Sep 19, 2012

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

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.


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 determined to hatch chicks, also known as a broody, will collect a clutch of eggs on which she will sit for 21 days.


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.
When I caught hatching fever in December, none of my new layers were 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.

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

 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.

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.
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.  
Tomorrow...we talk eggs!

Tomorrow...we talk eggs!
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Kathy Shea Mormino, The Chicken Chick®

32 comments :

  1. I love all the colors in your egg basket! Currently I have in a borrowed incubator some banty cross eggs and some Welsummer's. This is my first time hatching with an incubator so holding my breath and hoping for the best. I will be buying one come spring tho as I have big plans to increase the flock. I too want auto egg turning and digital read outs as I work crazy shifts and hours and am often on call. Hard to remember to turn eggs when it's late and I'm exhausted!

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  2. We have a friend with a HUGE incubator. He generally hatches for us. But Hubby and I have been looking to buy our own. I like this one. Thanks for this wonderful post! I am going to show it to my husband. I really enjoy your blog and your FaceBook page.

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  3. Max is my Favorite, I love to read you articles.. I can't wait to see them in my inbox

    Jackie Hahn-Winans

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  4. Katie Stanley11/19/12, 8:34 AM

    I came over from the Homestead Blog Hop, wonderful blog!!!!

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  5. I'm incubating now! My first time alone without my parents help!! So excited!
    If all goes well the hubby and I will begin our chicken family!

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  6. Tina Favara4/13/13, 5:16 PM

    Love it, we need to decide what we are getting for next season :)

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  7. Your coops are so nice, must take a lot of time and dedication to maintain them.

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  8. TheChickenChick4/14/13, 7:39 PM

    You'll do fine, Allie. Happy hatching!

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  9. I bought a Little Giant Still Air with Fan. I AM having a time of it getting the humidity and temperature figured out, but I'm getting it. I'm looking forward to getting my eggs tomorrow and getting them in the incubator. Sounds like the Brinsea might be a little easier to use. I'll let you know how it goes. :-)

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  10. Alma Barraza8/28/13, 1:07 PM

    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 ??

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  11. Deborah Paterson9/7/13, 6:26 PM

    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 but find I am still confused. I have a friend offering free silkie eggs to give it a test, but I'd rather have a handle on the equipment first. When you have such a difference do you go with the installed reading, average the two. give it a 3rd source or do a test run of eggs to see what the results are and base future incubations from the results?

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  12. TheChickenChick9/11/13, 8:47 PM

    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.

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  13. Ferne McAllister5/20/14, 8:20 AM

    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.

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  14. 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.

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  15. Linda Ljung Cranford6/29/14, 8:36 PM

    Love to win the Brinsea incubator, I am using my bloody hens!!!

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  16. Jan O'Connell6/29/14, 10:42 PM

    This would be great for my son and I to hatch some eggs together and share it with his teacher at school, so the kids can experience this miracle of eggs hatching. Love it!

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  17. Oh, this would be wonderful! My old timer died and I lost them all. Can't afford a new one, so what a gift! Fingers crossed!!:-)

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  18. Alice Faye Fishburn Barton6/30/14, 10:55 PM

    when I Get a broody hen I Always move her in her own space. If I have two or three a lot of the time they will enjoy the company of another hen it seems in there.. when chicks hatch, I Let them run around with mom on the floor with my straw and, they seem all to be happy doing this way> I tried hatching eggs with a still incubator but no luck. I do not work right now due to a medical condition so , money was limited on getting a good one. Thought try still and what did we have to lose. Maybe just maybe this batch I get a few hatch> am praying.. on that..Right now with disabilities,my chickens and ducks are giving a reason to live.

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  19. I want a mini....got over 36 turkey eggs...

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  20. I hope some hatch for you. There is nothing quite like watching a mother hen with her babies.

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  21. Erin Boyer7/1/14, 4:50 PM

    This would work great for all the little quail eggs I get. We end up just disposing of them since the hen won't sit on them.

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  22. adam vieweg7/1/14, 8:20 PM

    I would love to win this! I live in Ellington ct a few years ago I had to give up my babies (do to a next door neighbor) :( I have an empty coop thats needs some life and I am planning on getting some more girls!

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  23. Adam Vieweg7/1/14, 8:24 PM

    I would love this!! I have a beautiful coop that is empty here in Ct. Due to a neighboor I had to give up my girls a few years ago. I am plaining to get some life back into the coop and would love to hatch my own.

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  24. I can't wait to incubate my own eggs and watch the miracle of life....So excited to see it in real life!

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  25. Amber Bryant7/5/14, 9:14 AM

    Definitely a hatch a Holic! Hope I win!!

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  26. I sooo want to win the incubator to hatch some ducklings next year!!

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  27. Paula Price7/6/14, 4:27 PM

    My kids would be soooooo excited!!!! =)

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  28. Thank you for your blog and thanks for answering my previous questions. I have another question on brooding hens. I know you had said it wasn't good for multiple broods in a year... How often would be acceptable and safe for the hens? My neighbor's only mature hen ( she has two roosters) just hatched 3 chicks about 12 weeks ago and is going broody again. I didn't know what to expect with our hens. Previously I told you we had three brooding. only one chick made it out of nine possible a few were not fertile, one didn't make it out of the shell and one disapeared ????.Two of the hens are raising the survivor together but the other took quite awhile to " bounce back"- but now her color is good and her feathers are coming back in. The Roosters have been out ( we free range alot when we can). If she goes broody should I let her sit?

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  29. Kim Simoncelli Hera7/10/14, 9:05 PM

    This would be awesome!!! One of my girls turned out to be a roo... I let them free range when I am home..he is the protector. I am too attached to get rid of him, so he's now family. I'm hoping for some chicks, I'm raising Jersey Giants and just love them.

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  30. Wow! I have 7 fertile eggs, i am trying to hatch them they have grown alot inside the egg!

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  31. IF my girl has been broody for a couple of weeks is it too late to get eggs for her?

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