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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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.

My latest hatchlings - a group of plymouth rock and araucana chicks

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.

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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