Hatching Chicken, Duck & Turkey Eggs
here is from the Western
North Carolina Farm and Garden Calendar for USDA Zones 5, 6, and
7 for all eastern states. It is a 280 page book that I wrote.
Poultry January through August/September
It is good
to incubate eggs January through August when egg production is at its highest.
However, for my Dominique chickens I sometimes have hatching eggs all year.
In terms of availability of hatching eggs, peak egg production is March,
April and May. Good egg production is late January through July.
Lowest egg production is September through December. (The longest day is
in June. Molting is in September. The shortest day is in December.)
You can incubate poultry eggs in an incubator such as a HovaBator or Brinsea.
Read the manual that came with it. Or you can build your own incubator.
Or let a broody hen do it.
Frequently when people buy an incubator, they later wish they had bought
a better (more expensive) one.
It is best if the incubator is in a room with a stable temperature around
70-80 degrees. Do not let sun hit the incubator.
This photo is Dominique eggs that were shipped by me through the Post Office
to Dolly and Richard in Mississippi.
Guide to Better Hatching" Book By
Janet Stromberg. 120 pages, 2012. Shipping is $2.95. Have great hatches.
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
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.
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 to room temperature before putting them in incubator.
These photos are Cream Brabanter chicks.
Temperatures and Humidity
are incubated at 99 to 99.5 degrees. Chicken eggs incubate for 21 days.
Your countdown for days starts when you put your eggs in your incubator.
It does not start when the hen lays her eggs.
Duck eggs are incubated at 99 to 99.5 degrees. Mallard and domestic duck
eggs (including Ancona) incubate for 28 days. Muscovy duck eggs incubate
for 35 days. You start counting your days when you put the eggs in your
Turkey eggs incubate between 98-102 degrees with 99-100 degrees being best.
Turkey eggs incubate for 28 days.
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.
Different humidities work in different incubators at different times of
the year. It depends on your particular incubator, how humid the outside
air is, and how porous these particular eggs are.
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 65-75%. When piping starts, increase humidity to 80-85%.
Turkey eggs like 55-60% humidity for days 1-24. From day 25 to hatch, humidity
should be around 75-80%.
The photo to the left is a Hova-Bator.
Use and Humidity
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.
Open the incubator only when absolutely needed such as adding water to maintain
humidity. Most incubators have small holes at the top where you can add
water with a funnel. Water is usually added about 2 times per week. Check
your humidity gauge.
Opening the incubator changes the temperature and humidity that can take
hours to readjust.
It is best
to have an electric turning rack. Eggs are put in the turner with small
ends down. The turner moves very slowly.
Or you can turn eggs by hand 3-4 times a day. Put a block/brick/book under
one side of the incubator to make a 45 degree angle. Then switch sides,
going back and forth each time. Turning prevents the embryo from sticking
to the shell.
Do not turn the last 3 days. Remove turner and put eggs on side on incubator
Or keep eggs in turner and turn off the electric when the racks are level.
The advantage to keeping them in the racks is that the floor temperature
is cooler than the rack temperature. So the egg temperature is kept stable.
Also the babies in the eggs have adjusted to a certain position so not moving
them may make it easier for them to get out of their shell.
These 2 photos show hatches I have done both ways.
to Unzip to Out of Shell
It is usually 12-18 hours from pipping (first hole in egg) to hatching,
though it can take up to 48 hours. It is called unzipping when the baby
chips at the egg in a circle.
There can be up to a 4 day difference between when the first baby hatches and the last one hatches. So let the incubator run more than 21 (chicken) or 28 (Ancona duck) days, just in case.
You can 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.
You do not have to candle eggs at all if you don't want to. The less eggs
are moved the better.
You can candle eggs at day 1 (when you receive your eggs) and after 7 days
in the incubator.
Candle again at day 14 or 18 if there were eggs that you were uncertain
about. Otherwise, you do not need to candle again.
candled the Dominique eggs last night and it's a 100% fertility. No eggs
were pulled, all 53 eggs are still incubating. Thank you. :)" -Dolly,
Later update: "Kevin is moving the eggs to the hatcher for lockdown.
He said two did not develop so that leaves 51 going to lock down." -Dolly
"I just picked up the babies from Kevin. 45 hatched (out of 53). Thank
you :)" -Dolly
"I use the 1502 Digital Sportsman incubator from GQF Manufacturing. No
water for 18 days and then add water to the water pan on lockdown. Other
than that I don't touch them. Just candle them on day 7 and 18 before lock
down. During lockdown I open it once a day and fill the water pan."
-Kevin, Purvis, Mississippi
This is a photo of Dolly's Dominique chicks that Kevin hatched. Happiness
photo is from the inside of a hen. You can see how the yolk develops from
tiny eggs, getting larger and larger going around in a circle. The yolk
is produced by ovulation.
The yolk is fertilized by sperm before the shell is added. The process is
the same whether or not the egg is fertilized. You do not need a rooster
for an egg to be laid. Though it can not grow into a chick.
The eggshell, membrane, and white is added to the yolk as it moves down
the oviduct of the hen. The oviduct is a long, spiral tube in the hen's
reproductive system. The shell is made of calcium carbonate.
"A Guide to Better Hatching" book
Boxes of hatching eggs ready to ship through the Post Office.
Hatching Eggs for Sale