It takes 21 days for a chicken egg to hatch. It takes longer for some – so have hope until Day 23. We’ve heard of a hen taking 25 days to hatch an egg but that is unusual.
Timeline of Hatching Chicken Eggs
Hatching your little darlings follows a schedule. It’s not strict and it’s not always the same for all eggs, but you’ll find that this a good guide:
Day 1 – 17 – This is the incubation period of your fertile eggs. During this time, whether you have a hen, a manual incubator, or a fully automatic incubator, your eggs should be turned 3 to 5 times a day. You can check out our complete guide to how to hatch chicken eggs here.
Day 8-12 – These days mark when you can do candling on your eggs. Candling means you can peek at your little embryos with a flashlight and see if they are coming along fine. Not all breeders do candling, especially those who like surprises.
Day 18 – This is when we stop rotating or turning our chicken eggs because this is the time when chicks start to settle in their eggshell readying themselves for hatching.
Day 21 – This is hatching day! Provided you did everything right with the temperature, humidity, and procurement of healthy, fertile eggs, your chicks should hatch on the 21st day.
Day 22-23 – If your eggs have not hatched on Day 21, don’t panic. Some eggs, due to reasons we’ve listed below, may be delayed in hatching. Wait until Day 24 for your chicks to come out.
Day 24-25 – Just to be on the safe side, you can wait until Day 25. The chances are very low but we’ve heard of a broody hen sit on her eggs until the 25th day and hatch successfully, albeit this is an unusual occurrence.
Don’t forget! During incubation, you should already set aside any eggs that look bad, broken, or infertile. This is because they might explode and infect all the other healthy eggs.
Reasons For Late Hatching Chicken Eggs
If you’re a beginner breeder, you’re no doubt becoming anxious why your chicken eggs haven’t hatched on time. Here are some common reasons why your chicken eggs are late in hatching:
- Incubator temperature was too low
- Incubator humidity was too high
- Problems during shipping of your eggs; these include the eggs getting too cold or too hot in storage or rough handling
- You got some eggs that were new and some that were old, with the new eggs hatching earlier than the older ones
- Large eggs sometimes take longer to hatch
- Inbreeding or weak embryos
If it is past Day 21 and your eggs have not hatched, candle them first before giving them up for lost.
How To Candle An Egg
It is very easy to candle an egg and find out if your chicks are coming along fine. Candling doesn’t hurt your eggs so long as your torch doesn’t make the egg hot and you don’t keep the eggs out of their incubator for too long.
What You Need:
- LED flashlight
- Flat piece of cardboard (like an old carton or a pizza box; optional)
- Dark area
- 3-day old eggs for pale eggs and 5-day old eggs for darker eggs; the best time to candle is Days 8-12
If you using the cardboard, cut out a small hole in the middle of the box just enough for the eggs to sit on top without falling through.
If you have a LED flashlight, you can just set your egg on top and then hold your hand aroundthe egg to keep the light on it.
What you are looking for:
Fertile eggs will have a small black dot – the embryo. The further along the days, the bigger the dot.
Infertile eggs will be clear through with no dots.
An egg with a dead embryo will have a dark spot stuck to the shell or a ring of blood around the yolk.
You can also check out the air sac of your egg during candling. This empty space grows bigger as the days progress and you can mark that with a pencil. If it grows too big though more than warranted, your incubator humidity might be too low!
Every veteran breeder has gone through the heartbreak of having bad batches. To non-breeders, losing eggs doesn’t seem like a big deal but for breeders who have paintakingly chosen their eggs and nurtured them through all the stages of development, a beautiful lot of eggs suddenly not hatching can be devastating.
Hatching is not for the faint of heart. You need dedication, discipline, Sherlock Holmes-level observation skills, and a lot of flexibility. Still, during hatching, you will more often be met with success than failure and you will no doubt find it an intensely rewarding experience.