Hatching Chicken, Duck and Turkey Eggs (Part 1)
information here is from the Western
North Carolina Farm and Garden Calendar
that is a survival farming
guide for hard times in USDA Zones 5, 6, and 7 for all eastern states.
from the "Farm Animals" section in March. There is a lot of information about
animals in the book.
240 pages. Buy it today.
Poultry February through August|
is good to incubate eggs February through August when egg production is at its
In terms of availability of hatching eggs, peak egg production
is April and May. Good egg production is February through July.
egg production is September through December. (The longest day is in June. Molting
is in September. The shortest day is in December.)
March is a good month
to start incubating poultry eggs in an incubator such as a Hovabator. Read the
manual that came with it. Or you can build your own incubator.
It is best
if the incubator is in a room with a stable temperature around 70-80 degrees.
Do not let sun hit incubator.
Before a fertile egg is incubated, the embryo inside is already developing.
Collect eggs frequently. Clean lightly soiled eggs with a dry, soft cloth. It
is better not to wash them since they have a bloom that keeps bacteria out.
But if you must wash them, use warm but not cold water. Do not incubate eggs
that are very dirty because bacteria may have gotten into the egg. Handle gently.
Eggs for Incubation|
It is best to incubate them within 1-2 weeks. If you only have a few hens and
need to wait a few days or weeks to collect enough eggs for your incubator, then
keep them around 50-60 degrees and 75% relative humidity. (Best hatch rate is
with eggs stored less than 1 week.)
Do not put in refrigerator. Put them
in an egg carton with the big end of the egg up. Then 2-3 times a day lift up
one end of the carton, then the next time the other end. Do not turn upside down.
Let eggs warm up to room temperature before putting them in incubator.
If eggs are shipped, do not wrap in plastic because eggs need to breath.
Temperatures and Humidity|
Chicken eggs are incubated at 99 degrees. Chicken eggs incubate for 21 days.
Duck eggs are incubated at 99 degrees. Mallard and domestic duck eggs incubate
for 28 days. Muscovy duck eggs incubate for 35 days.
Turkey eggs incubate
between 98-102 degrees with 99-100 degrees being best. Turkey eggs incubate for
About 2/3 the way through incubation, the babies in the eggs
start generating some heat. So you may need to turn the thermostat down if the
temperature rises too much.
Chicken eggs need 50-55% humidity for days
1-18, and 65-75% for days 19-21.
Duck eggs like 55-65% humidity for
days 1-24. From day 25 to first piping (ducklings start to crack egg, usually
around day 28), humidity should be around 65%. When piping starts, increase humidity
Turkey eggs like 55-60% humidity for days 1-24. From day
25 to hatch, humidity should be around 75-80%.
Use, Humidity, and Turning Rack|
Different incubators hold different numbers of eggs. An "Octagon Incubator"
holds 24 chicken eggs. A "Little Giant Incubator" holds 30 chicken eggs.
A "HovaBator Incubator" holds 42 chicken eggs. A "Farm Innovators
Incubator" holds 48 eggs.
You can use the same incubator for hatching
chicken, duck or turkey eggs. Since the number of days of incubation is different,
you hatch them so all eggs are the same type for each batch.
You need a
hygrometer (humidity gauge). Keeping the right humidity is very important. It
is better to have higher than recommended humidity than lower especially when
eggs are hatching. If it is too dry, the birds will have difficulty getting out
of the egg.
It is better to have an electric turning rack but you can
turn eggs by hand 3-4 times a day. Eggs are put in the turner with small ends
down. Do not turn last 3 days. Remove turner and put eggs on side on incubator
Open the incubator only when absolutely needed such as adding
water to maintain humidity. Water is usually added about 2 times per week. Opening
the incubator changes the temperature and humidity that can take hours to readjust.
You need to candle eggs which means looking at the eggs in the dark or in dim
light with a flashlight touching the egg to see if the eggs are fertile and growing
properly. You throw away infertile (clear) or dead (cloudy) eggs.
eggs after 7 days in the incubator.
Candle again at day 14 if there were
eggs that you were uncertain about. Otherwise, you do not need to candle again.