Ever wonder how to hatch chicken eggs? If so, you are in the right place. There are 2 methods on how to do this. The first is when you have a broody hen and the second is using an incubator.
If you have a broody hen, it is best to slip the eggs under her at night. Make sure the hen is somewhere safe and preferably away from the other chickens. When you have a broody hen, she will faithfully sit on her eggs for 21 days until they hatch. Broody hens tend to eat less and only get up once or twice a day for some food or water. Some people do not like a broody hen, because the chickens don’t lay eggs during this time. However, it is a trait lost among hatchery chickens that should be considered valuable when breeding, but that is a whole another topic to post on.
Now, if you don’t have a broody hen to sit on the eggs and raise the chicks-you’ll need an incubator. We are big Brinsea incubator fans, because you can setup the eggs and pretty much walk away. Other types of incubators require more “babysitting” with temperature and humidity. I do not recommend the styrofoam type incubators!
Once you are ready to start incubation, make sure your eggs have sat for 24 hours with the fat end up. This ensures the air cell are able to re-attach if your eggs were shipped to you. If your eggs were acquired locally, then you can put the eggs in right away when the incubator has warmed up. It takes 21 days on average for a chicken egg to hatch.
To get your incubator warmed and ready, program it to 99.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Eggs take 21 days to hatch and there are two different humidity levels you will need. From day 1 to 18 the humidity should be between 40-50%. On days 19 to 21, during lockdown, the humidity should be 60%. Lockdown refers to the last 3 days of incubation. During this time, you do not turn the eggs anymore and raise the humidity. You also DO NOT open the incubator or your chicks will become shrink wrapped into their membrane and will not be able to hatch.
During lockdown, chicks are getting into position to pip. A pip is the first tiny break in the shell you see. It takes a lot of work for the chicks to pip into the air cell in the egg (where they take their first breath) and then to break a tiny hole into the shell. When you see a pip, usually the chick takes 12 to 18 hours to rest before unzipping. Unzipping is when the chick makes tiny breaks all the way around in a circle, until the chick can push out of the shell. Then ta-da! Your chick has hatched!
Your chick will be very wet and you’ll see the umbilical cord hanging off of it until it falls off. There might be some blood and some yoke sac even. The yoke sac is absorbed during the last few days in the egg, so the chicks have nutrition for up to 3 days after they hatch. Also, since your chick is wet after hatching, you’ll want to leave it in the incubator with the others until they are dry/fluffy and all the eggs have hatched. It is so tempting to take the chicks out early, but DO NOT do it, since opening the incubator will shrink wrap the other chicks in their shells. The older chicks will kick around the other eggs that haven’t hatched and that is ok.
Now, when all the eggs have hatched and the chicks are dry, you can take them out. They will need to go straight into a brooder for constant heat, food, and water. When I first put each chick in, I gently stick their beak in water for them to take a sip. This encourages them to thrive on their own and know where the food and water is.
Welp, you did it! You hatched your eggs and now have baby chicks!