How to Hatch Chicks in a Homemade Incubator

Guide to raise and hatch chicks, including homemade incubator designs and information on types of incubators, heat, humidity, ventilation and hatching.

| March/April 1975

Hatching chicks

Then spring rolled around again, our neighbors began ordering new chicks from the hatchery and we discovered that the cost of day old biddies had doubled in our area. That's when we decided to try hatching our own fertile eggs. 


Our start with chicken-raising was very cautious: a tiny flock of ten pullets and a cockerel, obtained from a hatchery. The day-old chicks were carefully tended, kept warm and protected from drafts by a homemade brooder — a cardboard carton heated with a light bulb — in our empty guestroom for a few weeks. By the second week the babies' wings had developed and we discovered them flying around the room and alighting on various objects. We clipped their wingtips at that point, constructed a broiler house from miscellaneous scraps of wood and wire and — when they were sufficiently grown — moved our birds to their outdoor quarters. Five months later we discovered our first egg, and gathered the fresh, fertile layings faithfully each day for many months afterward. By the end of each week during that period, we always had at least a dozen extra for sale or gifts to friends. Meanwhile, meat prices were rising steadily and we began to consider keeping more chickens for slaughter. Then spring rolled around again, our neighbors began ordering new chicks from the hatchery and we discovered that the cost of day–old biddies had doubled in our area. That's when we decided to try hatching our own fertile eggs. 

The only trouble with this idea was that all our books manuals and brochures on poultry-raising told us to begin with day-old chicks. We could find no information on incubation of the eggs, not even under a broody hen. (A mature layer of one of the maternal-minded heavy breeds will manage the job quite nicely but she'll pick her own time, and it probably won't be as early in the spring as you could wish if you're in hurry to establish a productive flock If your chickens are leghorns or one of the other light types, you'll probably need an incubator in any case to compensate for their lack of motherly feeling. — MOTHER.) 

Finally, after much searching, we turned up some help in several old, worn volumes. The rest of the information in this, article we learned for ourselves by building and operating our own incubator.

Types of Homemade Incubators Used to Hatch Chicks

An incubators is a device that provides controlled conditions for the hatching of eggs. There are three basic types:

STILL-AIR. Still-air incubators are warmed by uncirculated radiant heat, and the placement of the eggs in relation to the heat source is critical. It's also just as important to locate the thermometer correctly. A wrongly positioned instrument will be inaccurate by several degrees — enough to cause the failure of the hatch or the death of any chicks that do emerge. The air must be flushed thoroughly from the apparatus at least four times a day (when the eggs are turned), to release the noxious gases that accumulate in the closed box.

CONVECTION. This type of incubator has ventilation holes in the top and bottom to provide a continuous flow of fresh air and an even distribution of beat. The upward draft in the chamber causes fresh air to be drawn in at the base of the device. It's then warmed by radiation and circulated around the interior. Placement of the eggs and the thermometer are thus much less crucial than in the still-air machine. The disadvantage of this method is the higher rate of evaporation created by the air currents. This means that relative humidity must be maintained by the use of evaporation trays and carefully monitored with a device called a hygrometer.

7/13/2011 1:32:54 AM

i am trying to do incubator at home.i saw an instrument that measure both humidity & temperature on the same device ,either any body have got this idea ......but i saw in the internet....

7/11/2011 2:00:28 AM

i am biruk from ethiopia . i coudn't find the hygrometer and termometer to measure the humidity & temperature. any body help me to get that

4/26/2009 2:35:04 PM

I have a small still air incubator that I have borrowed. I am concerned about one thing-how do you keep the eggs large end up? This one has a small mesh wire over a space that has the water well for humidity. Is there something I can use to keep the ends standing up? If laid out, they lay on their sides. Thanks for your help.

peet robberts
9/21/2008 12:43:22 AM

I just build my fitrs own homemade incubator 19/09/2008 the temp inside are 102 at the top of the egg witch seems right but when it's time for turning the eggs do not feel that warm. I make use of forced air, still air got to hot. Is there any thing to fear or is it just no knowlege off first time. 12 eggs in incubation

6/10/2007 12:36:24 PM

i hatched pheasants 3 times i only suceeded 2 times with 60% resuld. this time time i failed badly with 0% result i dont know why.

5/9/2007 12:35:12 PM

I love hatching chickens and ducks. I have 45 chickens and 34 ducks that I hatched myself

3/10/2007 3:10:30 PM

i need to know i have a still air hovabater do i just put a load of vermurculite in the bottom of the incubater damp or put them in tubs

2/23/2007 7:32:59 AM

please send a simply type of the solar or any typeof incubator design that can be made easily with low cost MOTHER EARTH NEWS RESPONDS: you can make a low-cost incubator from the information in this article. We do not have an article on building a solar icubator.

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