Hatching Eggs Info
Fertile eggs should be stored in a cool place (ideally 10-16 degrees centigrade). Freshly laid eggs can be kept for up to two weeks before incubating although the fresher they are the better the hatch rate tends to be. The fresher the eggs the earlier they may hatch and the older the egg the later they may hatch.
Fertile chicken eggs take around 21 days to hatch. Some breeds take a little less and some a little longer. If the egg has not hatched after 25 days it should be removed from the broody hen or incubator.
Eggs need constant heat during the full incubation period for the embryo to develop into a chick. This heat is provided either by a broody hen or by an incubator. The temperature should be constant at 37.6 degrees centigrade and humidity at 45% for the first 18 days of incubation for chickens and bantams. After 18 days humidity should be raised to 65%.
Using an incubator to hatch fertile eggs
Before buying eggs, make sure the incubator is working. Plug it in and wait for it to heat up - usually about 30 minutes. Place a medical thermometer (the type used to take body temperature) where the eggs will be set. Leave for several minutes and then check the reading. It should be 37.6 degrees centigrade. If not, adjust the incubator settings until the temperature is correct
If your eggs arrive in the post, leave them to settle for 12 to 24 hours with the pointed end down before putting them in the incubator. If you collect the eggs, they can be placed in the incubator as soon as the incubator has reached the correct temperature.
The eggs should be set either on their sides or with the pointed end down. This is important because the air sac in the egg is at the wider end.
Follow the instructions for your incubator during the incubation period. Please note that eggs set in the upright position should be laid onto their sides before hatching, usually around day 18.
Increase humidity for the last 3 days.
Automatic incubators turn the eggs about once per hour. If you have a manual incubator you need to turn the eggs as often as you can. The eggs will not develop correctly if they are not turned regularly.
Do not open the incubator except to add water. Both the temperature and humidity will fall every time it is opened and this can slow down the incubation period.
Chicks should not be removed from the incubator until they are dry and fluffy, they can be left in the incubator safely for up to 24 hours. They do not need food and water during the first 24 hours.
Damaged in the post
We send out hundreds of eggs during the season by post. Most of these hatch successfully and we have many repeat customers. Occasionally when eggs have been through the postal system they fail to hatch. There is no evidence that this is due to transportation. However, it is possible that X-rays may prevent embryo development. It is important to leave eggs to stand overnight before starting to incubate and failure to do so is likely to affect hatching results.
This is a very basic guide to hatching at home based on our experience. Hatching is a complex process and there are excellent books written and incubator information on the subject if you would like to delve further.