Incubating and Hatching Chicken Eggs: Step by Step Guide

In this article, we have explained all about incubating and hatching chicken eggs. It also helps you understand an ideal hatchery process.

Egg hatching is a very complex process that requires the proper incubating of chicken eggs. The difference in temperature during incubation may lead to abnormality and death in baby chicks.

So, it’s important to know all about hatching chicken eggs.

Also read: Best incubators for hatching eggs

History of Egg Incubators

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The Egyptians used to have a traditional method of incubating eggs during 400 BC, by using a cylindrical shaped building or oven that had a fire at the bottom.

Eggs were covered in an inverted cone by partially covered in ash. The eggs were used to be kept on a woven basket at the top of ashes. The roof of the building let the smoke escape and prevent rain from coming inside.

Controlled scientific incubation requires an accurate temperature range to function properly and to do so; the alcohol-based thermometer is used. It was made by the French naturalist and scientist René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur in 1730, and hence the temperature scale is also named after him.

Réaumur used the thermometer in his design for an artificial incubator, which was presented to the Académie des sciences in 1747 and was published in 1749.

It was published as “The art of hatching and rearing the domestic birds of all species and in all seasons, either using the heat of manure or by ordinary fire”.

Lyman Byce created a coal lamp incubator in the year 1879. The first commercial machine was made by Hearson in 1881.

Ira M. Petersime of Gettysburg, Ohio, USA invented the electric egg incubator in the year 1922. After that, he and his son manufactured the best incubators for chickens. They were granted with several patents of design features and other improvements.

The innovation of an electric incubator with expanded capacity offered a model that held 15000 eggs, and this encouraged the growth of large-scale commercial hatcheries.

How Long Does It Take To Hatch Chicken Eggs?

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Most of the chicken eggs hatch within 3 weeks (21 days). Sometimes it may vary one to two days before or after 21 days.

This is an amazing period when a poultry farmer waits for the hatching of chicken eggs.

After 21 days chicks break the eggs and come out and start moving around the hen. Baby chicks fight with each other to eat insects and take natural brooding below their mother’s wings.

So, lets go back before 21 days…

21 Days of Chicken Egg Hatching Process

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Last update on 2023-05-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

First, a hen lays her eggs. Then after that, she sits on eggs for 21 days to give them proper temperature for hatching. This process is called natural hatching.

During this period hen moves and turns her eggs using her beak and body for giving equal heat to all sides of eggs.

Hen gives her body heat by sitting for 21 days on the eggs and after that chicks came out of the eggs.

When the chicks come out from eggs, they take the heat by going below the hen’s wings. It is called natural brooding which is helpful for initial growth and development of baby chicks.

Sometimes, few hens won’t sit on their eggs those hens are called non-broody hens. After that they start mating again. This occurs mostly in egg laying chickens.

In those type of situation you need to use artificial brooding methods. Here is our complete guide on brooding chickens.

But, nowadays lots of egg hatcheries are using incubator to hatch millions of eggs in a single time. After hatching they deliver those chicks to chicken farmers.

So, now its time to know about Chicken eggs incubators.

What is Chicken Eggs Incubator?

What is Chicken Eggs Incubator?
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Chicken eggs incubator is a device that provides artificial hatching of eggs. This machine works by providing proper warmness and humidity to the chicken eggs.

It has various automatic and manual options for temperature control for accurate hatching of eggs.

Nowadays the hatching business is growing very rapidly because of the high demand of broiler and Asel type breed chickens.

Because of the outrageous demand for chicken meat large hatching industries are emerging. Some companies hatch lakhs of chicks in one day using big industrial incubators. 

There are different names of egg incubators like breeding machines, hatchers, setters, artificial incubation machines, etc.

Chicken Egg Hatching Process in 5 Easy Steps

The process of hatching chicken eggs completes in 21 days. A day has 24 hours.

Because of environmental and improper incubation of eggs sometime it may take one day fewer means 20 days or one day more i.e. 22 days. Both in natural and artificial chicken hatching it takes the same 21 days time.

For artificial chicken hatching, you need to buy or take the best quality eggs. Best quality eggs refer to clean, unbraked, and big size eggs.

The most important thing in chicken hatching is 21 days of a long hatching time. So, we should not waste our time in bad quality eggs.

Bad quality eggs result in abnormal growth and death of chicks. Also, this type of low-quality chicks has high early mortality rates. So, the selection of bad quality eggs leads to a major loss in hatching business.

But If, you are a small farmer or you are passionate about hatching eggs at home then follow the steps below.

