For some this quest has become what is now being called "Urban Farming". Raising your own chickens is just one more step towards not only healthy eating, but it brings you and your family closer to nature. Nothing is more facinating than the egg and it's product the chick. This article will teach you how to hatch your own chickens for egg or meat production.
Things You Will NeedIncubator
brooder to keep chicks warm
Turbofan for incubator
automatic egg turner
Step 1A word about Incubators.
Your incubator can be as simple or as complex as you choose to make it. You can buy a Styrofoam home use incubator with or without a turbofan and egg turner or you can buy a "classroom" unit which will hatch about 2-4 eggs. You can even make your own if you choose to.
Placement of the incubator
You want to place your incubator in a safe place that is away from drafts and where it can not be bumped or dropped.
Setting up your incubator
If using a pre-made incubator you will want to set it up according to the manufacturers specifications.
Place plastic pan inside the incubator then cover it with the wire screen followed by the thermometer.
Place about 6 ounces of water into the plastic tray and place the lid on the incubator with at least one of the red plugs set into their holes in the top.
Plug the incubator in to your wall outlet and let run for at least 24 hours.
Without opening the incubator (if possible) check the reading on your thermometer.
You are looking for an operating temperature between 99.5 and 102 if your incubator is not between that temperature range adjust the thumb screw and check again in a few hours
When your incubator holds the correct temperature for at least 24 hours it is time to order your hatching eggs.
If you are using a turbofan make sure it is operating correctly
If you are using an automatic egg turner you will want to set it up according to the directions and place it into the incubator before you begin adjusting the temperature, the motor will generate a small amount of heat so you need to have it running in order to get the temperature adjusted correctly.
But before doing so you will want t0 place the eggs in a warm draft free spot (where they will not be accidentally bumped or dropped) for 1-2 hours to allow them time to warm to room temperature before placing them into the incubator.
Add more water to your incubator if it needs it. You do not want the eggs to dry out or the chicks will either die or have a hard time hatching and die in the shell.
If you are using an automatic egg turner your job is easy, if you do not have one you will want to place an X on one side of every egg and place them into the bottom of your incubator X side up. This is to help you keep track of every egg as you will be turning them by hand 4-6 times a day (the more frequently the better. To turn them you will gently roll them till either the X is on the top or on the bottom. Do this for every egg in the incubator. This way you will never run the risk of missing one! An egg that is not turned runs the risk of the embryo sticking to the inside of the shell and again dying.
Keep an eye on the water level inside the incubator.
Mark the day you "set the clutch" on your calendar
Your chicken eggs should hatch about 21 days from the day you "set" them in your incubator so mark this day on your Calendar
On the 18th day after you placed the eggs in your incubator you should stop turning the eggs. If you are using an automatic egg turner you will want to carefully remove it from the incubator and then carefully remove every egg and place it gently into the incubator.
If your temperature is between 99.5 and 101 your chicks may hatch a day or two later than listed above.
My most recent clutch of eggs began hatching at 18 days! So listen to your incubator, I keep mine in the living room where I spend most of my time.
The day you stop turning remove the second red plug in the top of the incubator to allow more fresh air to enter.
Keep the incubator running for at least 4 more days to give any remaining eggs a chance to hatch, sometimes they do not all hatch at the same time.
Wet chicks chill quickly and this lowers their immunity making at risk of death.
Once your chicks are fluffy and dry you can place them into your brooder. It will need to be set at the same temperature as your incubator for the first few days to a week.
Watch your chicks they will tell you if your brooder is too hot or too cold.
If they are huddled tightly under the lamp they are too cold
If they are huddled in a far corner they are too warm.
They should be spread out in your brooder box.
Once they are settled in it is time to teach them to eat and drink, most pick up on this right away.
You may need to dip their beaks into the water bowl to show them how to drink, but if you scatter the food on the floor of the brooder they will often pick at it right away
Gradually lower the temperature of the brooder as your chicks gain their feathers. Once they are nearly fully feathered you will not need any additional heat on them at all. Again watch your chicks keep them active and spread out in the brooder and you will be fine.
raising your own chickens at home from the egg is not only fun but educational for your children. Hatching eggs are much cheaper to buy than the chicks themselves and the birds are placed under less stress than when shipped from the hatchery. The downside is that you will get a mixed clutch of both males and females where if you buy chicks you get an 85% chance of having all pullets (hens) or cockrals (roosters).
Tips & WarningsPlace your incubator in an area where the temperature remains fairly stable, free from drafts
Be careful that the incubator is not severely bumped or jarred during incubation
Do NOT wash eggs prior to placing them into incubator! If they are dirty leave them that way or do not use them to hatch. Washing removes the protective coating making the chick inside more susceptible to disease