How to hatch chicken eggs:
I hate to point out the obvious, but you can’t hatch eggs from the grocery store. You also can’t hatch eggs if you don’t have a rooster. I don’t know if your parents ever told you about the birds and the bees, but let’s just say that it takes two to make a fertile egg.
When it comes to hatching eggs, you can either let the chickens do it, or you can get an incubator. Chickens have been hatching eggs for thousands of year without any help from you. However, if you don’t have a “brooding hen” ( a hen that just wants to sit on eggs all day) then it might be advantageous to invest in an incubator. You can get a good quality incubator for around $100 (click here to check them out).
A chicken egg takes about 21 days from the time it’s laid to the time it hatches. As such, it’s important to write down the date you started incubating the egg. You can simply write the date directly on the egg as to not get them confused. However, some eggs can take longer to hatch. So don’t throw out the eggs if they haven’t hatched on the 21st day. It may need a few extra days. I have even heard that they can hatch a full week after their due date, though I wouldn’t be to optimistic past then.
Step one: You don’t want to pick any chicken egg. The fresher the chicken egg the better. You also don’t want to refrigerate the egg. The sooner you can get them into the incubator the better. If it’s winter, you have to be Johnny on the spot when it comes to collecting eggs. The longer the egg spends in the cold hen house the less likely it will hatch (granted any hen worth it’s chicken feed will keep her eggs warm).
Step two: You want to keep the inside of your chicken egg at 99.5 degrees F. Of course you can’t know the temperature inside the egg. The best rule of thumb is to keep the outside temperature a little warmer. Between 100-102 degrees F is preferable.
Step two: After the first 7-10 days you will be ready to “candle your eggs.” Light colored eggs can be candled after 7 days, dark colored eggs around 10 days. Candling eggs basically means that you shine a light through them. If you see cool veins than you know you are on your way to having a chick. If you see nothing by yoke, than you know that you are on your way to making an omelet.
Step three: Humidity is an important factor in hatching eggs. If the humidity is too low the little chick will dry out and die before they fully develop. Humidity is especially important for the last week of incubation. During the last week, you will want the humidity to be around 50%-60%.
Step four: You will want to turn you chicken eggs 3 times a day for the first 18 days. Don’t turn the eggs after the first 18 days. The reason for this is that hens will naturally turn their eggs throughout the day. Turning the eggs help the embryo develop. However, you don’t want to turn the eggs after 18 days because at this point the chick needs to start getting oriented to hatch out.
Step five: You still aren’t out of the woods once your chicks hatch. You will want to get a brooder (area for chicks to grow up) set up a few days before your chicks start to hatch. A brooder is an enclosed area with a heat lamp and water. Move the heatlamp up as the chicks begin to grow. You will also want to make sure to keep their water dish at the opposite end of their brooder from their heat lamp. When it comes to food, I would recommend getting specialty chicken food that is just meant for chicks. Baby chickens are on a different diet than grown up chickens. For example, hens need calcium in their diet in order to produce good strong eggs, whereas calcium rich food can actually be harmful for baby chicks that aren’t yet old enough to produce eggs.