Guide to Hatching Eggs

Gather eggs from a flock of hens with a rooster in the pen with them. It takes one rooster to every ten hens to produce fertile eggs. Avoid eggs with cracked or thin shells. Keep only clean eggs for hatching. Do not wash dirty eggs or wipe eggs clean with a damp cloth. This removes the egg's protective coating and exposes it to entry of disease organisms.

Many times a person carefully attends to the incubation process, but disregards the care of the eggs before they are placed in the incubator. Even before incubation starts, your baby chick has begun developing. Eggs should be set to hatch within 3 days of gathering. Store the eggs you plan to incubate in a place, that's between 50 and 75 degrees F, until they're placed in the incubator.

Allow cool eggs to warm slowly to room temperature before placing in the incubator. Abrupt warming from 55 degrees to 100 degrees causes moisture condensation on the egg shell and reduces hatchability.

The size and type of incubator selected, depends on the needs and future plans of each producer. Many different models are available.

There are basically two types of incubators available: forced-air and still-air incubators. Start the incubator a few days before you place eggs in it, in order to adjust the temperature, humidity and airflow. Check the thermometer! Is it accurate? An error of one degree for 21 days can seriously interfere with your hatchability. A thermometer with a split or gapped mercury column will not give an accurate reading, discard it. Humidity is carefully controlled, to prevent unnecessary loss of egg moisture. Ventilation is very important during the incubation process.

The eggs are initially set in the incubator with the large end up or horizontally, with the large end slightly elevated. Never set eggs with the small end upward. Turn eggs at least twice a day for the first 18 days. Place an "X" with a pencil lightly on one side of egg. This will tell you if you have turned the egg. (Hint: Mark your X days on the calendar to keep them straight.) Do not turn eggs during the last three days before hatching.

The length of time for incubation will vary, depending on the species of poultry. Chicken eggs hatch in an average of 21 days, as a duck eggs can take up to 37 days. Even eggs set at the same time, can vary in hatch time - all the eggs should hatch within about forty-eight hours of one another. Clean the incubator after the eggs have hatched and before reusing the incubator.

For detailed guides on how to hatch a specific breed, please see our tutorials below: