How To Incubate & Hatch Chicken Eggs - Just 21 Days From Egg To Chicken!

Incubating and hatching eggs is one of the most enjoyable aspects of chicken keeping. Learn more about this amazing process!
By BYC Support · Jan 10, 2012 · Updated Jul 31, 2013 · ·
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  1. BYC Support
    How To Incubate and Hatch Chicken Eggs

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    Incubating and hatching eggs is one of the most enjoyable (and addictive) aspects of chicken keeping. Nothing beats watching those little ones fight their way out of the eggs, after the 3 weeks of fretting and fussing and watching the incubator, wondering what is going on in there. To get you started on this wonderful journey, here is a quick rundown on...

    Incubating Eggs 101

    First things first—chicken eggs should hatch in 21 days, though some may hatch a day or two early and some a day or two late after the incubation period began. A "day" is counted as a full 24 hours, so day one would be the first 24 hours after setting the egg. Day two the next 24 hours, etc. If you set eggs on a Monday, it's usually a safe bet that they will hatch on a Monday, three weeks later.


    Select clean, even shaped, undamaged eggs for incubating. It's best not to wash the eggs prior to setting, as washing can remove the protective "bloom" on the shell and make the eggs more susceptible to absorbing bacteria and other nasties, which could compromise your hatch. If possible, do not store them too long pre-incubation. Ideally eggs should be set within a week after being laid and after 10 days the hatchability of the eggs drops significantly. Store the eggs in a cool place (NOT the fridge) and turn them once a day to keep the yolks centred.

    **A note on shipped eggs: shipped eggs should be allowed to rest for 24 hours prior to setting, to allow the contents of the eggs to settle. Place shipped eggs upright, with the fat end of the egg up, in an egg carton, or something similar. Shipped eggs often have loose or damaged air cells and should ideally be incubated upright, with the fat end up. For more information and tips on managing these see here.

    Before putting your eggs into an incubator, plug it in and make sure the temperature is steady. In a forced air incubator (with a fan) the temperature should be 99.5–100*F. In a still air incubator the temperature should be slightly higher, 101–102*F measured at the top of the eggs. I use a thermometer and a hygrometer (which measures humidity) in my incubator. Hygrometers can be purchased quite cheaply at a cigar shop, Radio Shack and I believe even Walmart. You want 28–50% humidity for day 1–18, depending on air cell size, then 65% to 75% for the last few days.

    During the first 18 days of incubation, the eggs should be turned a minimum of 3 times a day. Use a non-toxic marker and mark eggs with an X on one side and an O on the other so when you are turning them you can make sure they all got turned. More about turning later...


    Incubators

    There are many makes and models of incubators for sale and they vary greatly in price, quality and user-friendliness. It's recommended that you read our Egg Incubator Reviews and get some opinions before you choose one! If you are the DIY type, building your own incubator is fairly easy too. Our members have shared designs, plans and ideas on their homemade incubators HERE,


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    Egg Fertility and Candling

    Natural fertility may vary from 55% to 95% with season, depending on condition and age of your birds. You might be safe to expect that 50% to 75% of the fertile eggs will hatch, though 90%-100% hatches can and does happen. With shipped eggs the hatch rate is approximately 50% overall. After 5–7 days of incubation, white-shelled eggs can be candled to see if embryos are developing. Candling is done by going into a dark room/area and shining a bright light (usually a flashlight) into the egg to see what is going on inside.

    Fertility and embryo development is usually apparent by day 5–6, when infertile, developing eggs, some veins and a small embryo can be seen inside the egg. If there is no sign of development by day 10, you may discard any "clears". However, sometimes embryos are hard to spot, so some hatchers wait until around day 14 or so, before discarding any undeveloped eggs. When candling, also check for blood rings (showing as a dark ring around the inside of the egg, along the shell, usually roughly in the middle of the egg, and other signs of problems. See here for egg candling pictures.


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    The Air Bubble (Sac) in the Egg

    Soon after an egg is laid, a small air bubble starts forming in the large end under the shell. This air sac serves as a "breathing space" for the hatching chick to pip into in order to breathe, during the hatching process. This is known as an "internal pip". The drier the outside air is, the more fluid is depleted from the egg contents and the faster the bubble grows. Correct humidity in the incubator insures that the bubble does not grow too big, depleting essential fluids, or deny the chick enough air by remaining too small.

