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

From a goopy egg to a fuzzy-breathing live (and adorable) baby chick in just 21 days? Learn more about this amazing process!
  1. BYC Support
    How To Hatch Chicken Eggs

    General Hints

    First things first - eggs should hatch in 21 days, though some may hatch a day or 2 early and some a day or 2 late, after the incubation period began. A "day" is counted as a full 24 hours, so Day 1 would be the first 24 after setting the egg, Day 2 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, 3 weeks later.

    Select clean, even shaped, undamaged eggs for incubating. 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.

    **A note on shipped eggs: Shipped eggs should be allowed to rest and 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. For more info 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 99-99.5*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 45-50% humidity for day 1-18, then 65% for the last few days.

    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...


    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 incubator reviews and get some opinions before you choose one!

    Here are a few examples:

    Brinsea-Incubator.jpg styrofoam-incubator.jpg

    Fertility and Candling

    Natural fertility is rarely 100% - it may vary from 55% to 95% with season, condition and type of 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. Fertility of eggs cannot be determined before incubating them. After 5-7 days, white-shelled eggs can be candled to see if embryos have developed. If there is no sign of development by day 10, discard any "clears". See here for egg candling pics

    The Air Bubble in the Egg

    Soon after an egg is laid, a small air bubble forms in the large end under the shell. A membrane separating the mass of the egg and the air bubble moves back and forth to relieve stress and pressure on the embryo resulting from changes in temperature. The drier the outside air is, the more fluid is depleted 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 "shrink wrapped" in the inner membrane and unable to hatch.

    Positioning of 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.


    Turning is essential during the first 14 days of incubation and should be continued until 3 days prior to the eggs expected hatch day. If hand turning, always turn the eggs an uneven number of times a day, so the eggs do not spent 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.

    What to do With Hatched Chickens

    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.

    Feeding 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 Drowning

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

    Continue to part II: "The First 60 Days" or visit our homemade incubators section then ask questions about hatching eggs.

    Incubating & Hatching Eggs Forum Section

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    sassysarah123 likes this.


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    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.
    2. PoultreeKing
      And wait another day for the unhatched eggs, if they still didn't hatch then it's safe to throw them away.
    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]
  3. sassysarah123
    GREAT JOB!! VERY HELPFUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  4. 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,
  5. gksym007
    Thanks so much guys, a wealth of information and I too have learnt so much. regards bond
  6. 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...
  7. 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.
  8. gksym007
    Hello, what happens if the power goes out over night for 3 or 4 hours with the eggs on day 6.cheers
  9. 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!
  10. 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

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