Raising chickens can be a rewarding experience, whether as a commercial venture or a hobby and doesn’t require much equipment. Chickens are relatively easy to care for and can even make fun pets. However, there are several factors to consider before embarking on this venture.

Why Raise Chickens?

There are many benefits to raising chickens, including a regular supply of fresh eggs, a source of protein-rich meat, and natural pest control for gardens. Additionally, chickens can provide companionship and teach children about responsibility and where their food comes from.

How to Select Hatching Eggs

The first step in hatching eggs is selecting the right ones. To ensure success, cracked or damaged eggs should be discarded. Candling is a process that can help distinguish viable eggs from non-viable ones. Candling involves shining a light through the egg to see if a chick is growing inside. Here's how to do it:

  1. Use a small lamp with a 60-watt flood light bulb installed.
  2. Cut a 2-inch hole into a thick piece of cardboard for the egg to sit on.
  3. Hold the cardboard over the light and place the egg on the hole.
  4. Observe the egg and check for a bacteria ring, a porous or cracked shell, or a growing chick with blood vessels.
Egg Care and Storage

If eggs need to be stored before they go into the incubator, they must be kept below room temperature. Fresh eggs up to five days old can remain at a temperature in the low 60s. If the eggs must wait longer than five days before hatching, place them in the refrigerator in an egg carton. Prop the egg carton at a 45-degree angle to increase the eggs' chance of hatching. They can stay in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

How to Build an Inexpensive Incubator

An incubator is necessary to keep heat and humidity at a constant level throughout the hatching period. While specialized incubator equipment is ideal, it can be expensive. It can be as simple as a plastic foam cooler with a humidity gauge and thermometer, or as complex as a large, specialized incubating machine that’s complete with automatic egg turners and heat and humidity adjustors. You can make your own inexpensive incubator by following these steps:

  1. Cut a 4-by-6-inch hole in the side of a 10-gallon plastic foam cooler.
  2. Remove the glass from a 5-by-7-inch picture frame, and glue it to the inside of the cooler to create a window.
  3. Cover the bottom of the cooler with a 1-inch layer of aquarium gravel or sand and pour 2 tablespoons of water inside.
  4. Place a thermometer, a 15-watt bulb, and a hygrometer inside.
  5. Regulate the temperature and humidity for three days before placing the eggs inside.
Incubating Conditions

The three most important factors for success in the incubator, besides fertile eggs, are turning, temperature, and humidity. To ensure success:

  1. In order to keep track of turning, use a pencil to draw an X on one side of each egg.
  2. Turn the eggs three times a day so no chick becomes stuck to one side of its egg.
  3. Three days before the hatching date, stop turning the eggs.
  4. The temperature should remain constant between 96 and 98 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature regularly.
  5. Humidity should remain between 55 and 60 percent. Use a hygrometer to monitor humidity levels.

Sanitation is extremely important for anything that will be in contact with hatching eggs. Before handling eggs or using an incubator, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly. The incubator should be cleaned and disinfected with a diluted bleach solution:

  1. Dilute a quarter cup of household bleach into a gallon of water.
  2. Wash out the inside of the incubator, including the lid and any tools.
  3. Place it in the sun to dry.
Troubleshooting Failures

Despite your best efforts, hatching may not always be successful. Here are some common issues and how to address them:

  • Learn to candle eggs properly. Many eggs will not hatch, even with the best care and incubation.
  • If the humidity is too low or too high, many problems may occur. Make sure to monitor humidity levels carefully.
  • Be sure to turn the eggs properly. Even if improperly turned eggs do hatch, the chicks may be deformed. If the eggs were shipped, make sure to candle them to see if their air sacs were damaged.

With the right care and attention, hatching chicken eggs can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience. Follow these guidelines for selecting, storing, and incubating eggs, as well as maintaining proper sanitation and troubleshooting any issues that may arise. With patience and perseverance, you'll soon be raising your own flock of healthy and happy chickens!

About the Author

Adrian Ludwig is a Senior Account Executive at Crest Capital, specializing in equipment financing for businesses of all sizes and industries. With over a decade of experience in the equipment financing industry, Adrian has helped hundreds of businesses secure funding for equipment needed to grow and succeed. Connect with Adrian on Twitter and check out his most popular piece: The Difference Between Good Debt and Bad Debt.