    The importance of correct humidity is more apparent at the end of incubation. The normal condition is that the air cell has enlarged to the point where the chick can reach his beak through the membrane wall, allowing it to breathe, before it pips through the shell, after which it will "zip" around the shell. If humidity has been excessive, the chick may pip internally into the air cell and drown in excess fluid. On the other hand, if humidity has been too low, the air cell will be oversized and the chick may be unable to hatch.


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    A rough guide showing the development of the air cell on different days of incubation

    Positioning of the Eggs

    An incubating egg could set in a normal position as it would on a flat surface; that is with the large end slightly higher than the point, or upright in egg cartons/turners, with the fat end of the egg always up. An egg that persistently has the small end elevated may cause the embryo to be misoriented with the head toward the small end. In the misoriented position, the chick is likely to drown on pipping. Therefore, it is quite important that in general, the large end of eggs should be slightly higher than the small ends; or as they would lie naturally on a flat surface.

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    Turning

    Turning is essential during the first 14 days of incubation, but most people continue it to day 18. Turning is stopped during the last 3 days. If hand turning, always turn the eggs an uneven number of (minimum 3) times a day, so the eggs do not spend two nights in a row in the same position. If not turned to a fresh position frequently during the early stages, the developing embryo touches the shell membrane and sticks to it causing abnormal growth. Turning the egg aids these movements within the egg, and mimics what a mother hen would do naturally.


    Lockdown

    The last few days of incubation, days 18–21, are known as "lockdown". When lockdown day comes, switch off/remove turners (if present), increase the humidity in the incubator to around 70% and maintain it. Do not open the incubator unless necessary and do not turn the eggs during this period.


    What to do When when the Chicks Hatched

    After the chick hatched allow it to dry off and fluff up in the incubator before removing it to a brooder. Newly hatched chicks can survive for up to 3 days on the yolk they absorb during the hatching process, but once you put them in the brooder make sure there is at least water available and offer them food after a day or 2. For more on raising chicks, see HERE.


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    Feeding New Baby Chicks

    Feed and water must be available at all times from the time they are out of the incubator. Do not dole out a measured daily ration. Do not let feed or water run out! Chicks need to be fed a chick starter. Medicated chick starter can be fed to help prevent Coccidiosis. Please note: chicks fed a medicated starter may still get coccidiosis. The medicine in the feed only help prevent it!


    Prevent Accidental Drowning

    Water receptacles are a risk with baby birds during their first week. Chicks are clumsy and can easily fall into water dishes and get drenched or even drown. A common device to prevent drowning is to use a shallow water cup with marbles or small, clean pebbles set in the water over the entire drinking area. The chicks will drink in the spaces between the marbles/pebbles.


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    Further Recommended Reading:


    Incubating & Hatching Eggs Forum Section
    The Beginner's Guide to Incubation
    Incubation Humidity
    Development of a Chicken Embryo Day by Day
    Guide to Assisted Hatching for All Poultry
    Step by Step Guide to Assisted Hatching

    Egg failure to hatch - Diagnosing incubation problems
    Diagnosing causes of malpositions and deformities in chick embryos
    Diagnosing hatch failures - It starts with the egg

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    Pork Pie, alexa009, tjo804 and 18 others like this.

Recent User Reviews

  1. bonsaiherb
    "Incubating and hatching Chicken Eggs"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Sep 15, 2018
    Well written and easy to understand. A good 101 on incubating eggs.
    I would just add - do not have oils, hand lotion or other things on your hands/fingers as you manually handle the egg turning.
    Greasing them up so to speak.

    I also think that over humidifying the incubator is the greatest concern. A house usually is about 70 degrees humidity so the basic need is close to being met without adding too much water. if condensation forms on your incubator lid - do not add more until it is gone.
    Just remember a chicken does not sweat so a broody hen unless she spits on the eggs is not going to be adding humidity. Not sure how this works in overly humid areas like the South or even the East Coast during the summer.
    A hen can only do so much to regulate the heat and humidity of her brood.
  2. Goldenrod1210
    "Great Article!"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Sep 10, 2018
    Tells everything you need to know. In the future I may incubate so I will for sure take a look back on this article. :)
  3. alexa009
    "This article tells it all!"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Aug 31, 2018
    This article tells all of the information of incubating and hatching eggs! I always new baby chicks were susceptible to drowning so I give them water in something small then in a couple of weeks get something bigger like a little dog bowl.

