First time incubating - and rushed


In the Brooder
6 Years
Mar 12, 2013
We had to rush our plans to hatch some chicks. We found our rooster laying dead in the coop 3 weeks ago. No idea why, there didn't appear to be anything wrong with him. But anyway, we decided to try to incubate some eggs to increase our flock and we had read that hens can continue to lay fertile eggs for up to 10 days or more after the last fertilization. So...

First I had to make an incubator - I could have bought one, but, I enjoy making things. So, I did some reading and put together this incubator in 2 days - part of that was waiting for the temperature controller to arrive from Amazon: This has two computer fans for force air movement, two light bulbs for faster temperature control (the controller is keeping the temperature within +/- 0.25 degrees), two shelves, the top shelf has an egg turner and the second shelf can hold eggs that are hatching or will hold another turner if we need it. Front door is acrylic and slides up to open to cut down on outside air going in when I open it to get an egg for candling or whatever. I can open it get an egg and close it and temp changes less than 1 degree and humidity less than 1%.

The entire incubator with turner cost me around $120 and will handle 41 eggs with one turner or 82 with a second turner. A little less than a commercial incubator would have cost me.

I use a simple ziplock plastic container and sponge provide humidity control. I have 4 of these and put in or take out as many as needed to maintain humidity level. If things get way too dry for some reason, I have a spray bottle sitting next to the incubator and I spray the wood floor a little - the humidity jumps up 4 or 5 % in minutes that way. I only had to do that once.

I got two of these thermometers at Lowes, I think they were about $10. They display both humidity and temperature as well as showing the hi and low for each over the past 24 hours. I tested them and they were reading about 1 degree high and agreed with each other, so not too bad.

The readings below are just from the 24 hours of testing I was doing before putting in the eggs. The humidity and temperature was kept much better than shown from the tests. I was making large changes to temp and humidity to see how fast the controller could correct it. It works very well.

This is the temperature controller - it was about $25 plus $7 for the temperature probe on Amazon. Simple to setup and once set it did an excellent job holding the temperature within +/- 0.25 degrees.

So, we had some previously laid eggs in the fridge (I know bad idea if you are going to hatch them) that were between 3 and 4 days old and had been kept at 39 degrees. We also kept the next couple days production (4 eggs per day) after the rooster died and until I had the incubator built and tested. This gave us 18 Heritage Road Island Red eggs to try to get a new rooster (or two) and a few more chick's to increase our flock a bit.

(We also have 5 guinea fowl and decided we wanted to increase that a bit too - so we ordered some Guinea Eggs and added them to the incubator with the RIR eggs since the temp and humidity requirements were the same.) It is nice being able to handle up to 41 eggs at once. (Next up when these are all done will be duck eggs :) )

At 7 days I candled some of the eggs. The eggs are medium brown and I am not sure what I was supposed to see, but some of the eggs were "dark" on one end and some were evenly light though out the egg. Our Guinea fowl eggs arrived and I didn't want to take a chance on contaminating the new eggs with any bacteria of dead chick eggs in the incubator, but I still was not sure if any of the eggs were fertile. So, I decided to sacrifice one of the darker eggs to see what was going on. I opened it and sure enough there was a developing fetus. Yeah!

So, I tossed out all the light eggs and kept the ones that had half or more dark. That left us with 12 eggs - half of them came from the fridge and half from fresh eggs. I was surprised that so many eggs that had been kept in the fridge were still developing.

We added the 18 Guinea Fowl eggs to the turner and continued to wait.

Humidity control was the biggest issue I had, it was varying between 48% and 65%. We live in N. Florida and were having rainy days... I finally figured out there was an air leak at the bottom of the acrylic door - I sealed that and the humidity settled down nicely.

On day 18 for the chick eggs I moved the eggs from the turner to the shelf below and raised the humidity to 60%.

Today is day 20 for the chick eggs and 5 of the 12 pipped today. I raised the humidity to 65% today.

I found the RIR eggs to be particularly nice the way they develop the little red circles on them so you can see where the chick is pipping - makes it easier to find - j/k :)

Next milestone is to see how many successfully hatch. The brooder is warming up and hopefully we will get at least 50%.

7 pipped now, and first one hatched - that is one day early - they were put in the incubator on a Tuesday. But, the young one is flopping around and chirping a lot. Seems to be trying to find it's sea legs. :)
Nice homemade incubator and good luck on your hatch!
2 and 3 are out now and 4 is working on it.

All of the ones that have hatched so far are from the ones that had been stored in the fridge for 3 days at 39 degrees and had been laid on the 17th. All the eggs were set in the incubator on the 20th (last month) so the ones hatching are a day early. Strange.

They "seem" to be okay to a newbie (me). 1 and 2 can now stand and walk around a little. 3 is just out and while it attempts to stand it mostly just ends up rolling over onto it's back and taking another 30 second power nap then wakes up and tries again.

I am going to let them at least get fully dry and walking around a little before I move them to the waiting brooder. It is heated up to 95 at one end and 90 at the other and ready with brooder temp water and feed.

Well, we got 12 fertile eggs from a total of 18 set, and of the 12 we got 8 chicks (so far). Today is hatch day (day 21) and the last 4 have not pipped yet. I am going to give them 2 more days then call them dead and move on to the next batch.

FRank, did you candle them to look for internal pip? If they are genetically important to the flock, worth helping them hatch. Pete%% has oodle of info as he helps his parrots hatch if necesary. Good luck. Gld it worked out for you.
Yes, I did candle them, being brown eggs there is a limit to how much I can make out. It is now day 23 and no signs of activity from the last four, so I think they are not going to hatch. We are happy to have gotten 7, we really did not expect to do well all things considered.

Thank you,

I have given up on the remaining 4 RIR eggs. They are 2 days late and I have seen no activity at all.

We have 18 Mixed Guinea Fowl eggs that we ordered from in the incubator, they are at day 14 now and so have 2 more weeks before hatching. We are hoping to get at least 9 from these eggs - more would be better - but at 9 it will be considered a financial success.

Last edited:

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom