- Phase 1: Set up
- Phase 2: Eggs
- Phase 3: Eggtion Stations
- Phase 4: Success
Incubators are used for artificially hatching eggs when you don’t have any hens to keep the eggs warm. An incubator re-creates the conditions that are needed to hatch eggs such as warmth, humidity, and ventilation.
For eggs to hatch in an incubator you need to keep the settings stable and constant. Click to find out the proper steps for hatching an egg in an incubator.
Buying an Incubator
The first thing you need to do is buy an appropriate incubator. Remember that you get what you pay for so you don’t want to get the cheapest one.
Another really important thing to keep in mind is that you will need the instructions for your incubator to be successful. Different models of incubators work differently so it’s very important to keep the instructions. If it didn’t come with instructions then look up the serial number and look up the instructions online; this is very important!
You may want to spend a little more on an incubator because some have digital controls. An older incubator will have manual controls and that means having to constantly keep track of the ventilation, humidity, and temperature, whereas a newer model does not require constant monitoring.
Cleaning the Incubator
You need to make sure to clean the incubator thoroughly before using it. This is very important because diseases can be transferred through the eggshell to the developing embryos, and little embryos are very sensitive to diseases. This cleaning process is especially important if you have bought a second hand egg incubator.
You need to vacuum the inside and outside of the incubator to remove any dust and dirt. That’s not enough though because you also need to use a wet cloth soaked in a diluted bleach solution to kill any germs. Be sure to wear gloves when doing this to avoid having the bleach burn your fingers. When this is done let the incubator air dry before use; air drying is very important because cloths or towels have contaminants and dirt on them which will completely defeat the purpose of cleaning it in the first place.
Location, Location, Location
You need to choose an appropriate location for the incubator. You don’t want the incubator to be in an area where there is ventilation of air flow because that will mess with the temperature of the incubator. The incubator needs to be in a place that has a steady temperature between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. To repeat, the incubator needs to be in a place that is room temperature and does not experience any windy drafts.
Plug It In
Plug the incubator into an outlet where you know that it can’t easily unplug by itself. Also plug the incubator into an outlet that is far away from prying fingers and little children that might unplug it. This is very important because if the incubator is unplugged for an extended amount of time then the eggs might not hatch.
The next step is to add some warm water to the incubator’s humidity pan so that the eggs will have the moisture necessary to develop. Read the instructions of your incubator to find out exactly how much water is needed.
Calibrate The Temperature
Calibrate the temperature of the incubator at least 24 hours before using it to ensure that it is stable. The temperature of the incubator needs to be between 99 and 102 Fahrenheit. This is very important because if the temperature is too low then the eggs will never hatch and if the temperature is too high it will kill the embryos. Remember to check the temperature after 24 hours before putting the eggs in the incubator to make sure that the temperature doesn’t fluctuate.
Phase 2: Eggs
Get The Eggs
You need to get eggs that have been fertilized and are ready for the incubation period. The eggs need to be incubated within 7 – 10 days of being laid if there is any chance of having them hatch successfully. Store the eggs in a carton at temperatures between 40 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit to make sure that they stay suitable for incubation. Keep in mind that not all of you eggs will hatch and the average hatching rate for incubated eggs is anywhere from 50 to 75 percent.
Wash Your Hands
Before you touch the eggs to put them in the incubator make sure that you wash your hands thoroughly to rid them of any contaminants. Your hands contain a lot of bacteria and you don’t want those getting on the eggs.
Let The Eggs Warm Up
Before placing the eggs in the incubator let them heat up to room temperature over a period of time. Quick temperature fluctuations are really bad for the eggs so you don’t want to place cool eggs into a warm incubator.
Mark The Eggs
You need to mark the top and bottom of the eggs with a symbol of your choosing so that you can keep track of the flipping. The eggs need to be turned roughly 3 times per day ad these symbols will make it easier to keep track of.
Phase 3: Eggtion Stations
Place The Eggs In The Incubator
Gently place the eggs in the incubator and be sure to place the eggs on their sides. The large end of the egg needs to be a little bit higher than the thinner side. This is because if the thinner side is up higher, the embryos can become misaligned and the chicks may have trouble piping and breaking through the shell. Also be sure that the eggs are evenly spaced and not too close to the heat source.
Dropping The Temperature
The temperature of the incubator will drop a little bit after you have added the eggs. Don’t try to compensate by turning up the heat, simply let the incubator take its time to get back up to heat. This is to avoid fluctuations in temperature.
Remember to write down the date and the time of day at which you introduced the eggs to the incubator. This is so you can know roughly when they will hatch.
Turning The Eggs
You need to turn the eggs about 3 times per day in order to counteract the effects of temperature fluctuations and to mimic the motion of a hen. When you turn the eggs check them to make sure that there aren’t any cracks, also try to re-arrange the eggs so that they pass through all of the spots in the incubator. You don’t have to turn them in the last 3 days because the birds are almost ready to hatch.
The incubator needs to be at around 50 percent humidity, and that needs to be raised up to 65 percent in the last 3 days. Use a special measuring tool to measure the humidity and always remember to re-fill the humidity pan with water. Make sure to add water regularly and make sure that it is warm water.
Make sure that your incubator has spots on the sides and the top where air can flow through. It shouldn’t be windy but there should be adequate ventilation.
Candling The Eggs
You need to candle the eggs about 7 to 10 days after the beginning of incubation to see how far the embryos have developed. Use a tin can or a box that is smaller than the egg so that the egg can rest on top of it. Put the light bulb under the box or tin so that light shines through the egg. You should be able to see cloudy mass which is the embryo developing. If the egg appears clear then your egg has not begun to develop. If you have any eggs that aren’t showing signs of developing you can remove those because if they haven’t started developing after 10 days then they probably won’t.
Phase 4: Success
Hatching The Eggs
Prepare for the hatching date by stopping the rotation and turning of the eggs 3 days before the expected hatching date. Place a cheesecloth or some other type of cloth to catch the egg shells that fall down during the hatching process. During the last 3 days you want to turn the humidity up to around 65 percent. Once you are in the last 3 days don’t open the incubator until the eggs have hatched. Wait until the chicks are completely dry before moving them to your prepared area. Removing them before they are dry may cause the chicks to become too cold.
And that’s it; incubation from beginning to end!
And if it is unclear as to how to candle the eggs, you can click on this link with a step by step picture guide to help you through the process: