For some this might seem ridiculously basic, but to incubate and hatch chicken eggs, you must start with fertilized eggs. That means that the hens have been living with a rooster.
Ideally the eggs should go straight from the coop to the incubator, but the incubation can be delayed for about 10 days without damaging the embryos. Store them in an egg carton with the large end up, and keep them between 50 and 60 degrees. Do not wash the eggs because they have a naturally occurring protective coating.
Step 1- Set up your Incubator
The incubator pictured is by Brinsea and I know a lot of people love them. They do tend to be on the pricier side. We currently have a Little Giant Still Air Egg Incubator 9300 that I got on Craigslist. I do recommend the automatic egg turner, but it is also just fine to turn the eggs every day by hand. I will leave links to both incubators at the bottom of the page.
Your temperature should be set to 99.5 degrees.
The humidity should be between 40% and 50% for the first 18 days, and between 65% and 75% for the last 3 days. My incubator has grooves at the bottom that I fill with water. A sponge soaked with water is also effective.
Step 2- Incubate
Once incubation begins it takes 21 for chicken eggs to hatch.
It is a good idea to run your incubator for 24 hours before you add the eggs to make sure the temperature and humidity are staying consistent. Once the eggs are placed, it is just a matter of maintaining the environment until they hatch.
If you are turning the eggs manually it will need to be done 3 times a day, every day, until day 18. Then leave the eggs alone until they hatch.
-Draw an X on one side, and an O on the other for an easy method of making sure every egg is turned. Use a colored pencil, not a marker. The eggs are porous, and you don’t want chemicals leaching through the shell.
Step 3- Hatching
In the last few days you may start to see the eggs moving as the chick becomes more active. As the hatching process begins, the chick will peck a small hole in the shell and take its first breath. Then it may rest for up to 12 hours. Do not help the chick with the hatching process! Once the chick is free of the shell allow it to dry off inside the incubator where it is warm and cozy, then move it to your brooder.
To learn all about raising baby chicks, click here!