Hatching Eggs 101

Purchasing new eggs for hatching can be an incredibly exciting, yet intimidating, experience. We have compiled a list of tips and tricks to help you have a successful hatch. However, it is important to remember, that hatch rates are never guaranteed. Many factors beyond all of our control can contribute to hatching success.

Step 1: Preparing your incubator

Prior to receiving your hatching eggs, it is important to have your incubator set up and running for at least 24 hours. You want the temperature and humidity to regulate before you try to set your eggs.

For hatching our eggs, we have found the most success with setting the incubator at 100.0 degrees and 35% humidity for the first 18 days (less for bantams). We will discuss preparing your incubator for hatching later!

Step 2: Receiving your hatching eggs

Your hatching eggs just had a long and potentially rough journey. It is time to let them rest! You want to allow your eggs to rest pointy side down at room temperature for at least 24 hours before setting them in the incubator. Resting them with the pointed side down helps the air cell to settle in its proper place before development begins. Air cells are vital to chick development, so do not skip this step! 

Closely inspect all eggs for cracks, breaks, or signs of damage. Never set any eggs with damage, as they can allow bacteria to enter the inner membranes or spread throughout your incubator. Do not wash eggs before placing them in the incubator. Hens lay eggs with a natural protective coating, the "bloom," which helps protect the egg through the entire process.

Step 3: Setting the eggs

Shipped eggs should be incubated slightly differently than locally sourced eggs. After the 24 hour rest period, place them pointed side down in the incubator. The picture to the left shows how you can use cut up egg cartons to hold your eggs upright in the incubator. 

Do not turn or rotate your eggs for the first 5 days. Remember, they have been shaken up! They need to continue to rest pointy side down. However, now the incubator is allowing the growing process to begin!

On the 6th day, you will start gently rotating your eggs several times per day. Gently rotate them side to side. If you would prefer to use an automatic turner, you can do so at this time. However, shipped eggs will do their best upright.

Step 4: Lockdown and hatch

On day 18 (or 16 for micro-bantam eggs), it is time to place your eggs into lockdown! Lockdown is just what it sounds like - it's time to keep the incubator closed until your baby chicks arrive! First, you will want to remove the egg turner if you used one throughout incubation. Line the bottom of the incubator with paper towels or a non-slip shelf liner to help the baby chicks gain their footing. Now, place the eggs back in their pointy-side-down position. It is best to set each individual egg into its own section of egg carton with the big end up. Shipped chicks are at a higher risk of drowning in the egg due to temperature and humidity fluctuations, so the upright position helps them to avoid drowning. Increase your incubator humidity to approximately 65%, ensure that the air vent is open to allow fresh air for the chicks, and close the incubator up until after the hatch is complete!

Approximately 24 hours before hatch, you will begin to see "pips" or tiny cracks in the egg shell. This means your babies are starting the process of hatching out! Be patient during this time. It is a lot of hard work for the chicks, so they will go slowly with nap breaks in between. Once you see pips, you definitely do not want to open your incubator! A drop in humidity after a pip can cause the chick to become shrink wrapped and die before hatching. 

Your pips will later become "zips," which is the exciting moment when the chick is about to emerge! The chick will slowly peck in a zipper motion all the way around the big end of the egg and push their way out! The babies will be extremely tired right after hatch, so you will see them take a couple of steps and then flop over for a nap. This is normal, and they will gain their energy back shortly! Allow them to stay in the incubator until they are fully dry, fluffy, and all of your eggs have finished hatching. They can survive 72 hours without food or water after hatch, so they are okay to wait for their siblings to finish hatching. Once they are fluffy, upright, and walking well, they can be moved to the brooder to start living as chicks!