Hatching baby chicks is quite the experience!
There are two ways to hatch baby chicks. The first method I prefer is letting the mamma hen do all the hard work. God made her to instinctively know what to do. She keeps them warm, turns them, let’s them breathe a bit and protects them after hatching showing them how to eat and drink. As long as she remains broody the entire time just let her do her thing.
But what if your momma hen gets off her eggs (ask me how I know this)? Or what if you don’t have a broody hen? You can lose the eggs or you can swoop in and save the day with an incubator.
Incubating chicken eggs is a great way to hatch baby chicks!
Some homesteaders choose to set up a homemade incubator. I am not that smart. My first thought to buy one easily became secondary when I priced them. As I’ve mentioned before we are growing our homestead the old fashioned way – debt free – so I borrowed one.
The one a farmer friend handed us is the Farm Innovator 4250. This is a fancy one. It has a digital thermometer (to measure heat), a digital hygrometer (to measure humidity) and an electric egg turner (it holds 41 eggs).
Here are 5 steps to incubating and hatching baby chicks.
- Choose Fresh Fertile Eggs: I’ve read you can use fertile eggs that are up to ten days old, but I have learned the fresher the fertile egg, the higher chance you have for growth and development. When candled (we’ll get into this on the next post), the older eggs stopped growing before the hatch date. So choose fresh eggs.
- Set Eggs for 24 Hours: Setting eggs in a carton 24 hours before incubating helps the air sack inside to move to the end of the egg. Babies use this air sack to breathe, so if it is not at the end of the egg it decreases the chances of survival. Place the egg in the carton pointy side down and wide end up.
- Preheat Incubator: I plugged in the incubator for a full 24 hours (while the eggs were setting) to make sure it worked properly. There is a small learning curve with setting the temp, but nothing you smart people can’t figure out. This step insures it’s keeping the temp up and regulated before you put your eggs in. An egg needs to be kept at 99.5-100.5 to insure growth.
- Place eggs in incubator: I know this sounds simple, but move slowly and carefully. Dropping an egg or two can inhibit development. Place these in the egg turner just like you did in the cartons, narrow end down.
- Insert Moist Sponge: Before you close the lid, run a small cleaning sponge under warm water. Squeeze a bit out and place in the tray of the egg turner. The warmth coming out of the sponge will naturally increase the humidity levels. You want humidity levels between 55-60 degrees for embryo development. If you use hot water your humidity level will be too high, if you use cold water your humidity will be too low.
Eggs take a full 21 days to incubate before hatching. Some can take as long as 24-26 days, but most will hatch after day 21. What I love about this particular set up is that you set your eggs and just check them twice a day. Every night I put a new sponge in and every morning I put a new sponge in. Then I leave them alone and let them do their thing.
The egg turner turns them for you so you don’t have to worry over that. If you do not have an egg turner you must turn them yourself. Typically an ‘x’ is drawn on one side of the gg, and an ‘o’ on the opposite side. This helps you to know at a glance if you turned them. The catch is you must turn eggs 3-5 times A DAY. So that’s why I appreciate the egg turner.
…And now you wait.
Are you hatching baby chicks? What is your favorite method?
Today I’m linking up to the Cape Coop! Go check them out here!