I got an incubator for Christmas!

Oncoming Storm

Songster
Jun 3, 2019
1,336
2,041
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Depends on what your hatching, but most times you’ll want the temp to be at 99.5. I dry hatch, so my humidity is between 20-30% during incubation then I bring the humidity up to 55-75% for lockdown.
I’d be incubating chickens. What exactly does the humidity do? Spread the heat more evenly? (Also what is lockdown or are you just referring to covid stuff? I know absolutely nothing about using an incubator.)
 

Chickie friend

Songster
Aug 9, 2020
313
867
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Central TX

Tonyroo

Free Ranging
Mar 29, 2020
2,887
6,937
571
N. California
There's a lot of old post to help educate you in understanding all aspect of incubating eggs. If you have a moment use the search button to navigate to those posts.
 

The Kooky Kiwi

Crowing
Dec 23, 2017
751
2,129
276
New Zealand, Golden Bay
Sounds like you have an exciting learning journey ahead of you. If you search the forums here, and of course google, you'll find a TON of useful information but here are some highlights to get you started:

Different species of birds have different incubation times so best to start with knowing your expected incubation period. Chickens are usually 21 days.​

Temperature - In the natural way of things a momma hen would leave her eggs for a short while to eat and drink so small periods of cooling are tolerable but generally speaking we try to keep the temperature as consistent as possible during incubation to ensure proper chick development and hatching times.​
Turning - It is important in the first part of the incubation period (18 days for chickens) that eggs are regularly and gently turned. This ensures correct development of the embryo in the egg. Improper or Not Enough turning can result in embryos failing to develop and/or chick deformities.​
Humidity - This is possibly one of the harder aspects to manage correctly because everyone's incubator setups and natural environments differ so you will need to research what works for your climate and setup. We split humidity management into two parts:​
During the first part of the incubation period (18 days for chickens) we set the humidity so that the chick can develop while "also" allowing the egg to lose some weight - this in turn causes the air cell in the egg to grow. The development of this air cell is important as the chick needs this to learn to breath in the egg in the final few days before hatching. If the humidity is not quite right, the air cell might end up being too large or too small, in both cases causing problems that can result in death or disfigurement for the chick.​
The final three days of incubation is called "lockdown period". This is the time when the chick is almost fully developed, will be getting itself into a hatching position, and will internally pip into the air cell and start developing it's lungs. In this time we stop turning the eggs and increase the humidity. The increased humidity at this stage prevents the membranes in the egg from drying out and helps the chick to hatch. We call it "lockdown" because it is generally accepted that during this time you do not want to open your incubator and lose all the humidity or needlessly chill your eggs.​
 

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