Chicken Egg Incubation

Birds were created on the 5th day of creation

Genesis 1:20-21


20 Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” 21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 

About incubating eggs


An incubator is the best way to hatch out eggs unless you have a brooding hen.  Info about broody hens can be found on this page  (look for it under the date 9/24/11).  You can use a heat bulb to incubate your eggs but it is very, very difficult to get the temperature and humidity just right.  If you are not experienced with hatching eggs chances are that you will not hatch any chicks using a heat bulb.  Even I have a very hard time hatching eggs with a heat bulb and I have experience.  The very first time I hatched eggs with a heat bulb I had 1 egg hatch out of 12 eggs.  I always recommend an incubator or brooding hen.  Chicks should hatch out of their eggs at 21 days assuming your temperature has stayed accurate.  If you put your eggs in the incubator in the morning most times they will hatch in the morning on the 21st day.  The same thing goes for the evening, if you put the eggs in at night they will hatch at night.  The best place to put an incubator to hatch your eggs is on a sturdy table or countertop.  Make sure it is in a place that does not get too cold (inside walls in your house is best). Also you want to make sure it is in a safe place away from children and pets.


How chicken eggs should be incubated



The temperature should be 100 F. If the temperature drops or rises more than 2 degrees for a long period of time the eggs may not hatch, so make sure the temperature is monitored closely. I like to use a digital thermometer that shows the highs and lows.

digital thermometer



Humidity should be between 85-87% and the last 3 days of incubation it should be 90%. The chicks inside the eggs need extra humidity on the last 3 days to help them move around in the egg so they can position themselves to hatch. If the humidity is to low the chick will not be able move as well because the inner shell membrane is too sticky and clingy.

Turning the Eggs


Turn the eggs 180 degrees at least 2 times a day (every 12 hours) but 3 times is better. Eggs should NOT be turned after the 18th day. I put an O on the egg so I know if I turned the egg 180 degrees.

I marked the eggs to help me know how far to turn them.

Are the eggs developing?


You should be able to tell at about 5 days if the eggs are developing. If you don’t have the special light to candle them you can use a small, but strong flash light. Hold the egg in both hands (see photo 1) and place your fingers all the way around the egg (see photo 2) and put the light under the egg as you cup the flash light (see photos 3).  Turn the egg around and around slowly in your fingers so you can see into the entire egg.  If the egg is developing you should see veins and a black dot (the black dot is the eyes). Compare it to a store bought egg in your refrigerator if you can not tell if the egg is developing.

Step 1Step 2Step 3


Eggs Hatch at 21 Days


The eggs should hatch at 21 days depending on the temperature. If the temperature is hotter they will hatch early and if the temperature is too cold they will take longer to hatch. You don’t want them to hatch too early or late because the chicks may not be healthy, they might have birth defects, or they will die in the egg.

You will hear a small cheep the day before or a few hours before the egg hatches. It takes hours for an egg to hatch so be patient and let the chick hatch on its own.  The chick will make a small chip in the shell when it starts to hatch and about 4-8 hours later you have a chick!


If the chick has made a small chip in the egg (see photo above) and has not made any progress within 12 hours you may need to help the chick get out.

The chick will be wet when it hatches out of the egg and this is 100% normal.  The chick will not be able to walk at first and it will even have trouble lifting its head.  In only a few hours the chick will learn to walk and become dry and fluffy.  When the chick is able to raise its head and almost start to walk put him/her in the brooder.  A brooder is a cage or tube/bucket set up with chick start (a special food for baby chicks), water, some kind of bedding, and of course some sort of heat.

The blue food dish is actually a small frisbee.  Chick eating chick start in the brooder (Note how low the feeder dish is. This makes it easy for the chick to learn where the food is)

>>>> Learn how to care for you newly hatched chicks <<<<


12 Responses to Chicken Egg Incubation

  1. admin says:

    Hi Austin,
    A hen’s eggs can remain fertile up to about 10 days after matting. You will have a very difficult time trying to hatch an egg with a heat lamp. The temperature needs to be regulated and moisture is needed. Often a heat lamp will make the top of the egg become to hot. If you are to have any chance at all with a heat lamp you should place a cloth over the egg to protect it from the heat lamps rays. The cloth will help distribute the heat more evenly over the egg. For moisture you can place a dish of water near the egg and or spray the cloth with water. It is not likely you will have success hatching the egg this way and we would recommend an incubator for next time.