Comments

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  1. KelseyCochin
    In my relatively short time as a chicken fanatic, I’ve learned that the incubation process is more forgiving than I initially anticipated. I nearly drove myself to lunacy obsessing over that first batch, but I soon learned that just like in nature, fluctuations are normal. I also realized never give up on an egg. I’ve had very healthy babies born up to four days late. Just like us Homo sapiens, their “gestation” period varies. My hatch rate has been near 100% each time, both with my expensive incubator and the one I purchased for sixty bucks. Both are self-turning, and both have produced outstanding chicks.
  2. Ashley & Donna Dame
    Hi all, we are doing our first hatch. Started with six eggs, turned out four weren't viable/ fertilized. So down to two. We are at day 19. We did lock down yesterday. Candled both eggs, both chicks were moving around inside.
    My question is that on day 19 when the chick is taking in the yolk, is there little to no movement? Seems like we see a bit of movement from time to time but not sure it's wishful thinking or not. I know they are filling most of the eggs at this point. Just thought I would throw that question out there.
    By the way, we are hatching our own. One bantam silkie, and the other a cross between a sex link and easter egger rooster. Can't wait.
      jillgeroy likes this.
  3. LustyWriter09
    MinnesotaNice - Normally you don't help chicks hatch, because the ones that don't almost always have a health problem and die anyway. In some cases people have helped some chicks hatch. But you would have to be there the entire time whenever they start peeping to when they hatch. Normally after a few hours and they're still peeping to almost an entire day before they crack out of their shell. When a chick is in trouble it could be that their are twins in the egg or just one. The key factor is that you should only help after the chick has already cracked a hole in the egg! Still, again, I have known a few people that do so before hand anyway. When the checks are cheeping inside the egg and rocking quite often they would take rest periods. And then they would start rocking again. And that's when they finally crack a hole in the eggshell and try to break it further. Sometimes taking another day before they actually break the shell all the way and start drying off. On other occations, the eggshell is actually too thick. If it is, you can always lightly crack the shell in the area where you think they might create a hole in the eggshell, which is where their beak will be. Some only go so far as to crack a hole in the egg shell. You must wait until you Know they my need help. Which is normally when, their peeping has slowed and you can feel the egg cool down or you know they are too exausted to break the shell. Again, most people advise you not to interfere sadly. We just don't know if it's because of the shell, not enough humidity, or too much humidity, or a health defect. There are a lot of variables...
      jillgeroy likes this.
  4. crossbowhunter5
    i put 42 eggs in a incubater n its day 21 n I got 5 n more to come its more of pations then anything I love chickins I got some bantams eggs n I had them 4to5 days b4 putting them in so far none hatched but im a very pationet man n happy to c any come to this earth.. thanks Daniel sturgill
      SkB likes this.
  5. LALEWIN
    Mine didn't hatch until day 23. I did remove the plug later in the game though. Like day 18 or so. Out of 21 eggs 8 hatched. A few were duds, the rest were mostly developed and one should have hatched. We lost one that I think hatched too early. All I can figure was the humidity was off since I didn't have anything in there to measure humidity until late in the game. I now have 8 eggs in there and humidity is good. The incubator temps stays consistent, so no idea why I feel the need to check it a million times a day, LOL!
      Kathy Smith likes this.
  6. RachelGM
    Very interesting and informative. I'm thinking about trying to hatch my own eggs and this has assured me that it's notas scary as it first seems. Thank you!
  7. Chicken-lovebirdchihuahua
    Thank the chicken gods I found this:celebrate:clap:yesss::idunno:lau
  8. Beccy B
