How to hatch eggs at home in an incubator: from choosing hatchable eggs, buying an incubator, adjusting the settings, and maintenance during incubation.
Since adding chickens to our homestead last spring, we’ve enjoyed having fresh eggs so much! So it’s been pretty painful to have to go back to buying them at the store over the winter. Some of our hens have stopped laying due to the decreased amount of sunlight on shorter days and the extra energy their bodies use to keep warm.
With heat lamps and artificial lighting in the coop, its possible to keep hens laying all year round. But we chose to let our hens go through seasons naturally and will continue to do so. Meaning that we can expect their production to dip in the winters.
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Right now we have eight chickens total, two roosters and 6 hens, only 5 of which are laying, one is only 6 months old and hasn’t started laying yet. Even then, with 6 layers, we’ll get 6 eggs at most on any given day in the spring and summer. Its enough for our family – but not enough to tide us over in the winters!
Which brings me to my next point –
In short, freshly laid and collected eggs that are unwashed can be stored at room temp on the counter for about a month before you have to consider refrigeration. Eggs stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container will last for 6 months! So there you have it – saving plenty for the winter should be easy enough for us, we just need enough hens to lay extra throughout the summer, hence our latest adventure in hatching our own.
Although I do plan on letting our hens sit on their eggs as well, I wanted to make sure we got a head start on adding some new chicks to the flock so we’ll have some layers in the coop by midsummer. The boys, well – they’ll be food! One of my 2019 goals is to raise all of the chicken we eat so I don’t have to buy at the store. Fresher is always better, but getting there takes time and I enjoy the journey. No rush over here, one thing at a time.
I’ve never incubated eggs before so while the kids were excited about our new project, I think I was the most!
I chose the Brinsea Mini II Advance after reading lots of Amazon reviews because I’d rather spend more on a quality item up front and not have to replace it than go cheap. Brinsea products also had the highest ratings and hatch rates. I mean – if this is going to be a 3 week process, I’d like to be efficient and give them the best chance at actually hatching!
I knew I wanted to use our own eggs, but I wasn’t sure what made a ‘good egg’ for incubating. Obviously, I know that you have to have a rooster for them to be fertile. And we do! Our Larry is a pretty and protective guy, keeping our hens in line at all times. He’s an olive egger and our hens are of all different breeds – more on that in a bit. But back to the point – I knew we had fertile eggs, I just didn’t know which ones to use?
Choosing Hatchable Eggs
- you must have a rooster in with your hens
- choose eggs without cracks
- choose the least soiled eggs (but don’t wash them, leave the bloom intact!)
That’s it! Not too hard to choose. Our incubator holds 7 standard eggs. And since only two of our hens are laying right now (our olive egger and Rhode Island red) I had to save the eggs we collected over a week time period to have enough to start incubation. You want to start them all the same day. Fresh eggs that are less than two weeks old and have been stored at room temp will usually have high hatch rates.
Setting Up The Incubator
This part is really easy. Just make sure to follow the directions for your specific incubator. For the Brinsea Mini
- Set the turning tray inside the incubator
- Place an egg in each spot, pointy side toward the middle
- Fill the middle section halfway with water
- Put the lid on and adjust the settings
- 50% humidity on day 1-18
- then 65% humidity until hatch
21 days on average! Toward the end of incubation, at about day 18 – stop turning the eggs, adjust the humidity to be higher at about 65%, and replace the turning tray with a piece of hatching mat or piece of cardboard. Then try to avoid opening the incubator until all the eggs are hatched.
Even when you hear chirps coming from inside the eggs or see little cracks starting, just leave the incubator closed and let the chicks take their time working their way out of the eggs.
The first few chicks to hatch will run and bounce all around into the other eggs inside the incubator, that’s ok! Just leave them in there for up to 2-3 days, since the can go that long without food or water after hatching. When you get to day 23-24, take the hatched chicks out and move them to a brooder. Some eggs can take as long as 28 days to hatch which is really rare!
Watch Our Eggs Hatch!
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Brinsea Mini II Advance on Amazon
Brinsea Hatching Mats on Amazon