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Incubating and Hatching Chicken, Duck & Turkey Eggs (Part 1)
The information 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.

Incubate 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.

Different Types of Poultry Incubators: GQF, Miller, and Farm Innovators

GQF Manufacturing (Chick-Bator, Hova-Bator, Sportsman)
Chick-Bator (top photo in this section) from GQF Manufacturing holds 3 chicken eggs or 2 duck eggs. It is about $20.

GQF Manufacturing sells the Hova-Bator Still-Air Incubator (see photo below at Incubator Temperatures). It holds 42 chicken or duck eggs. It costs around $60. A Hova-Bator Circulated-Air Incubator is about $100. You get a better hatch rate with the circulated air model.

You can get an automatic egg turner that works in either one for $50. That way you don't have to turn the eggs manually 3-4 times a day.

For professional quality GQF sells the 1202E Classic Sportsman for $650 (second photo in this section). It has an automatic egg turner. It holds 270 chicken eggs or 198 duck eggs. It has a very good hatch rate.

Miller Manufacturing (Little Giant)
Little Giant (middle photo in this section) sells a still-air incubator for around $60 (Models 9200, 9300). It has a digital temperature and humidity display. It holds 41 chicken or duck eggs.

They also sell the Little Giant incubator with a fan to circulate the air. Same as the above. Sells for $75.

They sell an automatic egg turner for $50. They are similar to the Hova-bator.

Farm Innovators
Farm Innovators sells the Pro Series Model 4200 incubator that is a circulated-air incubator with automatic turning tray for $120. It has a thermometer and humidity guage. It holds 41 eggs. It is similar to the Hova-Bator.

Their Model 2200 incubator is the same as Model 4200 except it does not have an egg turner. It sells for $85.

For more money they sell incubators similar to the above that have digital display of temperature and humidity, factory temperature pre-set, and temperature alarm.

General about Hova-Bator, Little Giant and Farm Innovators
To save money you can get a computer fan or other small fan, and add it to a still-air incubator. Though a fan made for an incubator works better.

If you go with Hova-Bator, Little Giant or Farm Innovators, it is important that the room they are in stays at a stable temperature. If the room temperature changes a lot, it is harder for them to maintain the correct temperature. It is easier to regulate the temperature in a incubator that is full of eggs. The Brinsea does a better job of maintaining temperature and humidity.

Different Types of Poultry Incubators: Brinsea

Brinsea Mini Incubators
Brinsea sells the Mini Eco (holds 10 chicken eggs or 8 duck eggs, $100, top photo in this section). It has fan-assisted circulated air, and a glass thermometer. There is no automatic egg turning.

It sells the Mini Advance Incubator ($200) and the Mini Advance EX Incubator ($400). The Mini Advance models have fan-assisted circulated air, automatic egg turning, egg cooling, and digital thermometer. They both hold 7 chicken or duck eggs. The Mini Advance EX has automatic humidity control and humidity guage.

The second photo in this group of incubators is a 7-egg Brinsea Advance incubator with Ancona duck eggs and 1 duckling in it. The photo is from Tim and Jane in Kentucky.

Brinsea Octagon Eco Incubators
Brinsea sells the Octogon-20 Eco Incubator for $200. It has fan-assisted air circulation, automatic temperature control, and a glass thermometer. It holds 24 chicken eggs. You can add automatic egg turning for $90.

The Octogon-40 Eco Incubator retails for $470. It has fan-assisted air circulation, automatic temperature control, automatic egg turning, and a glass thermometer. It holds 48 eggs.

Brinsea Octagon Advance Incubators
They have the Octogon-20 Advance Incubator for $400 and the Octogon-40 Advance for $600. They both have fan-assisted air circulation, egg turning, egg cooling, automatic temperature control, and digital temperature/humidity display. The 20 holds 24 chicken eggs, and the 40 holds 48 eggs.

The third photo in this section is the Octogon-20 with my Dominique eggs.

Brinsea Octagon Advance EX Incubators
They sell the Octogon-20 Advance EX incubator for $560 and the Octogon-40 Advance Ex incubator that is $700. They are the same as the Octogon Advance above except they have automatic humidity control. The 20 holds 20 chicken eggs, and the 40 holds 32-40 eggs.

Brinsea Cabinet Incubators
Brinsea sells Ova-Easy cabinet incubators holding 96 to 576 chicken eggs for $1000 to $2000. They are fully automatic.

All of these prices are Brinsea's suggested prices. You may be able to get a better price. Check out reviews at Amazon before you buy.

All Brinsea incubators are factory set at 99.5 degrees. Brinsea incubators are higher quality (and price) with a better hatch rate than the Hova-Bator or Little Giant. It is good if you have valuable eggs. If you are going to hatch a lot of eggs, they are worth the money.

Different Types of Poultry Incubators: R-Com, Homemade

R-Com Bird Incubators are high quality. They range from $150 to over $1000.

The R-Com Mini Digital Incubator holds 3 eggs. It has automatic temperature and automatic turning. It is programmable. It sells for $90.

The R-Com Mini Digital with EZ-Scope includes an observation candler and the Mini-Pro egg incubator with automatic temperature, humidity control, and automatic turning. It holds 3 eggs. It is around $150.

The R-Com King Suro-20 incubator has automatic controlled temperature, humidity and cradle egg turning. It holds 24 eggs. It is around $300. It is the first photo in this section.

eBay, Building Your Own Incubator, Broody Hen
You may find some of the used expensive ones on eBay at a price you can afford. You can also build your own incubator.

The absolute very best incubator is a broody hen! Generally speaking, Bantam (Bantie) hens go broody more often than standard-size chickens. We sell Bantam eggs for hatching.

Different Types of Poultry Incubators: Magicfly

Magicfly sells the Digital Egg Incubator with egg turner that holds 10 eggs. It is $75. It has an LED temperature display. Easy to use.

$9.90: Buy "A Guide to Better Hatching" Book By Janet Stromberg. 120 pages, 2012. Shipping is $2.95. Have great hatches.

Collecting Eggs

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.

Storing 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.

Incubator Temperatures and Humidity

Chicken eggs 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 incubator.

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.

Incubator Use and Humidity

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.

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.

Incubator Turning Rack

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 floor.

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.

Candling Eggs

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.

"Kevin 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, Magnolia, Mississippi

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 for everyone.

Eggs Inside Hen

This unusual 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




Nantahala Farm in the Mountains of Western NC
Macon County (close to Cherokee, Graham and Swain Counties)
Topton, North Carolina 28781
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