    My incubator looks too small for hatching ducklings although it said it was suitable for various birds including ducklings, it’s my first time hatching, I had supposedly 3 girls at 3 days old,from the breeder except Jemima turned out to be Jim giving us hopefully fertile eggs I’m on day 5 at the moment, what should I do?
  9. Ann#77
    Well im,on day 22 still waiting on the,chicks to pip and catch i got them the 18th of last month y is,it takeing so long
  10. Ann#77
    Well im,on day 22 still waiting on the,chicks to pip and catch i got them the 18th of last month y is,it takeing so long
  11. Kathy Smith
    I have all my trays filled and the humidity is only reaching 52% I even have three sponges. Any thoughts please.....
    1. chickyrookie
      Did you calibrate your hygrometer? I had the same problem, then bought a good quality hygrometer, calibrated it, and realized that I was drowning my eggs in humidity. What incubator are you using?
    2. Kathy Smith
      Hova- Bator is the brand and yes I have calibrated the Hygrometer. I now have two small bowls of water and three sponges in addition to the trays being full. I have a few chicks that are chirping like crazy but not breaks in the eggs yet? Tomorrow they will be 23 days old. Do you know if they will make their way into the world without help? Get anxious.
  12. Kathy Smith
    I have all my trays filled and the humidity is only reaching 52% I even have three sponges. Any thoughts please.....
  13. xlpaulalx
    Does any body no how I get humidity down temp is right but humidity is at 70 my eggs are due to go in tmw so trying to set the incubator before they go in
  14. Chickie Momma
    This
    Article answered all my questions and more!
  15. INNOCENT85
    hi please i bought this new mini digital egg incubator7 egg hatch capacity incubator and i need a little help .how do i turn the eggs whilst they are standing with the point edge down and during the 18-21days of lock down should i leave the eggs standing like that ,would my chicks be fine ??
    1. PoultreeKing
      Hey i know you posted this about 17 days ago but i thought i could help, you probably shouldn't put them standing up unless the incubator turns the eggs automatically, other than that you can lay them down but turn them at least 3 times a day, at day 18 stop turning them, raise the humidity to about 65%-70%and don't open the incubator, don't open it until you see all of them hatch, and if at day 22 of incubation not all of the eggs hatched, open it remove the hatched chicks once they have dried.
      Chickie Momma likes this.
    2. PoultreeKing
      And wait another day for the unhatched eggs, if they still didn't hatch then it's safe to throw them away.
  16. INNOCENT85
    hi please i bought this new incubator and i need a little help .how do i turn the eggs whilst they are standing with the point edge down and during the 18-21days of lock down should i leave the eggs standing like that ,would my chicks be fine ??[​IMG]
  17. sassysarah123
    GREAT JOB!! VERY HELPFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  18. SilverHair
    Got my incubator going, temps vary from 94 degrees to 101 f, may order some eggs about Jan or Feb, I need to be ready for this the temp may need more tweeking,
  19. gksym007
    Thanks so much guys, a wealth of information and I too have learnt so much. regards bond
  20. LustyWriter09
    gksym077 If the power goes out for longer then 1 to 1 1/2 hours your chance of hatching is very low or non existent. Because, if it were done naturally, the hen would only leave for 1 to 1 1/2 hours tops and always return. Otherwise the eggs can get way too cold and they can die. On a rare occasion, if it were still warm and they were still warm there's a possibility of a few of them still hatching. They have been known to hatch sometimes at a lower temperature, but it takes longer for them to develop.
  21. gksym007
    Hello, what happens if the power goes out over night for 3 or 4 hours with the eggs on day 6.cheers
  22. MinnesotaNice
    How do you know when to intervene and help a chick hatch? If anybody has any more detailed insight on what to expect the last few days of hatching it would be much appreciated! That part always makes me a bit more nervous. Thanks!
  23. Mr MKK FARMS
    Great article! I believe that water should be given to the chicks first in order to get their systems going and to prevent poop from clogging the vent area. I could be wrong about this though.