Step 1: Select Eggs for Hatching

The selection of eggs in the hatching process is very important. Always take high-quality eggs for a top hatching rate. If you are taking eggs from your backyard chicken farm, make sure the eggs are clean, fresh, and undamaged.

If you have bought from somewhere else, keep the eggs for 24 hours (1 day) to relax before keeping it inside the incubator. Check all eggs before keeping them on the farm.

Do not keep the egg for over 10 days because after that the hatching rate of the eggs gradually decreases. Also, keep them in a cool place but not inside a refrigerator. Turn the eggs once a day to keep the egg yolk in the center. Do not wash the eggs.

Here is our guide on common question; how long do fresh eggs last?

Step 2: Get Your Chicken Egg Incubator Ready

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Last update on 2023-05-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

First of already your incubator for hatching. Whatever your type of incubator you can easily complete the hatching process by following the tutorial.

But If you don’t have an incubator, you can read the guide to select a good incubator. Selecting an incubator is also a point to consider.

Some chicken egg incubator comes with fully automatic and few with the manual feature. Automatic incubators have some extra features like – Turning and Automatic temperature controls.

So, read the guide below and you will understand which type and size incubator you need.

What Size of Chicken Egg Incubator Do You Need?

For incubating 4-5 chicken eggs a 10 egg capacity incubator is enough for you. But if you have a need for 20-30 eggs it better to select a 40-50 egg capacity incubating machine.

For Multiple Types of Bird Eggs

Some farmers keep different types of poultry birds like chickens, ducks, goose, birds, pigeon, quail, in their farm for small business purposes. If you are like that, then it’s better to go with a multiple size egg incubator.

So, that you can incubate unique types and breeds of poultry eggs in the same incubator.

Few Best Automatic Chicken Incubators

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Last update on 2023-05-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Here is our list of top 10 eggs incubators for chicken, duck and quail eggs

Step 3: Maintain Your Incubator Temperature and Humidity

Then keep your chicken eggs inside the incubator. There are two types of incubator forced air and still air incubator.

The difference is only a fan. In forced air incubator fan blow air inside the incubator to make the temperature constant everywhere but in still air egg incubator, the temperature increases gradually to fill inside the incubator. But if the incubator provides automatic turning of eggs then its a great thing.

So, in forced air incubator the temperature should be maintained between 99.5-100°F and in a still air incubator 101–102°F. Most of the incubator companies tell to keep 45-50% humidity for the first 18 days of incubation and then 60-70% for rest days.

Step 4: Checking the Egg Fertility and Candling Method

During the incubation period, it is better to check, the fertility of eggs. Natural fertility may defer from season to season. In the summer season if eggs have 40-60% of fertility rate if eggs kept for a long time before hatching.

But in winter the fertility is about 70-80% but it may take 1-2 days more for hatching due to cold temperature. In the rainy season, it is about 70-90%.

But in an artificial incubator, the outside temperature doesn’t affect the fertility rate due to its automatic humidity and temperature control features.

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Last update on 2023-05-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

In most of the chicken eggs, embryo development starts after a week of incubation. You can see it by doing candling. You will see little veins and embryo structures inside the egg.

If you didn’t see any development and changes within 9-10 days replace those eggs from fresh eggs.

You can put a date on eggs to overcome the confusion of messing up older eggs with fresh eggs if you are replacing any new egg. During candling, you will see blood rings and veins inside the eggs. It shows that the embryo is developing.

Step 4: Turning and Lockdown period

Turning of chicken eggs must be done for about 14-15 days. The first two weeks are most important for proper turning. But, you can turn them for 17-18 days during incubation. The last 3 days before hatching is called the Lockdown period.

You should not turn the egg during the last three days. If it is an automatic machine – switch off the turning process but not the incubator. Also, increase the humidity level to 65-70%.

Step 5: Hatching of eggs and moving chicks

Hatching of eggs and moving chicks
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You will see the hatching of eggs starts after day 21 or 22. Do not remove the chicks out from the incubator still they look completely dry and puffed (soft and puffier).

Newly hatched eggs can easily live for 2-3 days without eating anything. They live due to the eaten yolk during the incubation period.

After that chicks are ready for brooding. Make sure to keep chicken waterer and feeder inside your brooder area before transferring them.


We have explained all aspects of the egg incubation and hatching process from the history to the new generation. Also, we have provided step by step guide for using an incubator.

I hope you liked this complete guide on incubating and hatching chicken eggs. If this article helped in your chicken egg incubation process fell free to tell your comments below.

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Hi, I'm Bijaya Kumar, and I've been raising chickens for the last 12 years. For the past 30 years, backyard poultry farming has been a family business for us. We raise chickens of different breeds in the backyard.

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