Poultry Magic: Turning Eggs into Birds

If you’ve ever decided to, or even contemplated, taking on the task of hatching an egg, this Blog is for you. It’s Spring. The Robins are growing plump and the flowers are starting to bloom. Even the Rhubarb is almost a foot tall. All the good stuff happens now and my favorite part is BABIES! Soft and fuzzy and they are valuable, so this week, let’s talk hatching.

This week, we are sharing the best hatching practices. How to handle your fertile eggs; How to be sure they ARE fertile; What you NEED in an incubator; and what to do with those babies for the first 48 hours after they hatch because, lets face it, if you mail-order your chicks, you haven’t NEEDED to care for them for the first 48 hours!

First things first, why incubate? There are lots of reasons, of course, but the main factors for deciding to incubate might include the availability of chicks, as they aren’t always easy to find. However, eggs are often easier to find and less expensive. The best is when the eggs can be found under our existing birds free of charge. But, my favorite reason to incubate eggs is to experience the fascinating transformation of a simple, everyday egg into a feathered bird with a heartbeat and tiny toes. In our opinion here at Purely Poultry, everyone should do this at least once in their lifetime.

So, how would one go about hatching an egg?


There are so many reasons to hatch eggs.  Maybe your flock is laying their own, maybe the chicks are hard to find, or maybe you just want the experience, which we have to recommend!  Whatever your reasons, the Purely Poultry Team wants YOU to be successful!  While there are instructions on how to hatch in literally thousands of places, even here on our website, we’ve put together a bunch of really cool tips and tidbits to help you avoid heartaches on hatch day! These tips come from our EXPERIENCE and what, if anything, is a better teacher than that?

1. Don’t skimp on the incubator.  
In preparation for writing an article on hatching, I purchased 3 incubators at 3 different price points. After weeks of gathering eggs, candling, and hatching, I can personally tell you the three things to look for in an incubator will be: a. Insulation value b. Access: It’s important to be able to add water and access eggs for candling without having to remove the entire cover and c. The Incubator is compatible or includes an automatic egg turner because inevitably, there WILL be a time when you need to be gone or you forget to turn them manually.  I mean, life is busy and it takes THREE WEEKS.  

2. Invest in an external thermometer/hygrometer.  
Even the most reliable of incubators can be off sometimes.  Even if you only use the external model for calibrating your incubator’s existing gauges, it’s still important that you have one of these inexpensive and life-saving little devices.  I set mine up with suction cups and left them in the entire time if for no other reason than to have a second opinion and through all of the hundreds of eggs I’ve incubated, I didn’t regret having that little nugget for one second. 

3. Moisture, moisture, moisture.
I cannot stress the moisture levels enough.  Even if you have a power outage or you missed turning them, the results will not fail as quickly as if you allow the moisture to be too high or too low for too long.  I used a small tube that was set into the water channel and came out the top of the incubator, but you can use a syringe, a cup, or whatever vessel, just make sure that moisture level stays within the required percentages as much as humanly possible.  This is because the air-sac in the egg is completely dependent on the moisture levels being correct and the development of the bird is completely dependent on the air-sac.  So do your absolute best to maintain the correct moisture levels in incubation, lock-down, and especially hatching stages. 

4. Prep your eggs.
If you’re ordering your eggs online with us, you likely won’t have to worry about them being clean. But if you’re pulling eggs from your coop, you will want to ensure that you wipe any mud or debris from the eggs to make them as clean as possible before hatching.  DO NOT WASH your eggs. Washing can remove the bloom that protects the shell and can allow bacteria inside the egg. In any case, it’s always a good idea to leave your eggs sit on the counter at room temperature for 24 hours BEFORE you place them into your incubator.  This helps the air sac reconstitute and develop and as we learned from tip 3, that air sac is super important.  I like to use this 24 hours to ensure my incubator is functioning properly and get it up to the correct temp and moisture BEFORE setting my eggs. 

5. Incubation Rocks!
I mean, watching the little fellas grow and develop is educational, bonding, and fun, but that’s not what I mean here.  I mean to add actual rocks.  Like everything else in incubation, you’ll want them to be as clean as possible, but adding some smooth flat stones under the eggs will help your incubator maintain its temperature and moisture levels when you do need to open it. If you can place them under the turner and the lower screens, they won’t even get in the way at lock-down and hatching. 

6. Preparation is Key
As with just about anything you do in life, you need to prepare to hatch some new babies.  Start from the beginning and test your incubator to ensure it holds its temperature and moisture levels and doesn’t fluctuate too much. Do this BEFORE adding the eggs.  Plan who and when for the turning of the eggs and what you will use to add water, even what type of water you want to add.  Do you want to use tap water or would it be better for you to add bottled due to accessibility?  Prepare your eggs ( see Trick #4).  Ensure your outlets are accessible and that your incubator has a reliable source of power that won’t get inadvertently unplugged or lose power when you least expect it. Lastly, plan for brooding the babies, including GroGel, Food, Waterers, and a space to live once they reach that age.  They are LIVE animals and the fun doesn’t stop on hatch day. We don’t want to be caught with 25 chicks and only a 4 chicken coop!

I hope these tips from us help you to get the most out of your experience.  Add them to our Incubation Instructions and have fun!  What’s most important is that you and your birds are happy and healthy. The team here at Purely Poultry wants everyone to be successful!