new to hatching: need help


In the Brooder
Dec 7, 2015
Hi. I'm new to hatching and am trying to fix a mistake. Help appreciated. I have a little giant incubator with fan and auto turner. (holding 41) I have been keeping the temp at 99.5 and humidity between 45-55. However, I didn't know I shouldn't add eggs after the process starts. I've been adding eggs every day a few at a time, so all are on different hatch time cycles. If I raise the humidity, I believe it will harm the ones not ready. I have a second incubator and am wondering if I can move the ones over to it for the last three days at a higher humidity as the time comes. Is it too late to save this batch? Any advice is greatly appreciated. For 3 or 4 of the eggs, today is day 21. Can those still survive?


Crossing the Road
13 Years
Feb 2, 2009
Southeast Louisiana
There can be a learning curve on this, sometimes steeper than others. Don’t get too discouraged. The situation you are in is not horrible but could be a lot better. Next time it will be.

First the 21 day thing is just an estimate. I’ve had eggs hatch a full two days early in an incubator and under a broody hen. Others have had them hatch that late or later. One big factor in when they hatch is average incubating temperature, (if they are too warm they can be early, too cool they can be late) but heredity, humidity, how and how long they were stored, and just basic differences in individual eggs can make a difference. It’s nice when they hatch on time but a whole lot are either early or late.

They you have the question of how you count the days. A lot of people get it wrong. An egg does not have a day’s worth of development two seconds or two hours after you put it in the incubator. It takes 24 hours of incubation for it to get a day’s worth of development. When counting the days you say “one” the day after you put them in. An easy way to check your counting is the day of the week they go in is the day of the week the 21 days is up. If you put them in on a Tuesday, the 21 days is up on a Tuesday.

A lot of thermometers read wrong, including the ones that come with incubators. I suggest you calibrate your thermometer to check that it is reading right when you get a chance. These might help.

Calibrate a Thermometer

Rebel’s Thermometer Calibration

Rebel’s Hygrometer Calibration

“adding eggs every day a few at a time” You already answered that question. I hope you have kept track of which eggs you put in when. If I knew how many total days you added eggs I might change some of this.

I’m going to skip a lot of typing on why unless you ask later, but you have a second incubator. You are not in that bad of shape, though it could be better. What I suggest is to crank up the second incubator and get the heat and humidity where you want them. Have pretty high humidity, at least 65% and higher is not a problem. Then take the first five days’ worth of those eggs in your incubator and move them to your “hatcher”. See what happens. Chicks can go three days without food and water after they hatch because they absorb the yolk so you don’t have to be in a great hurry to take any out that do hatch, but set three days as a maximum limit and take out whichever ones you need to. You can take them out more often if you need to. There is a slight risk you can cause problems with the unhatched eggs that have pipped every time you open the incubator but the risk really is slight. You want the chicks that have hatched to survive so the risk is worth taking.

After those hatch, clean out your hatcher and do it again. You need to clean it out between batches because it will stink if you don’t from the chick poop and the gunk from hatching. Keep repeating this until you are done. Don’t add any more eggs until this is all done and over with. You’ll probably have some drama but I think this is the best way to approach it.

Is this the best way to hatch? Absolutely not. But you have to deal with the situation you are in. Since you have two incubators, a very good way to stagger hatches is to gather the eggs you want to hatch for a week, then start them. Then a week later start your next batch. When it comes time for lockdown move the ones ready to the hatcher. But clean up this mess first.

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