There are two options to hatch eggs: an incubator or a broody hen who will sit on the fertile eggs for 21 days and keep them warm. Most farmers and backyard raisers cannot afford an incubator and will search for a hen who wants her eggs to hatch.
A broody hen will sit on top of her eggs all day long. She will even pluck her breast feathers so that the eggs can touch her skin. She will also talk to the chicks through their shells to imprint them with her voice, so they will know their mother when they hatch.
A broody hen is much cheaper and easier to operate than an incubator. The only problem is that she becomes territorial over her nest. She will puff out her feathers and squawk, peck at you, and try to bite if you approach her.
If you don’t have a broody hen, you need to remove the eggs out of the nesting box as soon as they are laid. Also, remove the hens from the nesting boxes. A potential broody hen can be picked up out of her nesting box and dropped in with the rest of the chickens in the coop.
Now that you have the eggs to yourself, you need to hatch them on your own in an incubator.
Shop for an incubator. An incubator is vital to hatching the eggs. You need to maintain a constant temperature and humidity to be successful.
Set up your incubator. Read and understand the instructions that come with the incubator. Plug everything in and make sure the equipment is working.Your incubator should be set up and running at least 24 hours before placing your eggs inside to allow the environment inside to reach the necessary temperature and humidity.
Incubate the eggs. Now that your incubator is running, temperature and humidity are set, and the water trough is filled, you can place the eggs and begin the countdown to 21 days. You will need to keep check on the temperature and humidity and adjust your settings to maintain correct levels.
Turn your eggs. Turn your eggs at least 3 times a day until day 18. If you choose to turn them manually, you will need to mark each side with an X and an O to help keep track of which eggs have been turned and which have not.
Candle the eggs. When you put the eggs into the incubator, it is hard to know if they are fertile. You can “candle” the eggs on day 7 or day 10 (for darker eggs). Candling an egg simply means looking at the inside by shining a light through the egg. You can do this with a flashlight. You should be able to see veins and eventually a chick moving in there. Just a few reminders: don’t candle the eggs all at once, but candle a few at a time, and don’t keep the egg out of the incubator for more than 5-10 minutes.
Let the eggs move. By day 18 you will probably begin to see the eggs moving on their own. Finally, the chick has formed, and the hatching process begins. The chick will take its first breath by pecking a small hole through the larger end of the egg.
The chicks have hatched. Congratulations!You have made it to day 21.You can leave them in the incubator for three days, and then move them to the brooder box under a heat lamp for warmth. Give them chick starter feed and water. At six weeks you can slowly begin to introduce the chicks to the rest of the flock.