What You Need:
Thermometer ("Dry-bulb" thermometer)
Hyrgometer ("Wet-bulb" thermometer)
Important Things to Know:
Chicken eggs take about 21 days to hatch
Thermometers purchased from camera stores, science stores, and appliance repair stores (those used on refrigerators) are the best and most reliable. When purchasing a thermometer from a batch, be sure they all read the same temperature or can be calibrated.
Temperature and Humidity Chart:
It is important that you keep your incubator as close to accurate as possible as wide variation and poor humidity can lead to deformities and other hatching problems.
Still-Air (no fan) Incubator Temperature: 101.5˚ measured at the top of the egg
Fan Forced Incubator: 99.5˚ At any location
Humidity: 50-55% for 18 days, then 60-65% for the final three days.
A hygrometer will measure the amount of water in your incubator. It is difficult to keep your humidity level completely accurate, especially in a small incubator, however knowing the relative humidity so that you can accurately read your hygrometer is a big help, though if your hygrometer measures in the low 80's then your humidity is in the 50-55% range and in the high 80's (over 85) is in the 60-65% range.
You can raise or lower humidity as necessary by adding water or water soaked sponges, then taking them away.
REMEMBER! Keep notes constantly on everything you do. This will help you make adjustments for the next clutch of eggs you choose to hatch. Note if they hatch early or late as this will indicate temperature problems, or if there are deformities.
Before You Begin!
Turn your incubator on a week before your eggs are due to arrive, if mail ordered, or about a week before you are set to put the eggs in place. This allows you to make any adjustments to temperature. If your eggs reach an internal temperature of 105˚ then they will cook, so you must keep the incubator temperature as close to what is recommended as possible. The internal temperature of the egg is often an average of the high and low your incubator will reach. If your eggs are mail ordered, store them pointy-end down and let them rest for 24 hours. The air cell inside the egg will need to return to its normal size.
Eggs should be carefully placed on their sides, with the side facing up dated or marked with an X. This will help you keep tabs on turning. If they cannot be placed on their sides, they should be tilted so that the pointed end is turned down. When you place the eggs inside, the internal temperature of your incubator will drop. You must resist the urge to raise the thermostat. The temperature will move back up as the air settles and the eggs heat.
You will need to turn your eggs at least three times a day. It is best that you turn them an odd number of times, such as 3, 5, 7, etc., as this will keep the side that is exposed at night from being the same side every night. When you turn the eggs, you should also change their position in the incubator. This will help control any effects of uneven heating in the incubator.
Stop turning your eggs three days before they are due to hatch (21 Days for Chickens). It is a wise idea to put some fabric such as cheesecloth under the eggs as this helps with clean-up after hatching. Close up the incubator and do not open it until the chicks are due to hatch. Most of the eggs should hatch within 24 hours of one another- late hatchers will likely not be healthy. Once they have fluffed themselves out and dried they can be removed from the incubator. Though they do not need food or water for about 48 hours after hatching, some recommend providing sugar water and starter feed as soon as possible.
Congratulations! You have just hatched your first chicks!
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