Who can resist a fluffy baby chick? If you have decided you would like to have one or more of your own, you can either buy one or hatch one. This decision should be based on whether you have the time and money to hatch your baby chicks or not.
Hatching your own chicks can be rewarding. Plus, it is not that difficult with the right supplies and conditions. These supplies are the eggs, the incubator and a thermometer. The temperature is one of the major conditions that must be kept correct or the hatch will be a failure.
The eggs that will be set must be fertile and should come from breeders, a hen and a rooster, who are adults and are healthy. These breeders should have a high fertility rate, should be fed regularly with a good feed and they should not be related to each other. This criteria for breeders is especially important if you are getting the eggs from an individual instead of ordering them from a hatchery. Of course, when you order eggs from a hatchery you have no way of knowing anything about the breeders.
If the breeders meet your criteria, the selection of the eggs themselves is important. They should be average size, they must be complete with no cracks or holes and they should be regular shape. In other words, all the eggs should be uniform in shape and size. Any that are not, will not have as great a chance of hatching successfully. Any egg considered for setting should be naturally clean, meaning that it does not need any wiping or washing. Wiping or washing the egg will remove its protective outer layer, thereby allowing disease organism to penetrate the shell and harm the chick.
After choosing the eggs to be incubated, they will need to be cared for properly until they are put in the incubator. This care involves storing the eggs in a cool, humid area; ideally, it would be about 55’F with 75% humidity. The eggs should be stored with their large end up and turned at least three times daily. Mark the eggs, using a pencil, with an X on one side and an O on the other. Place the eggs in the storage area with all the Xs showing, then when you turn them all the Os should be showing. Eggs can be stored for up to 7 days with proper care and attention. When the time has actually come to set them, allow them to warm to room temperature slowly.
You have your eggs, or at least enough information to make informed decisions when purchasing your eggs and you know how to store them until the time is right for incubating them. Now you need to decide on an incubator. Actually, you can decide on the incubator before ever looking at an egg, the only thing you would actually have to know is how many eggs you are considering setting. The type of incubator you will be choosing can greatly depend on the number of eggs you are interested in incubating.
There are two types of incubators: forced-air and still-air. Forced-air incubators are generally used if you have a large number of eggs to hatch, literally hundreds. These incubators have automatic turners, which in turn makes the incubation process easier, as it takes one manual step out, turning all the eggs several times a day. Forced-air incubators also have a fan in them to keep the air circulated inside the incubator. People who are setting a few eggs use still-air incubators, as they are smaller and cheaper. The eggs that are set in these incubators will have to be turned by hand every 8 hours.
When setting and hatching chicken eggs, the incubator conditions are important. If the temperature and humidity are not correct, the eggs may not hatch. For forced-air incubators the temperature should remain a constant 100’F and for a still-air incubator the temperature should remain a constant 102’F. These temperatures should be checked with a hatching thermometer inside the incubator at the same height as the eggs. The heat source will have to be adjusted if the temperature reading is not where it should be. Humidity is also important. It keeps the eggs from becoming too dry. The humidity should be between 58-60% from day 1 to day 18 and should increase to 65% from day 19 to day 21, which is hatching day. If the temperature and humidity are kept right, the hatching rate will increase.
Turning the eggs is the only physical thing that will have to be done to the eggs when they are incubating. The eggs need to be turned at least once every 8 hours. Automatic turners in large forced-air incubators will turn them more than that, usually once every 2 hours. Turning the eggs should continue from day 1 to day 18. Turning should end on day 18 to prevent any injury to the chicks as they begin to hatch.
Chicken eggs should begin hatching on or after the 21st day. Any unhatched eggs should be discarded after the 23rd day, if there are no signs of life in them, such as pipping (cracking by the chick) and chirping.
So, if you are interested in hatching your own chicken eggs, follow these instructions and you should have a rewarding experience.