Egg Hatching Overview
When we started to learn about hatching eggs we took a trip to our local farm supply company and bought a Styrofoam incubator for about forty dollars.
We soon learned that to be somewhat successful with such a basic incubator, we added an egg turner (another forty dollars) and a fan (another twenty dollars) to the incubator in order to better maintain a constant temperature. Let’s also not forget you must add water to the incubator several times a day and adjust the vent caps to maintain a desirable humidity level.
A Styrofoam incubator is a fun tool for the novice who wants to hatch a few eggs but if you want to hatch more then 20-30 eggs at a time without being glued to the your incubator, a professional incubator cabinet made by GQF manufacturing (www.gqfmfg.com) is the only way to hatch eggs for the small commerical farmer.
Tim & Susie’s Hen House has five professional incubators (288 eggs per incubator) that are supported by one Hatcher. On the 19th day we place our hatching eggs in the Hatcher which allows the baby chicks to hatch in a safe environment without the eggs being turned on the 20th and 21st day.
We have known people who allow their eggs to hatch in the professional incubator but the incubator is not designed to handle the actual hatching of the egg. You will find that even in a Styrofoam incubator you will have to remove your automatic egg turner on the 19th day to allow the baby chicks to hatch.
Listed below are 10 easy steps in hatching an egg. There should be no reason not to have a 95% successful hatch if you carefully follow each one of these recommended steps.
Do not refrigerate your hatching eggs or use eggs that are more than 7-10 days old. The rooster ratio for good fertile hatching eggs should be no more than one rooster to every ten hens. Some chicken farmers run a one to six ratio but too many roosters causes stress to the hens not to mention physical injury.
Make a decision on what type of hatching equipment works best for you. A Styrofoam incubator is a cool machine for the kids to hatch a few eggs but the incubator is not very user friendly and you can become easily frustrated and a slave to your incubator.
Hatching temperature must be maintained at 100°F at 55-65% humidity. I suggest you take a trip to the local Walmart and buy a $6.00 temperature / humidity digital gauge to monitor your hatch. A dial gauge is not accurate enough to maintain the proper hatching condition.
Humidity is the wetness in the air. Too little humidity causes death and the chicks to stick to their shell. Too much humidity causes the baby chicks to drown in the wetness. The humidity in a Styrofoam incubator is regulated by the amount of water poured in the incubator, the amount of eggs, and the removal of the vent caps to allow the outside temperature to enter the incubator.
Bacteria are one of the leading causes of death in a baby chick or a baby chick being born with deformities. The second leading cause in a baby chick death or deformity is a poor humidity percentage during incubation.
At Tim & Susie’s Hen House we write the hatching date on the egg with a black marker and spray every egg with TEK–TROL before placing the egg in the incubator.
The chemical solution TEK-TROL is a disinfectant used by farmers to sanitize all type of equipment used by farm animals.
TEK-TROL is a very cheap preventative measure that can be bought online or at any poultry supply house (EXAMPLE (www.gqfmfg.com) $27.99 quart. A half ounce of TEK-TROL to one gallon of water sprayed on your hatching eggs is all you need to kill the bacteria before the egg is placed in an incubator. You can also spray the egg with 100% hydrogen peroxide if you do not have have TEK-TROL available.
Please remember that heat in an incubator is the fuel needed to grow bacteria and contaminate the egg. An egg is like a porous piece of human skin that breathes and allows bacteria to enter the shell if not controlled by sometype of disinfectant..
The orientation of the egg is as important as the disinfectant used. Did you know you can put the egg upside down in an incubator?
If your incubator allows the egg to be placed on its side then there is no issue with orientation.
If your incubator has a tray that will be automatically turned three times a day then you MUST placed the egg point down in the automatic tray. If the egg is more round than pointed you will need to candle the egg in 7-10 days to make sure that the air pocket in the egg is at the top of the egg.
This air pocket is where the baby chick will peck itself to freedom on the day of hatch. If the egg is upside down in the tray the baby chick will not be able to turn inside the egg on the 20th and 21st day. The baby chick will most likely be deformed and stuck in a position not able to exit from the air sack area of the egg. This condition will cause 100% failure with your hatch.
Now you have selected the equipment you want to use.
You have located farm fresh egg less then 7-10 days old that have not been refrigerated.
You have disinfected the egg.
You have place the egg in the incubator with the point down.
Now you are ready to turn on the incubator. Actually you could have turned on the incubator in step one. Ha!
The incubator must maintain a temperature of 100ºF with a humidity of setting of 55-65%.
You will need to run the incubator for a period of time to bring the incubator up to the optimal hatching requirements of heat and humidity.
Each time you open the incubator the temperature and humidity will drop to the climate of the room. It is recommended not to open the incubator more than necessary.
The amount of eggs in the incubator will also affect the temperature and humidity in the incubator.
You must physically turn the eggs three times a day if your incubator doesn't have an automatic egg turner.
After the eggs have been in the incubator for a period of 7-10 days you will need to candle the egg to verify fertility and orientation of the air sack. A flash light will work in a dark room but there are several types of candling equipment available on the internet and poultry supply houses.
Tim and Susie Hen House use a candling device made by Brinsea Cool-Lume - High Intensity Candling Lamp retail $69.99.
Two days before the egg begins to hatch you will need to remove the automatic egg turner from the Styrofoam incubator and place the eggs on their side. Some of the eggs will most likely start hatching early. All of the eggs should hatch within 24 hours after the first hatching chick. Never help the baby chick hatch from the egg. If you help the baby chick it will most likely die anyway or have a deformity that will cause death at a later time from being attacked by other chickens.
The baby chick is able to survive two to three days from the nutrition of the egg yoke. Once the hatching is complete remove all of the empty egg shells from the hatcher.
Tim & Susie Hen House adds sugar to the water and dip each baby chick beak into the water once the hatch is complete. This will help the baby chick find the water and the sugar will give them the extra energy needed for their first few days of life. At this point the baby chick is ready to be fed 20% chick feed for the next four weeks.
DO NOT use medicated chick feed!!!!!
We have had very good luck with Dumour 20% chick starter sold at your local poultry supply and don't forget Tim and Susie Chick Grower sold exclusively at our Mennonite Hoover Feed Mill.
The best way to prevent disease is to keep your coop clean. All the medicated feed in the world will not prevent disease if your chicks live in less than sanitary conditions. It has been our experience that medicated feed given in high doses will only kill your chicks.
At the end of the four weeks the baby chicks are able to eat anything an adult chicken can eat.
Do not mix young chickens with older chickens. The pecking order can cause unecessary injury or death to the young chicken. Within time the younger chickens will grow big enough to mix well with the older chickens.
Chicken / Bantam (20-22 days)
Turkey (27-29 days)
Duck (27-29 days)
Muscovy Duck (35-37 days)
Goose (28-24 days)
Guinea (26-28 days)
Pheasant (23-28 days)
Peafowl (28-30 days)
Bobwhite Quail (22-24 days)
Cortunix Quail (16-18 days)
Chukar Partridge (23-24 days)
Grouse (24-26 days)
It is recommended that any eggs used for hatching should be
LESS than 7 -10 days old.
Good Luck with your Hatch.
You are more than WELCOME to call (270-779-2300) or email (email@example.com) Tim and Susie's Hen House if you have any additional hatching questions.
We are no expert on chicken hatching, but we have learned alot from our mistakes.