Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Incubator Eggs

We thought we'd try to hatch some of our own eggs. We figure our eggs are well fertilized having two roosters with the six hens. In fact, overly fertilized to the point that our poor little hens are stressed and have lost many feathers. We do plan to fix that problem very soon.

Meanwhile, I found a small incubator online and ordered it. I chose the Brinsea Mini Advance. After sifting through the complicated instructions, I was finally able to program it and put seven eggs in it. I used two day's worth of eggs, six from one day and another from the next. As long as they have not been refrigerated, the fertilized eggs can be collected and saved for 7-10 days before incubating.

The incubator was fully automatic and kept the eggs at a constant 99.5 degrees, rolled them every half hour one way and then the other way, and gave a countdown to hatch day. Incubating period for chickens is 21 days. I started three weeks before I had my mail order chicks due to arrive so that the two sets of chicks could be kept in the brooding pen at the same time.

The instructions recommended "candling" them once a week and also weighing them to make sure they were growing. I candled the eggs by putting them over a flashlight and then traced around the end of the egg that appeared lighter and clearer. The lighter area is an air pocket and as the eggs mature the lighter area gets bigger. The eggs also lose weight at about 1 gram every 2-3 days.

On day 20, we started hearing chirping coming from inside the incubator. This was our first confirmation that there really was something inside the eggs. I did a quick check and could hear sounds from 6 of the 7 eggs.

The chicks started cracking the shells and popping out right on schedule the morning of day 21. Within about 3 hours, six had hatched. The instructions also said not to be in a hurry to open the incubator and take them out. The chicks can survive for 2-3 days inside the incubator, living off nutrients from inside the egg shell. So I waited another day to see if the seventh egg would hatch, but it didn't.

So the next morning, I unplugged the incubator and took it out to the garage and set it down inside the brooding pen. The brown chicks were scared and crowded as far away as possible. The newborn black chicks also clustered together. It was a little like a school playground when a new student arrives.

In less than an hour the two sets of chicks were fully integrated and accepting of each other. It was interesting to see the differences between the two sets of chicks even though only a few days age difference.

The Brinsea Mini Advance incubator can hold 7 chicken eggs.

The incubator was warming to the  programmed 99.5 degrees

Most of the eggs were from April 2nd.

The weights of the eggs ranged from 58g to 64g.

The eggs were laid with the small end towards the outside. Water was in the center.

With the lid on, the temperature and humidity were kept constant.

Egg before incubation
Egg before incubation held over a flashlight.

After one week, most of the egg is dense with a small clear area visible on one end. I traced with a pencil around this area.

The first chick hatched and was waiting for us on Day 21.

This chick is only a few minutes old.

Other eggs began to crack around the air pocket very near the pencil line.

The second chick hatched within a few minutes.

Soon it was difficult to distinguish between chicks and eggs.

I put the incubator down in the brooding pen to open it.

The new chicks huddled together for safety and warmth.

The older chicks were huddled as far away as possible.

Within 30 minutes, the chicks were mixing together and seemed happy.

This is what was left one day after the chicks hatched and with an unpleasant smell.

I cracked open the egg that didn't hatch and found a partially developed chick.


  1. That looks like a good incubator. I've never seen the inside of hatched eggs. Weird.

    1. I was a little scared to crack open the unhatched egg. I took it outside and cracked it open on the porch just in case it had a terrible smell. The smell wasn't strong - not nearly as bad as the incubator!