Hatch-along with The Chicken Chick: Part 2, Roosters, Broodies & Incubation Basics

Before I committed to incubating eggs, there was one topic that required serious consideration: roosters. In any given clutch of eggs, an average of 50% can be expected to be roosters (sometimes more, sometimes less, it’s a gamble). While using the roosters for meat birds is an option for some, it is not for us. Fortunately, I have many options near and far; I have re-homed roosters to North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and many within my home state of Connecticut.

The rooster dilemma… Before I committed to incubating eggs, there was one topic that required serious consideration: roosters. In any given clutch of eggs, an average of 50% can be expected to be roosters (sometimes more, sometimes less, it’s a gamble). While using the roosters for meat birds is an option for some, it is not for us. Fortunately, I have many options near and far; I have re-homed roosters to North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and many within my home state of Connecticut. It is always smart to have a plan for roosters that cannot be kept before eggs even hatch.

(St)eve was re-homed to Ohio with his daddy, Max, below.
(St)eve was re-homed to Ohio with his daddy, Max, below.

Hen vs Machine No discussion of hatching eggs would be complete without at least touching briefly on how a hen does it. (edited to add: I have written a much more extensive article about broodies hatching eggs, which can be found here.)

Max was re-homed to Ohio.
Max was re-homed to Ohio.

A hen determined to hatch chicks, also known as a broody, will collect a clutch of eggs on which she will sit for 21 days. The warmth and humidity of her body will keep the eggs at the ideal conditions for hatching. She will leave the eggs briefly once or twice per day to relieve herself, to find food and to drink, returning to sit stoically the remainder of the time. She will shift her weight around carefully in the nest, jostling the eggs gently as she does. This activity gently turns the eggs, keeping the contents from sticking to the side of the shell. After approximately 18 days of sitting on the eggs, she will not leave the nest at all until the eggs have hatched on approximately day 21. She then goes about the business of raising the chicks.

A hen intent on hatching chicks, also known as a broody, will collect a clutch of eggs on which she will sit for 21 days. The warmth and humidity of her body will keep the eggs at the ideal conditions for hatching. She will leave the eggs briefly once or twice per day to relieve herself, to find food and to drink, returning to sit stoically the remainder of the time. She will shift her weight around carefully in the nest, jostling the eggs gently as she does. This activity gently turns the eggs, keeping the contents from sticking to the side of the shell. After approximately 18 days of sitting on the eggs, she will not leave the nest at all until the eggs have hatched on approximately day 21. She then goes about the business of raising the chicks.

When I caught hatching fever in December, none of my new layers was broody, so the only option was to order an incubator if I wanted chicks at that time. With the rooster issue resolved, I next needed to settle the issue of  incubator selection.

When I caught the fever for hatching, it was December and none of my new layers were broody, so there was no option but to order an incubator if I wanted chicks at that time. With the rooster issue resolved, I next needed to settle the issue of incubator selection.

The primary functions of any incubator are the same as a broody hen’s: to keep the eggs warm, and to control the amount of humidity and airflow surrounding the eggs. There are countless incubator sizes and types from which to choose, so I started narrowing down my options based on my needs and preferences. I didn’t want to have to worry about calibrating temperature and humidity settings or that my hatch might fail due to unreliable equipment. I had no intention of building my own for those reasons and decided to purchase a Brinsea Mini Advance incubator.

Brinsea Mini Advance incubator.
Adding some water to the Mini Advance
Bottom line: I wanted a reliable, proven, simple plug-and-play experience and based on all of the reviews, in conjunction with my preferences and budget, I chose The Brinsea Mini Advance incubator for my first (and second) incubators.

The last consideration was egg-turning. Just as with a broody, the eggs must be turned to prevent the egg’s contents from sticking to the walls of the shell. Turning can be controlled automatically by some incubators but may be accomplished manually as well. Since I believed I would only be hatching small numbers of eggs, and that I didn’t want to spend more than $200, that narrowed down my choices even further.

Tomorrow...we talk eggs!

Bottom line: I wanted a reliable, proven, simple plug-and-play experience and based on all of the reviews, in conjunction with my preferences and budget, I chose The Brinsea Mini Advance incubator for my first (and second) incubators. What I like about my Mini Advance bators is that they are simple to use, have an automatic turner, keep a consistent temperature, have a digital display that reveals the actual temperature and turning mode and will sound an alert if the temperature fluctuates (due to a power-outage, for example). The only thing I have to do for the first 18 days is add a few teaspoons of water to the humidity well every few days. I can manage that.

Next…we talk eggs!

Hatch-along Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5Part 6, Part 7Part 8 

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2bxplrd
2bxplrd
7 years ago

I had thought about getting an incubator when I was breeding birds not chickens and had hens that would not sit the eggs not a good moms and I would always hand raise the babies. I hope to soon buy a house so that I can once again have chickens and possibly go back to breeding lovebirds for color. This incubator is one that I had considered and would be great to have.

Ferne McAllister
Ferne McAllister
7 years ago

6 fertile eggs coming in this week. My dilemma is to either use the incubator, a broody chicken in the broody coop, or leave broody chicken in coop with 6 other hens and 3 roosters. I'd love to just leave her in the coop, but concerned the roosters will go after the chicks. Or, divide the eggs, 3 in incubator, 3 broody hen. Roosters have been good with growing chicks, but they were separated but close-by for weeks.

TheChickenChick
8 years ago

I don't use bators you have to fuss with, so you're going to want to rely on Gail Damerow and your best judgment, Deb.

Deborah Paterson
Deborah Paterson
8 years ago

I have set up my first incubator (wish it was like yours) it is a Genesis 1588 forced air w/auto turner. It has a built in digital temp & Hum control panel. I added a 2nd digital reader to make sure of the information. Well that worked so well that now I don't know which to believe. I have an installed read of 100.2F/65%, the 2nd source read 102.2F/74% with the word "WET" on screen. I took a 2nd reading 45min later of 99.8F/66%, 2nd source 102.0F/76%. I have Gail Damerow's book (Hatching & Brooding) sprawled out on my desk… Read more »

Alma Barraza
Alma Barraza
8 years ago

Hi Kathy, I just ordered my second one too. I have serama eggs on their way along with some Olandsk Dwarf eggs. On the pictures above I noticed that you place the little eggs on the regular egg size turner. How does that work? I ordered the two disk for smaller eggs, however, I noticed that the way you have them seems to fit more eggs. Thoughts ??