  2. Austin says:

    My bantam rooster has been mating with my bantam hen ever since spring came and about a couple weeks ago I seperated him from the hen. The just layed an egg yesterday and I want to know is the egg fertilized. I’m trying to use a heat lamp to hatch the egg because the hen ain’t sitting on it and I want the egg to hatch.

  3. admin says:

    Yes, hens do lay eggs in the winter however older hens usually do not. If a hen is with a rooster the eggs should be fertile but if the eggs are not collected right away in the winter the eggs will die due to the cold weather.

  4. Beikel Bello says:

    hi! i would like to know if a hen lays eggs in the winter time do you believe that the eggs will be fertile, even though the temperature is very cold? or eggs die after a the go below a certain temperature? thank you for your help

  5. Jennifer Garcia says:

    Okay…thank you so much!

  6. Jennifer Garcia says:

    Hi again, I was wondering if you may have seen from experience problems with getting a healthy or even a successful baby chick to hatch from the very first egg laid by a hen? My bantam hen laid her first egg today :) (I didn’t think she was old enough from what the seller told me)…I have seen daily mating with her and the bantam rooster too so it would seem very likely that the egg is fertile. Just wondering with it being the very first egg for her should I expect any problems? Thanks for you help and time.

    I don’t incubate the first eggs from my hens because they are smaller than normal (often they are not fertile either; however I think your eggs are fertile). I would recommend hatching the hen’s eggs after she has been laying for a week or two or even three. When selecting eggs to hatch fallow these tips:
    Do not hatch eggs that are elongated
    Do not use eggs that are all round (hatch normal looking egg)
    Do not hatch eggs that are smaller than normal for that hen (small breed birds lay smaller eggs and large birds lay larger eggs. Just make sure they are normal sized eggs for that bird)
    Do not hatch eggs that are bigger than normal (often these are double yoke eggs so two chicks will form but often the chicks die a week into incubation)
    Do not use eggs that are cracked even if the egg only has a very small crack
    Do not use thin shelled eggs

    Following these steps will help your hatch rate.

  7. Jennifer Garcia says:

    Okay thank you. I did read your info on candling and when you would/should see veins :) I just was not sure if there was a way to tell or know before moving the hen and eggs to a brooder if the eggs are actually fertile. Thanks again. <3

  8. Jennifer Garcia says:

    Hello, I was wondering if there is a way to tell if eggs are fertile before you take your hen out with the eggs to be placed in a brooding box? I have only had the rooster with my hens for about a month. 2 of my hens are a few years old but the rooster and one new hen are young. If the hen is too young to lay eggs and the rooster is the same age does that mean he is too young to mate with the hens and give me fertile eggs just yet? I have not noticed them appearing to mate (if that is even the correct way to refer to it with chickens) but the little rooster sure knows hes the alfalfa male.

    By the way, what a GREAT site!! I LOVE it!! Thanks for your service to Gods creatures and to those of us that are trying to do one of the things that God has asked of us…care for His creatures. <3

    Hi Jennifer, thank you for your question.
    You can not tell if the egg is fertile until it has been incubated for about 4-7 days. You can then candle the egg at this time and look if you can see something in the egg yoke developing (you should be able to see blood veins).

    Another way to find out if your eggs are fertile is crack several open. Some times you will see a small speck of blood in one of the eggs (but not all fertile eggs have a visible blood speck).

    For a hen to continue producing fertile eggs the rooster must mate with her about every 4 days at least.

  9. admin says:

    You do need an incubator. One time I tried it with a heat lamp and a reptile heat controller; out of 14 eggs I had one chick hatch. If you want to buy an incubator you can find them at feed stores and on ebay. They can range from $30.00-$60.00 for an average incubator. If you can afford more money like around $100.00 you can get an incubator with an automatic egg turner and this is so much easier and works better.

  10. Shannon says:

    do you have to have an incubator or can you hatch them with a light? if you need an incubator how much is a small one? I run a summer horse riding camp and thought it might be a cool project for the kids to see? Thanks

  11. admin says:

    Sorry I only have the chicken eggs.

  12. Joy Tossell says:

    Do you happen to have quail eggs. I’m looking to incubate some eggs with the kids, something other than chickens.

    Thanks for your time,

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