Hatching Chicken, Duck & Turkey Eggs (Part 1)
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.
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.
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.
Types of Poultry Incubators: GQF and Miller
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
The Chick-Bator (top photo in this section) from GQF Manufacturing
holds 3 chicken eggs or 2 duck eggs. It is about $20. For the money I would rather
own the Hova-Bator or Little Giant.
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.
Giant (middle photo in this section) sells a still-air incubator for around $50.
It holds 41 chicken or duck eggs. They also sell an automatic egg turner for $50.
Farm Innovators sells a circulated-air incubator with automatic turning tray for
$120. It holds 41 eggs. They are very similar to the Hova-Bator.
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 a Hova-Bator or Little Giant, 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.
Types of Poultry Incubators: Brinsea, R-Com, Homemade|
Mini Eco (holds 10 chicken eggs or 8 duck eggs, $95, bottom photo in this section)
and Mini Advance Incubators (holds 7 chicken or duck eggs, $165). Both have circulated
air. The Mini Advance has automatic egg turning.
Brinsea also sells the
Octogon-20 Eco Incubator for $160, and the same incubator with circulated air
is $230. They each hold 24 chicken eggs. They have the Octogon-40 Advance Incubator
with forced/circulated air that holds 48 chicken eggs. It is $600.
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.
R-Com Bird Incubators are high quality. They range from $150 to over $1000.
The R-Com eZ-Scoop includes an observation candler and the Mini-Pro egg
incubator with automatic temperature, humidity control, and 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.
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
The absolute very best incubator is a broody hen! Generally speaking,
Bantam (Bantie) hens go broody more often than standard-size chickens. We sell
eggs for hatching.
The last photo in this group of incubators is a 7-egg Brinsea incubator with Ancona duck eggs in it. The photo is from Tim and Jane in Kentucky.
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 to room temperature before putting them in incubator.
These photos are Cream Brabanter chicks.
Temperatures and Humidity|
are incubated at 99 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 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
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%.
The photo to the left
is a Hova-Bator.
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.
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.
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, 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
"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