wrapped' inside the egg membranes if humidity levels drop drastically.
- Allow chicks to dry fully for between 1 to 2 days. We do not recommend taking chicks out of the hatcher until the majority of the pipped eggs have hatched. Opening the hatcher and removing chicks can cause unhatched chicks to become shrink-wrapped in the cell membrane.
- You must also be careful not to leave any early hatchers without food/water for longer than 2 days. An easy way to get around this if you have a concerns is to set out a very small dish of water (with marbles or rocks in the dish to prevent drowning) and another tiny dish of chick food in your hatcher (space permitting).
- Immediately place chicks inside a pre-warmed brooder, and give them warm water with electrolytes and probiotics (sav-a-chick powder). You may also use appropriate portions fo apple cider vinegar and honey.
Please check out our Brooder Basics page for proper chick brooder temperatures (temperature decreases at each week of development) and our guide for caring for your new baby chicks :)
Denotes breed, pasture, or genetic makeup.
|SFH||Swedish Flower Hen||Cream|
|LOE||Lavender F1 Olive Egger||Olive|
|OE||F1 - F3 Olive Eggers||Olive|
|BCM||Black Copper Marans||Dark Brown|
|BBS||Blue Black Splash Cuckoo or Copper Marans||Dark Brown|
|SG||Sage Egger (autosexing)||Sage|
|CL||Cream Legbar or Opal Legbar (autosexing)||Blue|
|MFC||Mille Fleur or Calico Cochin bantam||Cream|
|BOB||Bobtail Cochin bantam||Cream|
|MOT||Black Mottled Cochin bantam||Cream|
|SLC||Silver Laced Cochin bantam||Cream|
*Shipped eggs are always considered a risky venture. The postal service is not always gentle with packages marked 'fragile', and packages are often dropped from conveyor belts into loading bins.
*For this reason, breeders and hatcheries do not guarantee hatchability on shipped eggs. We have phenomenal packaging practices, do our best to package eggs as carefully as possible, and hope and pray that they arrive at their destinations intact. Should you wish to reorder eggs, please note that it is standard practice for all shipping fees to be paid by the buyer.