Rules to Hatching Chicken Eggs

Observing life burst forth from what appears to be a simple egg is truly a rewarding experience. However, if you’re just dipping your toes into this fascinating endeavor, you might find yourself pondering, “What’s the best way to be successful in hatching chicken eggs?”

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Natural Incubation Vs Artificial Incubation

The primary difference between natural and artificial incubation lies in the involvement and control of the process. Natural incubation entrusts the broody hen with the responsibility, allowing for a more natural experience but with less control over variables. Artificial incubation, on the other hand, gives humans complete control over every aspect of hatching, potentially increasing success rates but at the cost of a more complex, mechanical process. Both methods offer unique benefits, with the selection often based on personal preferences, resources, and breeding objectives.

Unfolding the steps to hatching chicken eggs can be thrilling yet intimidating for beginners. Here are some cardinal rules to guide you on your egg hatching adventure:

  1. Egg Hatching: A 21-day Affair Typically, hatching chicken eggs is a 21-day process, assuming the eggs are fresh and have consistently been at an optimal hatching temperature. However, don’t discard your eggs immediately if day 21 comes and goes with no signs of hatching. Give them a few extra days; some might be late bloomers.
  2. Maintain a Warm Environment During incubation, maintaining the correct temperature is crucial. For still-air incubation, aim for a temperature of 101.5°F, measured atop the egg. If your incubator uses forced air, keep the temperature at a steady 99.5°F.
  3. Rotate Eggs Until Day 18, Then Halt Manual rotation of eggs is necessary but remember to clean your hands beforehand to avoid contamination. Ceasing rotation on day 18 is important as it allows the chicks to get into position for hatching.
  4. Flip Eggs 3-5 Times Daily Many commercial incubators come equipped with turning trays. However, DIY incubators often require hand rotation. To track the turned eggs, you could mark one side of each egg with an ‘X’.
  5. Position Eggs with Large End Up on the Turner Automatic turners can be deceivingly slow, leading you to believe they aren’t functioning. However, check back after a few hours, and the shift in position will be apparent.
  6. Maintain Appropriate Humidity Levels Correct humidity levels are just as vital as temperature for successful hatching. Use a hygrometer actively for accurate measurements as ambient conditions can notably impact the incubator’s environment. From day 1-18, maintain humidity between 40-50%. Then, increase it to 70% from day 18 onwards.
  7. Begin with a Minimum of Six Eggs Embarking on the hatching journey with at least six eggs can be beneficial for both you and the chicks. The hatching process requires considerable effort and starting with fewer eggs might lead to an unsuccessful hatch. Also, chickens are social animals; a solitary bird might suffer from loneliness, which could even prove fatal.
  8. Let the Chick Hatch Naturally When you notice a crack in the shell, allow up to 24 hours for the chick to emerge on its own. Attempts to aid the chick by peeling off the shell could result in serious bleeding. Patience is key.
  9. Minimize Incubator Disturbances Successful hatching largely depends on minimum interference. This becomes particularly significant during the hatching phase. Opening the incubator causes a loss of humidity, which might complicate the chicks’ exit from the shell.

Post Hatch Care

Post-hatch care, crucial for a chick’s development into a healthy adult chicken, demands meticulous attention and care. Once your chicks have successfully hatched, they’ll be wet and exhausted from the effort. During this time, it’s best to leave them in the incubator. The incubator’s warm, controlled environment aids them in drying off and gaining some strength.

After the chicks have dried and fluffed up, typically within a few hours to a day of hatching, you can gently move them to their next home: the brooder. A brooder, which can range from a commercial model to a simple cardboard box, acts as a safe and warm haven for the young chicks. Equip it with a heat lamp, actively emulating the warmth a mother hen provides. In the first week, keep the brooder at 95°F (35°C), reducing by 5 degrees weekly as chicks grow and toughen.

Access to clean, fresh water is essential for your chicks’ survival. Provide water in a shallow dish or a dispenser designed for chicks to prevent them from falling in and getting chilled or drowned. As the chicks grow, you’ll need to adjust the height of the water source to match their growing stature.

Feed is another critical element in raising healthy chicks. Use a commercial chick starter feed, which is specially formulated with the right nutrients for their growth and development. As they grow, transition them onto grower feed.

In addition to providing the right environment and nutrition, safety is another significant aspect of post-hatch care. Keep the brooder in a secure, draft-free location away from predators. Clean it regularly to prevent disease spread and monitor the chicks for signs of illness or discomfort. Remember, raising chicks is an ongoing process that requires attention, care, and a lot of love.


What is the best chicken breed for beginners? The Rhode Island Red or Sussex chickens are great for beginners, known for their hardiness and high egg production.

Can I hatch a supermarket egg? It’s highly unlikely. Most supermarket eggs are unfertilized, and even if they are fertilized, the refrigeration and handling process make them unsuitable for incubation.

How long does it take for a chicken egg to hatch?It typically takes 21 days for a chicken egg to hatch, provided the correct incubation conditions are met.

What do I feed a newly hatched chick? Newly hatched chicks should be fed a starter feed, specially formulated for their nutritional needs.

What do I do if my eggs aren’t hatching on day 21? Sometimes, hatching can be delayed due to temperature fluctuations. Wait for a couple of days. If still nothing happens, candle the eggs to check for signs of development

Kate King

Kate King

My experiences in sustainable living aim to contribute positively to our environment and community. This shared wisdom fosters respect and love for nature, emphasizing our place in the broader ecological framework.

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