Incubating, Hatching and Brooding

Hatching young chooks

From incubating to hatching and then rearing your babies

On day 19, hopefully you've taken the eggs out of the incubator, what next? Follow this from hatching to brooding and then to pullet stage = eggs and more

Let me start by saying eggs from the supermarket 'aint going to give you any babies.  So your first job is to get fertile eggs. Next question is "Where do I get 'em"

You'll find them advertised in your local newspaper, providing of course you still have one these days.  Try Gumtree or often Marketplace on FB. Better still attend one of your local poultry auctions, in most cases you'll get fertile eggs there and its possibly the best place to start.  One thing I should say is be very careful of eggs you buy on line.  I've never ever received a parcel of eggs through the mail that has not been damaged to the point making incubation of 12 eggs nigh impossible.  Why, well chances are at least 3 to 4 are going to be broken.  

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So now on to the incubation stage.

Basically an incubator is a container which has the ability to hold and maintain heat and humidity enough to hatch the fertile eggs.  But that's the very basics, and providing you remember this fact, you can build an incubator out of any insulated container with a light bulb for the heat, and a container of water with a sponge for the humidity.  But I want to take this a stage further because even though the very basics will possibly hatch an egg, that's just about it!  and if you've spent money on fertile eggs then you need to make sure as many eggs will hatch as possible.

Leading to the real thing,  making sure as many eggs hatch as you can, heating and humidity must be controlled to mimic how the mother hens hatch their babies, Eggs need to be turned on a regular basis to make sure the yolk doesn't stick to the the shell on one side.  The temperature should be as close to  38 Degrees Centigrade consistently during the hatching period, and humidity should be controlled to around 60 degrees, also consistently.  So now we need to add a reliable thermometer and also a hygrometer to check the temperature and humidity.

But there a much better way to avoid all these setting-up problems.  Buy an incubator! They range from as little as $100 second hand to a few thousand dollars.  Ready made incubators mostly have all the necessary equipment built inside such as heating, circulation fan, humidity and egg turning capacity.

Having made the decision to buy, be very careful as there are some really bad ones on the market.  There are a lot of options on-line mainly from Asian countries but in many cases the quality is not so good, however in saying that I've successfully used one of these cheaper models for some time with excellent results, but, only because of the modifications I've made as I'll explain below

Any incubator where ever it's made should have the following essential functions;

  • It should have automatic egg turning function with the ability to turn it off on day 19
  • There should be a digital interface for you to manually control the temperature and humidity settings
  • The ability to circulate the warm air and if possible to expel the bad air out

I would suggest you keep the original protective polystyrene packing as you may want to use it as an extra layer of insulation during more extreme temperature fluctuations. And what's more, since you need to attend to any warning beep for high or low temperature/humidity, you should consider keeping the incubator close by at all times.

Now here is an easy modification to assist in the humidity control;

  • With the lid off, carefully take out the egg trays separating the cable that  goes to the control panel and making sure you don't damage the egg turning mechanism on the side of the egg trays
  • There will be a baseplate normally with an heating element and fan, unscrew this baseplate and remove to one side, you may find another connecting plug for the heater/fan
  • There will be water channels on the base of the unit where you would normally insert water via the plastic bottle they supply
  • Cut some lengths of sponge you use in the kitchen and insert this into all the water channels.
  • Next there will be a hole in the side or back for you to insert the water via the supplied bottle. Get a small length of rubber hose (from you local hardware shop) insert one end through the hole and into one of the channels containing the sponge material.  Leave the other end outside the incubator giving you the ability apply water to the sponge filled water channel via the plastic tube
  • Now just put all the parts back together and you've effectively given yourself more control over the humidity problem

Now the next stage is to incubate, hatch and raise, Look at this page to get more information