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Incubating and Hatching Chicken, Duck & Turkey Eggs
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.

$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.

"Your site has been AWESOME. I can't tell you how often I have referenced it in the last few months especially. You helped me through my first hatching." -Meredith, Hopkins, Michigan

Incubator Temperatures

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.

Buy Incubation Thermometer by Brinsea

Incubator Humidity

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.

"I would say the use of the temperature / humidity monitor separate from the one on the incubator was key to our success this time hatching duck eggs. I also kept the humidity at 65% throughout and pushed it up to 85% on lockdown day 25, and I misted the eggs every other day with very warm water." -Lynn Ann, Sellersville, Pennsylvania

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.

First Pip 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.

"One more duck did hatch out, 2 days after the first 3 hatched. That brought the total to 4 out 6. Not bad. I almost, almost, shut the incubator down before that last one hatched." -Chris & Chrissey, Greenfield Center, New York

Video of Ancona Duckling Hatching

YouTube Video of Ancona Duckling Hatching.

The video is from Anya in Durham, North Carolina. It is great to watch the duckling get out of the shell. I was rooting for him. Fun to watch.

Duck egg at 7 days from Allison in Citrus Heights, California.

Duck egg at 8 days.

Candling Eggs: Chicken & Duck

"This experience has been so interesting and fun to watch even with our newbie trial and error. So thank you for such beautiful eggs :). Candling eggs has seriously been one of the coolest experiences I have ever had with any farm or pet animals. It reminded me so much of ultrasounds I had of my own children. LOL I was almost as excited seeing the baby chicks growing!!" -Heather, Greeley, Colorado

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

The below photo is chicken eggs (18 days to hatch).

Chicken egg that is not fertile.

Below are chicken eggs.

Dominique Chicks

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.

This photo of Ancona ducklings was taken by Jason in New Martinsville, West Virginia.

    "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
No pickup at farm.
Stay at my Vacation Rental on the farm.

828-321-9036 every day 10 am to 5 pm eastern time.
I ship to the United States only.

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