If you have chickens, you may be wondering what it takes to incubate eggs at home. This can turn out to be less expensive than long term hatching, making replenishing your flock easy and inexpensive. However, many breeds do not brood, meaning they will not lay eggs to incubate eggs.
If you don’t have a brooding hen, you don’t have much of an alternative—unless you take the plunge and buy or breed. Let’s discuss how to successfully hatch chicks in your home without a traditional incubator.
How Do Eggs Hatch?
Chicken eggs are not active until the heating process begins. Most of the time, this heat comes in the form of the hen taking ownership of the egg and deciding to sit down. However, sometimes it requires an incubator, a specially designed heating system that mimics the body heat of a chicken.
Once the incubation process begins, chicks will emerge from the eggs about 21 days later.
Can You Force a Chicken to Hatch an Egg?
If a hen isn’t showing signs of brooding, you shouldn’t force her to sit down. Putting him in a cage will only confuse him. He might even crack an egg.
Eggs need a consistent source of heat, so most brooding hens are always faithful, sitting there throughout the process. However, even chickens that exhibit a brooding nature at first may leave their eggs at any time. There is no surefire way to ensure the success of the hen until they prove themselves.
What is Egg Incubator?
An egg incubator is a device that maintains the proper temperature, rotation, and humidity levels required to incubate eggs. Each device will vary depending on quality and needs. Because it combines various factors to create the perfect environment for eggs, consistency has a high hatching rate.
Of course, factors can play a role in hatching success based on several things:
Egg incubators are not cheap, and they can vary widely. There are some that you can make yourself and some that you buy from the manufacturer. If the incubator is of poor quality, it may not function properly, causing disruption to the cycle.
Not everyone is a pro right away. You might think you followed all the instructions only to end up on the 23rd day, still no chicks. The only thing you can do is learn from experience and make sure you follow all the recommendations depending on the method you choose to hatch.
Of course, to hatch an egg, you need an embryo that has been fertilized and can develop. If you collect some eggs from the cage and some are not fertilized, you may get a few eggs after the rest hatch.
It is very important to keep each environmental factor consistent. If ever there is a power outage, even for a short interval, it can disrupt development. Be sure to keep an eye on power sources, so you know they’re getting proper heat at all times.
How to Hatch Eggs
Unfortunately, there is no way to hatch eggs without a proper incubator or a willing hen. But don’t let that deter you. You can always buy one. Or maybe it’s better and cheaper—you can make your own!
1. broody chicken
It goes without saying that the mother hen is the ideal way to hatch chicks. It is completely natural with a perfect rhythmic flow between the hens and their growing embryos. However, you may have a whole flock of chickens that doesn’t care about being broody at all.
If you want to collect some hens with high potential for brood, add some of these beautiful chicks to your flock:
Of all the mama chickens out there, Silkies have the best reputation for their optimal maternal instincts. Also, Silkies look really cool! These chicks are fluffy balls of white downy feathers. They are sweet and friendly, get along with herds and humans alike.
The docile Orpington is a top egg producer, and they can also be very brooding when the mood strikes. Good mothers, these girls will take care of their babies with minimal problems. Orpingtons come in beautiful, lavender, white, and black buffs. They are very calm and also calm.
Big mama Brahma might come to save the day! This giant breed of chicken may be big, but it’s sweet as sugar. They have a very high potential for incubation. Brahmas are known for their beautiful foot hair and large size with buff, white, and dark colors.
The cute spotted Sussex hens are an adorable addition to your flock—and they have a very strong tendency to sit on eggs. This chicken comes in eight attractive colors, including brown, buff, coronation, white, light, red, speckled, and silver. These chickens are very alert and not temperamental.
Very similar to their Brahma cousins in demeanor and character, the Cochins are a charming herd with a brooding reputation. This laid back chicken comes in lots of interesting colors and patterns, adding some pizzazz to your barn.
Anyone who has ever owned an Australorp will attest to their fun and interactive personality. In addition to their friendly nature, they are also much more likely to be brooding. These chicks are mostly black, but may also be white or lavender.
Red Rhode Island
Rhode Island Reds are not only the queen layer of the chicken coop, they are also among the most brooding. This classic looking chicken is probably one of the most recognizable breeds of poultry you will see on a farm. Reds are gentle and playful, but males can be really rowdy—pick them with great care.
When is Hens Go Broody?
There’s not much you can do to predict broodiness in a hen before they start laying eggs. Most brooding hens start laying eggs soon after laying between 5-8 months of age.
Once they reach this age, they will brood the following spring after that.
Signs You Have a Breathing Chicken
You can encourage curiosity by leaving several eggs in the nesting box at once. You can even buy artificial eggs that mimic the real thing to trigger his instincts.
If the chicken is brooding, you may notice:
- Refusal to leave the nest egg
- Sitting in an empty nest
- Aggression or irritation when disturbed
- Pale and wattle comb
Once you see your chicken has been brought to the egg, make sure you:
- Do not disturb him
- Give him a secluded place away from other chickens
- Give him lots of food and water
Since some hens refuse to leave the nest, you’ll want to make sure she gets one solid meal per day. Fresh water should be available at all times, as dehydrated chickens can die.
As long as he fulfills his basic needs and is safe away from other people, you are more likely to hatch successfully.
2. Homemade incubator
It may surprise you to learn that you can make your own DIY incubator with many of the supplies you probably already have on hand. You have a lot of creative freedom with design, but the incubator must be temperature and humidity efficient.
Equipment that you will definitely need include:
Incandescent light bulb
Screen or hardwire cloth
You can make actual boxes from scrap wood, plastic bags, or Styrofoam boxes. Be sure to measure the incubator so that the heat source is neither too close nor too far from the eggs. You’ll also need a plastic bowl to put the water in to keep the moisture where it belongs.
How to Use the Incubator
The incubator should be between 99.5 and 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit with 50 to 55% humidity.
Once you’ve set up the incubator with the correct heating and humidity, it’s time to set the eggs inside to begin the process.
Carefully place the eggs in the incubator on a flat place
Turn the eggs four to six times a day
Check for cracks, breaks, or cracks in the eggs
Discard eggs that are damaged during the process
Check temperature and humidity regularly
Stop turning 3 days before hatching should happen
Reduce the temperature to 95 degrees after hatching
Allow each chick to dry before removing it from the homemade incubator.
How often do you need to turn the eggs while incubating?
You need to turn the eggs four to six times a day. At 18 days, stop turning eggs completely. Most of the eggs will hatch by day 21.
What are the common mistakes people make when incubating eggs?
If you are new to the concept of egg incubation, you may be making some mistakes. This usually includes:
Forgot to flip the egg
Improper storage of fertilized eggs before incubation
Thin or cracked shell
How soon after hatching can chicks be with the flock?
Once your little chicks come back to life, they should remain in the incubator to dry completely. Once the chicks are completely dry, you can place them in a preheated brood where they will spend the next 8 weeks of their life. After 8 weeks, you can introduce chicks to the flock.
Is incubation a time consuming task?
Yes, hatching eggs is time consuming but rewarding. It’s also an inexpensive alternative to buying chickens from a hatchery if you plan to maintain a consistent flock.
Unfortunately, we humans don’t have the ability to incubate eggs unaided. You must have all the relevant environmental factors at work in order to hatch eggs—there are no shortcuts! Even a single accident can render development useless.
So if you don’t want to pay for an incubator, invest in some brooding chickens. You may have to wait a little longer to get your baby chicks, but you can always make your own DIY incubator and provide a warm space for your newest member of the flock.
Featured Image Credit: A_noina, Shutterstock