Hatching Something New

I’ve raised chicks twice before: The 14 day-old chicks that my sister and I got from a feed store three years ago, and the three chicks that our broody hen hatched last September. And in less than a month, my third batch will be here.


In about three weeks, we’ll be hatching some chicks from the General and our three hens, along with some from our friend who adopted our other young rooster. Hopefully, we’ll at least get a few hens out of the deal.

Kung Pao did all the work last time, so I’ve never controlled the incubation process myself. I’m very excited at the prospect. And more than a little afraid I’ll screw it up.

The incubator I’m using is a Farm Innovators model 4200; basically just a glorified styrofoam cooler with an automatic egg turner, a heating element, and a fan. A lot of people make their own incubators out of coolers or old fridges, and if I’d known how easy it can be I probably would have done that instead.


The incubator holds 41 eggs, which sounds like a lot, but here’s how chicken math works:  We can reasonably expect around a 50% hatch rate, of which about half should be roosters. That would add about 10 hens to the laying flock, plus 10 roosters for the freezer. Even if we get a great hatch rate, the chicken coop is large enough to accommodate the extra hens. And we have a pretty big freezer, too.

So in the hopes of making my first hatch successful, I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the chicken forums. But as with most things on the Internet, everyone is an expert. And wouldn’t you know, there are a lot of different opinions when it comes to humidity levels for incubation — with threats of drowned or desiccated chicks on both ends of the spectrum.

Oh, what did people do without the Internet?


To calibrate a hygrometer: Put it in a large Ziplock bag with a mug containing 1/2 cup table salt and 1/4 cup water. Place it at a stable room temperature for ~12 hours; the hygrometer should read 75%. If not, you’ll need to add or subtract the difference every time you take a reading.

So for this hatch, I’m just going with what seems closest to nature, and nothing too extreme. I even have a mantra for hatching eggs: “What would KP do?”


For starters, she probably would not rub hand sanitizer all over her eggs. 

(Yes, some people actually do that.)

Of course, she probably wouldn’t try to live broadcast the hatch on Ustream either, but that’s beside the point.

Above all, I’m trying to keep the worrying at a minimum and treat this as a learning experience. Even if nothing hatches, at least I’m not using expensive shipped eggs like I did with KP’s hatch.

I’ll be setting as many fertile eggs as possible from our flock, in the hopes that we can keep some genes from our original birds. And then I’ll fill in with some from our other rooster’s flock and an assortment from a local farm.


Fertile eggs are good for hatching until they’re about 10 days old, so I’ve been saving mine up for a few days now.

Apparently, nothing makes me crave fresh eggs like seeing them all lined up, and not being able to eat them. But once this batch goes in the incubator, I’ll be back to eating the eggs I gather. And hopefully, in about six months, some of these hatchlings will be laying eggs for me too.

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