In my opinion you need two basic elements to successful hatching, firstly you need an incubator you are comfortable with and which is reliable, secondly you need a good quality source of hatching eggs. I will use this page to explain the different incubator types, sources of hatching eggs and the key steps to incubation.
Successful incubation relies upon stable temperature, good humidity control and regular egg turning, the type of incubator you choose will provide different levels of control you get, the more automated control you want the higher the cost of the incubator. Basic models require a lot more regular attention so you also need to consider how much time you have daily and the not just the cost.
Choosing Your Incubator
There are 3 main types of incubators for use at home;
• Manual control
• Semi automatic
• Fully Automatic
Manual control is the most basic of incubators with little visibility of what is going on, but they are the cheaper option and a good starter for home incubation. These will require regular attention to turn the egg 4/5 time a day, top up water levels and ensure temperature is level. Most manual incubator will have some kind of thermometer on display for you to monitor temperature. The types of incubators will start at around £50, but a good price for a first time Hatcher who has the time to regularly monitor the environment.
Semi-Auto incubators will generally have an egg turning system that requires you manually activate on a regular basis but you will not have to individually turn eggs and open the incubator to achieve this. Some also have humidity control but for the extra you pay for this you are better going to a fully automatic. These incubators start at around £100.
Full-Auto incubators are the Rolls Royce, these will turn the eggs for you, stabilize temperature and humidly and will have a digital display to show these values and often an alarm trigger to let you know when water is low or temperature falls/rises. However with this comes the higher price tag, these will start at around £150 but you can an r-com mini which is fully auto for about £85 but this will only house 3 eggs but is great for children or a classroom.
I started with a King Suro 20 which is a full-auto model which rocks the eggs hourly had a water pump to control humidly and alarms, this set me back £160 about 1 year ago. I also have an RCOM mini which the kids have used and a basic manual one. Its my recommendation you by the incubator which best suits your budget and the time you have to spare.
Where do I get hatching eggs?
I got my first hatching eggs from P&T poultry when i brought the incubator but there are many placed you can get hatching eggs from eBay to the roadside. There are two things I would recommend, firstly try to collect your eggs in person, postal services are very good these days, as are the packaging methods but the trauma from travelling across the country and varying temperatures will impact your success rate. From my experience the best I have achieved from a postal delivery batch is 50%. Secondly try to buy from reputable breeders/sellers, eBay’s feedback is a good source of indication.
Once you have your incubator and hatching eggs you need to make a few preparations.
• Ensure your eggs are stored somewhere cool with a constant temperature.
• If your eggs came by post ensure the rest for 24 hours.
• Give your incubator a good clean (even if new) with suitable disinfectant.
• Setup the incubator and get is up to running temperature and humidity for 24 hours before placing the eggs inside. (use table below)
Incubation Times, Temperature & Humidity
Once you have completed the above steps you are good to go, ensure the eggs are clean (some sites suggest using egg wash to wash them first, but i use a clean damp cloth to remove any soiled areas) then place them on their side in your incubator a quickly as possible so as to minimize and significant temperature fluctuation.
Monitoring and Candling
Chicken eggs take 21 days to hatch, during this time in your incubator you obviously need to maintain the conditions even if you have an full-auto a daily check everything is ok is very much advisable. Its highly probably that not all of your eggs will be fertile of reach the full 21days, infertile or expired embryos will cause bacterial growth and if left unremoved can contaminate other eggs and even exploaded making a huge smelly mess. To circumvent this happening you need to candle you eggs at regular intervals and disguard any bad eggs. My embryo development section explains the eggs development over 21 day and what to look out for. I recommended you candle your eggs at the following intervals;
- Day 7
- Day 12
- Day 17
Its also a good idea to number your eggs (with a pencil) so if you have a suspect egg you can make a note of its number and check in a few more days. Its good to keep a notepad & pencil by your incubator, so you can make note on what you see, this will be useful for future hatchings. Once you have hatched a few batches you should be able to indentifiy a fertilized egg at day 3-4.