Raising backyard chickens has become a popular hobby and many people are interested in trying their hand at hatching chickens. Here is some information on what you need to know about the process. One of the first things to do is get in touch with your county extension agent. The county extension is an excellent source of information on hatching chickens. They can offer guidance on equipment, fertilized chicken eggs, and methods, and answer the many questions that are likely to come up.
You will need to get a reliable chicken egg incubator. The incubator is an enclosure with a water pan that maintains the right conditions of temperature, ventilation and humidity. Proper placement and operation of the incubator is one of the keys to success with hatching.
Obtaining quality eggs is another important part of the process. You won’t be able to hatch supermarket eggs because they are not fertile. In order to hatch you need to get fertile eggs from a hatchery or a local poultry farm. There are poultry equipment suppliers who will send fertile eggs free with the purchase of an incubator.
Hatching eggs should be incubated as soon as possible. The ideal time frame would be within a week. Talk to your supplier to see if you can arrange to have the eggs delivered so that you can incubate right away, that is, within a day or two. If you do have to store them, keep them in cases with the large end up in a climate controlled environment, ideally between 50 60 degrees F. and 75 percent humidity.
Modern incubators have electronically controlled temperature settings, but it’s still a good idea to place the incubator where it won’t be subject to temperature fluctuations due to direct sunlight or window drafts. The power cord should be placed so that it won’t be accidentally pulled from the wall.
Make sure your incubator is in good working order. Read the manual thoroughly so that you understand all the controls, displays and features.
The temperature range should be between 99 and 102 degrees. Though you don’t want the temperature to drop too low, overheating the eggs is more harmful than under heating. Expect to see a drop in temperature when you first put the eggs in. Hatchability will be greatly reduced if the temperature remains outside the range of 97 to 103 degrees for an extended time such as several days. If your incubator has a factory pre-set to a recommended temperature, you will not need to worry about making adjustments.
Maintaining the correct moisture level in the incubator is also important. Humidity should be 50 to 55 percent. For the last three days of incubation, it should be raised to 65 percent. Eggs should be turned several times a day. Many incubators have an automatic feature to take care of this for you.
The guideline for how long the incubation period for chicken eggs is 21 days. The last three days are a critical time. The humidity level needs to be increased. Turning should stop. Most of the chicks will probably hatch within a one-day period. Have a plan for what you will do with the chicks at first, whether you are going to leave them in the incubator or remove them to another enclosure.