- Not all eggs are guaranteed to hatch, so don’t just put two or three in the incubator. Chickens need other chickens around – they are flock animals. A minimum of five eggs will pretty much guarantee at least three hens (probably a lot more).
- Eggs take 21 days in optimum conditions. If they have been cooled at any point (e.g. if you have ordered the eggs rather than hatching ones laid by your own hens), they will take slightly longer. If three weeks have passed and the birds have not hatched, give them a few more days.
- If your eggs have arrived by mail order, or have been carried home in your car, place them in an egg carton, large end up, in a warm room, to allow conditions inside the egg to settle. Set up the incubator during this time, and allow it to reach the right temperature and humidity.
- After adding eggs to the incubator, don’t readjust the temperature. The process of adding eggs will cool down the incubator, but it will soon regain its balance.
- Eggs need turning at least three times a day, at regular intervals, for 18 days. After this, the chick should be left to prepare itself for hatching.
- If hand-turning the eggs, use clean gloves, or make sure your hands are scrubbed clean.
- If using an automatic turning mechanism, position the eggs large end up.
- Keep the humidity at around 50% for the first 18 days, and raise it to around 70% for the three days before hatching. A hygrometer measures humidity, and will give you an accurate reading (i.e. conditions may change if the surrounding air is very humid or very dry).
- Don’t try to help the chick from its shell. The process can take several hours (up to 24, in fact), but the chick's equipped with everything it needs to escape from the shell in its own time.
- Don’t open the incubator unnecessarily, as this will spoil the perfect balance of heat and humidity. In a basic or handmade incubator you will have to open the box regularly; but avoid doing so when the birds are actually hatching.
If all goes well, you'll soon be watching your eggs hatching
Freshly hatched chicks should be left in the incubator to dry off and recover from the exertions of hatching. Once dry (around four hours after hatching) the chicks can be moved to a warm indoor enclosure.