My latest fancy smancy incubator - R-com King Suro Incubator

A friend of mine recently lost his digital incubator instructions, and having not hatched eggs for over 12 months needs reminding of the basics. So here’s my advice to him:

  • Chicken eggs will take 21 days (give or take a day) to hatch. Ducks and turkey eggs take 28 days.
  • Ideally your eggs should be no more than a week old – they can be older if you rotate them regularly but your hatch rate may reduce as they get older. Fresher is better!
  • As you collect them store in a cool, dry place, pointy side down in an egg carton.
  • If you order fertile eggs through the post try and get them sent on a Monday so there’s minimal risk of them getting stck at the post office over a weekend. When you get them home unwrap them, and let them rest pointy-side down in an egg carton for a day before putting in incubator.
  • Clean eggs if they’re grotty – I use a damp paper towel to wipe them clean.
  • Set up your incubator at least 24 hours before you put your eggs in to make sure that the temperature is set and stable, as well as the humidity.
  • A quickly improvised brooder box - consisting of a salvaged wooden box raised off the ground on besser blocks. To stop predators there's a 1inch aviary mesh lid on top weighted down.

    Make sure the incubator is located away from risks like dogs or kids yanking out the power cords mid-cycle. Also, don’t put it anywhere where it will have direct sunlight on it, or in a humid place like near a clothes dryer, as both these conditions may effect the temperature and humidity within the machine.

  • If you put the eggs in the incubator later in the day, then Day 1 starts the next day.
  • Temperature should be 37.5 degrees Celsius
  • Humidity 45% for the first 18 days, then on Day 19 raise to 65%.
  • If your incubator is not digitally controlled get a thermometer to check temperature and a hydrometer to check humidity. It’s worth having each of these handy even if your incubator is digitally controlled to ensure that the incubator is calibrated correctly.
  • Don’t mess with the eggs the last three days of the hatch – the humidity needs to be maintained to allow the egg-shells to soften before the chicks need to hatch through them.
  • Leave hatched chicks for at least a day in the incubator after hatching – they need to dry off completely, and they don’t need food and water for at least 24 hours.
  • After 24 hours place them into a brooder (a box/pen  with a warming light suspended above it), make sure the light you use is set up properly before putting chicks under it. Provide water and crumbles.
  • I switch the incubator off 2 to 3 days after the date they should have hatched – this is also know as ‘switching off the life-support’ in our household.

NOTE: this is what works for me – I’m just sharing what I’ve learnt (and formed opinions about) in the few years I’ve been hatching chicks. There are lots of factors involved in a successful or unsuccessful hatch such as the fertility of the eggs, and whether the incubator has worked as it should etc.

My children love watching the hatching, and then getting acquainted with the new chicks

For more information about poultry – Jackie French’s Chook Book is a good resource. Available to buy from me, your local bookstore, or perhaps pick it up at your local library.

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