Expert Tips for Incubating Chicken Eggs
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Serious poultry enthusiasts may have one incubator for incubating and a second (sometimes called a hatcher) for hatching. This allows you to set eggs at virtually any time (mark them carefully) since the incubator’s environmental parameters won’t need to be reset for hatching after 18 days. This approach also helps keep the incubator clean.
If you plan to hatch eggs on a larger scale, you might want to consider a forced-air, cabinet-type incubator. These devices offer a great deal of capacity and flexibility, but they are expensive.
With any hatching project, be sure that you have a place that you can leave the incubator undisturbed and out of direct sunlight for several weeks at a time. Most home incubators are designed to operate effectively at ambient temperatures from the 60s to the 80s.
Cleanliness and storage
If you purchase fertile eggs from a hatchery, more than likely they will have been sanitized. However, if you are going to incubate eggs produced by your flock or you obtained eggs from a source that did not sanitize them, you can avoid potential health and viability problems with a sanitizing rinse. Using a capful of bleach to a gallon of water that’s warmed to about 110 degrees (substitute liquid dish soap or the recommended dilution of Tek-Trol), immerse each egg for a few seconds and air-dry.
Incubators and hatchers should be cleaned out after every hatch and sanitized after every third hatch at the very least. Dust or vacuum the interior and wipe all surfaces and trays with a dilute bleach solution (up to a quarter cup per gallon) or other sanitizer that won’t leave a residue or emit vapors that could poison a future batch of eggs.
Fertile chicken eggs can be stored up to 10 days (before incubating) with little loss in hatchability – as long as you keep them out of the refrigerator. The ideal storage conditions are 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 to 75 percent relative humidity. Store the eggs in trays, bowls or clean egg cartons with sufficient space to allow air to circulate. Some experts recommend turning the eggs in storage, too. This process can be easily accomplished by tilting the entire egg tray or other containers from side to side.