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Starting our First Flock

February 1, 2010

I’ve incubated two batches of chicks before, but neither were for our own personal flock.  We’ve decided to finally add chickens to our yard (which is an aspiring urban homestead).  Since we still have the loan of an incubator and a friend with hens and a rooster, ensuring access to fertilized eggs, it seemed only natural to start our own flock from eggs.  My friend has Araucanas and Australorps, so we will likely end up with some of each.  We are hatching extras for my friend since we there’s extra room in the incubator.  I’m not sure what the plan will be for the cockerels, but we will decide closer to the time that we have to deal with the issue.

Incubating eggs is not difficult.  The two key conditions are:  steady temperature (99.5°F for chickens) and consistent turning, either manually or with a motorized egg turner.  You should also posses patience, but this is not mandatory.

Obtain fertilized chicken eggs.

Fertilized chicken eggs

Buy or borrow an incubator. Clean it out to prevent bacteria from damaging the eggs. Bring it up to temperature, 99.5°F for chicken eggs, and once the temperature inside is correct, leave it for 6 to 8 hours without disturbing it.

Incubator

When your incubator is ready, take all of your eggs and with a pencil, lightly mark an “X” on one side and an “O” on the other. This will assist you in keeping track of which side should be facing up when you turn them.

Egg marked with an "X"

Add water to the built-in wells.  Moisture is important.  Gently place the eggs in the incubator.  Place all the X’s or all the O’s up; it can get confusing if you place some with the X up and some with the O.  They shouldn’t be touching, because they need airflow.

Eggs in the incubator

Place the lid on the incubator, making sure the thermometer is where you can see it in the viewing window.  Let it come back up to 99.5°F.  This might take a little adjustment, because now you have mass in there instead of an empty space.  Check back often until it is right.  When it gets to the correct temperature; leave it be.  Don’t disturb the eggs for a day.

Eggs safely in the incubator, thermometer visible

After the first day of rest, begin to turn them two to three times per day on a consistent schedule.  For instance, I will turn them at 9:00am, 3:00pm and then a last time at 9:00pm.  I will continue to turn them for 17 days, stopping 3 days prior to their hatch date, to allow the chicks time to settle into hatching position.  Don’t forget to keep the water wells full.  Candle the eggs at 8 and then again at 14 days to check for growth.  (I will go into this in detail when it is time to candle the eggs.)

In the days before hatching, prepare a warm, draft-fee spot with a heat lamp for your new chicks.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 2, 2010 5:33 am

    This sounds so cool! I’m not in a position to raise any right now, but look forward to it one day. I’m excited to follow your journey!

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