    Again, good article.
  24. SilkieGirl 1
    Hello, I just got rid of a silkie egg that was precious to me. It smelled super dead while rotting in the sun. It was that bad! When I opened it up, the chick was formed and everything! What could have gone wrong? Plz could some one answer me?
  25. rocks3flowers
    do they need a light on when hatching. one of mine looks shrink wrapped. but the other is zipping fine. should I wait to open and help? they are two days early and started to hatch befor I added more water so humidity was low. I added a paper towel with water and the humiditys were it should be.i believe that's why the first one hatching became sharing wrapped. it's bin about 12 hrs. no change
  26. Pennae
    yes whats lock down
  27. WolfKeeper9584
    We have a homemade incubator and have the eggs sitting sideways in an egg carton. Our first egg is just starting to hatch. Should we move the eggs out of the egg carton and onto the floor of the incubator? Or let them hatch in the egg carton?
  28. Cluckywucky
    Do you all find that it is worth raising your own chicks? I have heard that the rooster rate is around 70%. Not good if you want hens but I would like to raise chicks that would be use to you handling them.
  29. Frooster
    My first pip has happened, but it has been 5 hrs. Should I help it out?
  30. Rooster Pooter
    I also have learned a lot , not only from this , but from BYC in general ! So glad I joined. Also am on my first incubating ! Having little trouble with humidity! Staying around 45/50 . How do I get it up? Waiting to put eggs in ! Thanks for any help .
  31. ChickyChickens
    Nice, thanks!!
  32. LustyWriter09
    I do have one question! If you have a still air incubator with a automatic rotator; is it alright to switch some of the eggs from the outside into the middle of the rotator every few days? So that the cooler spots of the incubator wont harm as many eggs.
  33. Atlann
    My darn incy jacked up to 101.4 today. The eggs have been in there 4 days at 99.7 but I'm afraid today's temp cooked them. What do you think? Survivable?
  34. KellyT
    I have tried hatching eggs twice, and both times, we had abysmal hatch rates! the first time, we set 12 eggs and none hatched, the second time we set 27 and only 6 hatched, (and of those only 3 survived the week.) I don't understand what is going wrong?? The temp was right, the humidity was right, we turned them religiously, and still... HELP!! I want to grow my flock, and hatching seems to be the best way for me, but it's heartbreaking to see so many chicks live til hatch day, and then die while hatching, or just before hatching...
  35. timbo2
    just got my first mile fleur chicks this morning . got some pipping too trying to keep a close eye them hopefully goes well tim
  36. speedbird
    What if you are not at home when they hatch?
  37. Kerrie Ann
    On the humidity part. What do you do if you have different dates in there? I have different hatch dates.
  38. JesNflock
    Thanks for all the wonderful info!
  39. SusieBuddy63
    Just to update, I ended up hatching out all but 1 egg! I have been having great success using my little still air incubator. My second batch hatched out all but 3 eggs. My next batch is due to hatch in 2 days and I'm so happy with my results so far. Hatching out the eggs is so much fun!
  40. keepmumsane
    great info. humidity balance is the trickiest ..not sure how you adjust that. but information so helpful! thank you
  41. Dasp
    Great article, Good info... As long as temps and humidity are carefully monitored you should have success with your egg incubation!
  42. SusieBuddy63
    I have a question, I am hatching out a full incubator of eggs. It's the still-air incubator with automatic egg turner... The temp has been pretty consistant at about 100 degrees, but sometimes it's gone down a degree or two or up a degree or two... I correct it asap and when I candled the eggs... out of 41 eggs, 34 were developing really well last time I checked. I am on day 17 now so when should I take them out of the egg turner? And, when should I start hearing peeps? I'm just a bit nervous as I haven't hatched any chicks out in years... :D
  43. BYC Man
    Great information! Thank you. I am getting an incubator in the near future and that is another avenue of this knew hobby I have found and BYC has been a part of my journey since day 1.
    Thank you.
  44. LoveNewChicks
    what should the humitidy be?
    I read it's supposed to be 60, but I'm not sure...
  45. sallywithchickens
    I am on day 23 of incubation and still nothing. Candled and followed all the directions, except probably the most important one that I didn't know until researching more on this site - didn't remove the vent plugs after day 10!!! Just removed them on day 21; I hope I didn't suffocate my peeps!!! I'll keep you posted... has anyone else ever done this with a successful hatch?
  46. Dee Dee 2
    Correction ~ One of the eggs pipped ALMOST at the top. ??? Where should they pip ?
  47. Dee Dee 2
    SOOOO nervious ! Day 20 1/2 One egg pipped near the top were the BOTTOM of an air bubble would be on a plain egg.
    The other pipped about 1/3 of the way down the shell. This was about 6 hr. ago now ~ nothing ? Should I "help" do anything or look for a tiney little box with a cross on top and itty bitty shovel. ?????
  48. CraftyChicky
    I am on day 16...I have another book that said with a still air incubator I should keep the eggs at 102*, a moving air incubator at 99*. Has anyone else seen this information? I guess I'll see in 5 - 6 more days. I didn't candle them, kept meaning to, but the days got away from me. It is amazing how fast it has gone by.
  49. LALEWIN
    Awesome! Thanks! Guess my sister's roo is on the ball too, LOL! This will be their 1st "children" LOL! Forget, maybe 5 or 7 hens. They are mixed, but I really just wanted to try out the incubator on free eggs. But, if two are nice, I will keep them. All we are allowed is two hens. =( Notice avatar is my Delaware "pullets" that turned roos and are now RIP in the freezer....... I'll come back and report on the hatch. I finally broke into the dud egg. It was a big one. Looked like it tried to develop, but stopped very early on.
  50. jnjmanning
    Good Luck! I just hatched 10 out of 10. My roo is on the job!!!!

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