Expert Tips for Incubating Chicken Eggs

Learn firsthand from an expert all you need to know about incubating chicken eggs.

  • New Mother Hen
    A broody hen takes the work out of incubating eggs. She'll do it for you. Ciric
  • Pecking the Eggshell
    During the last few days of incubation, lower the temperature and raise the humidity to help the little chick enter the world. Shahin Kia
  • Eggs Ready to Hatch
    Late-cycle eggs rest in the straw, ready to hatch at any moment. Amri
  • Newborn Chick
    A newborn chick, in its first hours of life. Pedre

  • New Mother Hen
  • Pecking the Eggshell
  • Eggs Ready to Hatch
  • Newborn Chick

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? For most backyard poultry enthusiasts, the chicken came first – well, more correctly, the day-old chicks first arrived in the mail. But that’s not the only way to create your first flock or maintain your existing one. For folks who are uncertain about receiving live animals through the mail, or simply cannot handle the minimum number of day-old chicks that most hatcheries require, incubating fertile eggs is an attractive alternative. Likewise for folks who keep a rooster in their flock, incubating eggs is a great way to increase the flock size, or to provide replacements for birds that have been culled. Hatching fertile eggs need not be difficult, but your success rate can be increased by following a few guiding principles.  

Incubation Temperature 

Chicken eggs need a fairly specific environment to develop properly and hatch successfully. Perhaps the most important parameter is temperature – chicken eggs should be incubated at a temperature between 99 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit (99.5 is often considered to be ideal) and 50 to 65 percent relative humidity (60 percent is often considered the ideal). To facilitate proper aeration and gas exchange between the embryo inside the egg and the outside world, the eggs must not be held in a tightly sealed container.  

Chicken eggs typically hatch after 21 days of incubation. Consider that number to be a target – not an absolute. During the final three days of incubation, the eggs should ideally be located in a slightly cooler (98.5 degrees) and more humid (65 percent relative humidity or greater) environment to facilitate successful hatching. Lowering the temperature helps account for the extra heat that the larger embryos produce as a result of their metabolism, and the increased humidity helps keep the chicks from getting stuck to the membrane that’s located just inside the egg shell as they break out of the shell.  

Regular Movement 

Just as temperature and humidity are important to maximizing the hatch, eggs need to be moved around on a regular basis for best results. Changing an egg’s attitude helps exercise the embryo and prevent it from sticking to the shell. In general, eggs should be incubated with their pointed ends down (air cell up) – but it is also important to turn or tip the eggs back and forth at least twice a day – the more often they are turned, the better. During the hatching phase, it’s best to lay the eggs on their sides.  

Broody Hen Incubation

The easiest way to incubate and hatch fertile chicken eggs is to have a broody hen do all the work for you. What’s a broody hen, you wonder? This hen has undergone progesterone-induced changes that make her want to sit on eggs to hatch them and brood the resulting chicks. A broody hen will take care of ventilating and warming the eggs and will handle all of the turning and chick-rearing duties as well. (Not all hens will go broody.) 

If you already have a laying flock and one of your hens becomes broody, she can incubate her own eggs, or you can place fertile eggs obtained elsewhere in her nest, and she will do her best to hatch them. Many folks try to prevent their laying hens from going broody because they don’t lay eggs while hatching and raising chicks – if you want to hatch a few chicks though, a broody hen can be a godsend. 

2/28/2021 7:05:36 PM

That is a myth that the rooster or male, determines the sex of the offspring in-vivo.It is true, only theoretically. Actually it does not depend on a roosters sperm. The rooster produces both male and female sperm, it is the females body that determines which sperm make it to the egg, just as in people. The body temperature and acidity of that area is what determines whether the male or female sperm survive.Male sperm are more sensitive to these parameters and more likely to be hampered by them. Lower temp and lower acidity favor male sperm survival. So, it is the females body that ultimately determines the sex of offspring in-vivo. Either way, once an egg is formed the issue is already decided!

3/21/2020 5:56:23 PM

Whether or not a chick will be male or female depends on the rooster's sperm, same as with people. Two X chromosomes would make a female chicken and an X and Y chromosome would make a male chicken.

3/15/2020 8:29:28 AM

The hen decides if the chicks gonna be hen or rooster not the temp

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