First let's talk about eggs! Eggs must be fertile to hatch - they will not hatch if the hen has not been fertilized by a rooster. Eggs should be incubated within a week of laying, with 1-3 days after laying being the best. Store fertile eggs with the pointed side down so the air sac remains on the top. To hatch, you can use an incubator or a fertile hen. Be careful to wash your hands when handling eggs - the oils on your hand can disturb the protective layer - the bloom - and allow bacteria to enter the egg, lowering your hatch rate.
Follow the incubator directions carefully. We have had a Hovabator Genesis, a GQF 1502 cabinet incubator, and a GFQ Hatcher. An egg turner is a wonderful investment - otherwise you will need to hand turn eggs 4-6 times a day. And first things first, make sure your incubator is CLEAN. I thoroughly clean incubators after a hatch. Tiny bits of fluff, eggshell, and goop get everywhere. And I clean them again if it's been a while since I used the incubator. Here are some cleaning photos of a Brinsea incubator that I used to have.
Who knew you needed a screwdriver to clean?
Paintbrushes come in handy for cleaning also!
Some people "dry hatch" if it's humid enough, some don't. That means they don't add water in the incubator until hatch time. We try to keep our eggs at 45-55% humidity while incubating - I do not dry hatch. At day 18, eggs go into lockdown. This means you remove the turner, raise the humidity (we go up to about 65%), and shut the incubator. Then you LEAVE IT ALONE until everyone is hatched! Expect new chicks to fall about, sleep on their backs, and generally appear to be having seizures and convulsions as they learn to meander about with the eggs. They are fine in the incubator for a day or two - they can live off the yolk which is absorbed right before hatch. I take mine out after everyone is hatched and walking around. If everyone has hatched, I may take out some of the early hatchers and leave some late hatchers in a bit longer. But if at all possible, do NOT open the incubator during hatch if babies are still in the eggs - the inner membrane can dry out and "shrink wrap" the baby.
Not too steady on those feet yet!
All tuckered out
Do not open!
Keep it closed!!
All eggs are hatched! NOW you can open the incubator!
Time to clean the incubator again!
Enjoy some of our favorite photos of the cuties!