Keeping it Clean
Before beginning the incubation process, always clean the incubator with the help of bleach, warm soap solution, or any other good disinfectant. This will help to avoid infection inside the eggs during embryo development.

Raising chickens is an entertaining activity, and requires a lot of patience. Incubating eggs will help you to raise hens, which will provide you with more eggs. You can sell them off, and can earn some extra money. This activity is very important to farmers and to people in the poultry business, as they have to perfectly manage the particular technique for avoiding losses in their business and workings.

Earlier, chicken eggs were incubated in a natural manner, i.e., with the help of a broody hen. Though this method is still used on a local level, it is not preferred on a commercial basis, as the demand is high.

Eggs sold in the local stores are not fertile ones and cannot hatch. In fertile eggs, the ovum has been fertilized by male sperms. You can get these types from hatcheries or poultry farms. When selecting an egg, keep the following instructions in mind:
  • Select medium-sized ones as large eggs hatch poorly, and small eggs produce small chicks.
  • Avoid the ones with cracks and thin shells.
  • Select clean eggs for hatching, as cleaning or wiping dirty ones removes their protective coating on the shell. This makes them prone to diseases.
Selecting an Incubator

These devices are basically of two types:
  • Forced air incubators have a fan and are bigger in size. They are good for hatching a large number of chicken eggs. They also have automatic turners that help to rotate the eggs during incubation.
  • Still-air incubators are small, and do not have a fan. You can hatch less number of eggs in this device.
Process
  • Mark the eggs with a small 'x' using a permanent marker. This will be helpful when turning them around during incubation.
  • In a forced air incubator, adjust the temperature to 100° F, and in a still-air incubator, adjust it to 102° F
  • Set the humidity levels at 58-60% for the first 18 days. During the time of hatching, i.e., between 18 to 21 days, raise the level to 65%. This is to prevent the loss of moisture in eggs.
  • If you are using a still-air device, turn the eggs around 2 to 3 times a day for 18 days after incubating. Do not attempt to turn them after the 18th day as you may injure the chick.
  • The turning process should be done evenly, and the eggs should be placed with the larger end towards the upward direction.
Candling

This process basically helps in observation of the chicken embryo, with respect to its development and growth during the stages of incubation. This is done by studying the egg yolk, air spaces, and the white portion surrounding the unborn chick. For this process, light sources known as candlers are used, which can illuminate the interior portions of the egg.

Low intensity candlers can be used for home incubation purposes. Using a torch or a flashlight in this case is recommended, wherein the light can be almost blocked out from the source by using obstructions like a container or paper, and holes made in these materials can allow light rays with less intensity to fall on the egg. High intensity candlers are used for commercial purposes, especially in case of spotted eggs.

The development of red lines indicates that the embryo is getting developed, and slowly, a dark mass can be seen growing inside the egg. If a growing air space is observed, then mostly the embryo has died and/or the interior matter has started rotting. In such cases, it is important to remove the egg from the incubator.

Hatching the Eggs

On the 21st day of incubation, the eggs begin to hatch. If they fail to hatch by the 26th day, discard them. After all the chicks have successfully come out of their eggs, remove them from the incubator. Place them in a warm and dry place like a brooder, and provide them with chicken feed and water. As they have weak legs, make sure that the chicks do not drown in the water container while drinking. Use a shallow and wide shaped container, and place some stones inside it. This enables them to bend as little as possible during drinking, thus avoiding drowning.

Even though this process is undertaken smoothly and perfectly, things can go wrong because of any reasons, leading to embryo death and/or delayed hatching. With a bit of practice, you can surely develop an expert hand in these incubation techniques.