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We Are So In.. Into Incubating!

Written by: Amanda B.

May 2023

This year has been kind of crazy when it comes to purchasing chicks. SO MANY homesteaders and chicken breeders have taken hatching their own flocks’ eggs into their own hands. Which is totally okay to do! It’s actually very exciting and a huge lesson to be learned. It will show you just a small amount of work hatcheries deal with on a regular basis as well as see the life of a chick form in an egg. I chose to go to a hatchery (Hoover’s Hatchery OF COURSE!) for my boilers (meat birds) and my quail. BUT! I incubate eggs every year and each year I get better and better and have higher success rates. This year topped it off with my best hatching rate. I incubated 22 eggs and we lost two, sadly the kids dropped them while candling... eek... so, 20 survived to hatch day and ALL 20 hatched! And everyone, my chicks are so beautiful and just a huge mess of barnyard mixes, which makes me so happy! I have never been a purebred girl, I mean, we all have a variety in our bloodlines which makes us so spectacular and now my chickens are this way! Eeee! Yay for my barnyard mixes!!!

Many people do not know where to start when incubating. What tools do you need, what should you focus on and what tips help increase chances for a higher hatch rate?! Well… don’t you fret your sweet heart... Mrs. Mandie is here to fill you in on what to do! I am a more positive guider through these processes, so there are not going to be a ton of don’ts!

First, we need to find an incubator! So, what should you think about during this process? Well, let’s see. First question is how many eggs do you want to hatch? If you want to start small, which is totally okay, Amazon has a lot of small incubators that have 4 to 6 to 8 egg slots. I definitely recommend getting one that automatically turns the eggs. It makes this process less tedious and if you are not sure how to turn the eggs it can really mentally weigh on you about whether you are doing this right or not. So, make sure you definitely spend the extra money and get one with the turner. Now, once you decide the size… I want you to take a look at where you will be keeping this adorable incubator. Our home is extremely drafty and I have always, literally, ALWAYS involved my children in the incubation process. They help add the water and we candle eggs a few times to log the growth. BUT! I purchased the Little Giant Incubator with the egg turner. It is made of Styrofoam and WHAT DID MY KIDS DO!? They poked a ton of holes all over it while it was in storage… so this year after having ours for 6 years, it retired. Did I throw it away? Heck NO, I DID NOT! I kept it as a warming incubator for freshly hatched chicks or unhatched eggs so they had a clean warm space while I cleaned out the incubator from their poop and cracked shells. I did buy the same incubator, because I already had an egg turner, I only had to purchase the incubator itself so that was a nice chunk of money we saved. Now, always start your incubator and allow it to get to temperature before placing any eggs into it. This is important. We want the eggs to have a steady environment. Plus, if your incubator has any faulty parts this will be the time to find out.

What will you need before incubating eggs once you pick your incubator?

  • Spot to safely place your incubator

  • Turkey Baster

  • 1 bath towel (depending on incubator)

  • Source of clean water

  • Extra humidity thermometer, small size

  • Extra temperature reader, small size

When choosing a spot, try to keep it where there is not a lot of drafts. Drafts can be caused from stairways, doors opening and closing from the outside and where the air or heat kicks on in your home. We have a very drafty house, so this year I took my small greenhouse and placed it in our basement with the incubator in it. This helped keep the temperature more stable. Our basement is also set to 62 degrees all year and everyone enters the house from downstairs. So, I had to work my magic and think of something to repurpose. Since I wasn’t starting seeds quite yet, this was the approach I took. If you have a Little Giant incubator or one like it where it has the holes on the bottom, please keep a towel under it if you have it on a nice table or children watering it, LOL! My children tend to over water at times and the water will come out of the holes and onto the floor or table. So, we always have a bath towel under to collect any water that may have escaped.

Once you have your incubator plugged in and add the water, you will want to check the humidity. Place your extra thermometers in each corner of your incubator. Wait at least 1 hour and then check the digital reader on your incubator and your additions. Once the humidity is between 58-62% you are set. The humidity will remain this percentage until 5 days before the eggs hatch date. Also, check your temperature gauge. We want the temperature to be around 100.5 degrees. I keep mine between 100-101. This will remain the same through the entire process.

Now that everything checks out, you will need to place your eggs into the incubator. I know you are so excited, but please try to refrain from just throwing them in there. It is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to place the narrower (pointier) end of the egg, down. Even when collecting eggs to incubate this should be done in the egg carton. This helps ensure the egg will remain a healthy fertilized egg and lessen the chances of any bacteria getting to the yolk. This also is known to keep the yolk in the middle of the egg. Once the eggs are in, during the following days you will get to use that turkey baster. This is what we use to add water into the Little Giant and some other common style incubators. It makes it easy and allows for less of a mess. Please try to use clean (distilled if possible) water. We do not use hose water for this, the cleaner and less bacteria in the water, the healthier your eggs will be and higher chances to hatch.

For chicks, the incubation period is around 21 days. It can take longer, but if it goes past 25 days, toss ‘em. Something went wrong.

On day 15, remove one of the red plugs (if you use an incubator common to the Little Giant brand) and turn your egg turner off. This is be very important. I do things a bit different. Mary taught me to leave the egg turner in for 3 days and then remove it and the second plug if your incubator has one and gently place the eggs in a circle, each egg touching the other. This may sound silly to some and others find that they cannot explain the way our world works and why this method works! When placing the eggs in a circle with each egg side by side, touching energy is transferred, chick language is transferred, the eggs will hatch and have a faster hatching rate, as well as have a healthier hatch! There are no studies on this BUT! everyone who does it has a higher hatch number and almost 100% hatch rate, IF everything else is done properly. Our world has energy passed through every object, so denying that it is possible seems silly to me! But I believe I was a witch in another life working with herbs and plants and healing, now I’m an herbalist! SO! Now that you know that crazy, silly, tiny detail about me, don’t judge me for it. I am sure you believe in a spirit animal or something of the sort. LOL!

Okay, back to the topic at hand. Do understand the eggs will not stay in a circle, as they hatch and the chicks attempt to run wild inside, they will knock other eggs around. This is good, it will encourage the others to hatch faster and escape the shell they grew in!

Once your chicks have hatched, it is important to remove them once they are completely dry. Little fluffy nuggets just peepin’ around. A chick can go a few days before drinking or eating so it is okay if it takes a day to dry.

Make sure to have a tote or something less drafty available with a heat lamp or a brooder heater. Once you have these chicks, you have to understand one thing! Their bellies are empty and they have never seen water. PLEASE add a probiotic with electrolyte to their water with some apple cider vinegar. This is to push any bad bacteria out faster, help build healthy bacteria in the gut, and boost immunity. Dip each baby chick’s beak into the water. If your waterer is a bowl, add marbles, stones or river rocks into it, to prevent drowning. Next, choose your starter feed. I personally do not do medicated. BUT! Read more about this and getting chicks on my Starting Chicks blog post.

I hope this was helpful and if you try incubating your own eggs, I do recommend the Little Giant incubator with egg turner. There are a lot of different types, so whatever you choose, please let me know how it went!

These are 15 of the 20. They are stunning! I did sex them by wing length. Which gave me 8 roosters and 7 hens. BUT! as they grew, I kept checking and I honestly started freaking out thinking, I may have 11 roosters on my hands. We tend to get a lot of roosters here, which is okay though. We keep at least 5 for our hens, but I did not want that many. I was really praying for a lot of pullets. SO! More freezer meat or they will be sold if friendly.

I hope you have an amazing day! Enjoy our weather and have amazing holidays to come!

Your Crazy Chicken Lady,

Amanda B.

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