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What Homesteaders Aren't Telling You: Incubating and Hatching Chicken Eggs

chickens homesteading incubating eggs Apr 20, 2023

This is a dream we have had since raising rabbits in suburbia… chickens right outside our front door.

We’ve never told the story of how we first came to raise chickens here on the homestead. We could have gotten birds in the mail and at different times over the years we certainly have.


But THIS batch of birds holds a special place in our hearts and time in our lives. Just months after leaving all that we knew behind us in the Houston suburbs, we brought this beautiful clutch home and got to learning about how this whole chicken and the egg things works. For first timers, there were a lot of surprises.


Like, we didn’t know that as long as hens come out of these eggs, it’s likely they’ll lay the same colored egg that they came out of. And let’s be honest, are your eggs even instagramable if they’re just brown?


Did you know that the chicks grow in the egg white and the yolk provides nourishment for the chick. After a few days in the incubator, you can candle the egg by putting it under this light and confirm that there’s actually a little life growing in there.



Incubators! There are SO many to choose from. We could pick this one up at the local Tractor supply. It holds like 2 dozen eggs and automatically rotates the chicks daily during the three weeks it takes for them to grow and hatch out. This is hands on homeschool right here b/c learning doesn’t only happen in books and it’s gonna take a lot of eggs to feed this family. All hands on deck! We filled the tray, filled water to keep the perfect temperature…in fact, I remember this machine needing some maintenance throughout the incubation to keep the humidity at the proper level.


Sure enough, right on time in the middle of the night, the incubator was rocking, talking, and pipping. I wish I could have invited you over to hear not only the sounds from incubator, but the sounds of children being in absolute awe over the emerging.


The cutest, most precious part of this process is that when the chicks start to hatch, their cheeping sounds actually encourages the other chickens to break out and hatch as well! Nature is incredible! We were on bird watch the entire day. Each time a chick broke out, there was a new color of chick, a varied length in how long it took each to hatch, they emerged and dried with different timing too. So many lessons learned as we waited and watched.


It’s hard work to grow in that little shell and make your way into the world. Needless to say, this was a miracle right in front of our eyes and each little peep was met with equal enthusiasm. The kids cheered every chick into the world.


Catching each stage of this process was remarkable. Just 3 weeks before, this little girl was just barely forming. And here she is whole and healthy.


The new chicks can stay in the incubator for up t o 3 days. Just before they hatch, the chicks absorb the egg yolk which sustains their nutrition before they move to a brooder.


This poor man’s brooder box is just an off brand rubber made with a grid on top for air. Instead of a mama hen, we opted for this warming plate that keeps their body temperature regulated. If they’re cold, they cuddle under it just like they would a mother. And when they’re warm, they step out to cool off.


The babies are kind of like a hive mind. When one of them learns to go under the warming plate, they all follow suit. The same goes for eating and drinking. We dip the beaks into the water dish to teach them once and then they all begin to drink and eat and stay warm with very little maintenance.


Looking back, these chickens represent so much new life even for our family at this time. Our kids were just so little and full of wonder. As grown ups, we were eyes wide open in awe of this new life we had ahead of us.

Would we do this again? Honestly, it's been 4 years since our last incubating experience. I think every homesteading family should incubate at least once. This process is an intimate look at creation and life itself.

Why don't we just brood chicks under our hens? Well, we've tried it and just haven't had a successful hatch out. Our hens haven't sat well at all. So instead of the effort it's taken to incubate, hatch, and brood little chicks, we've turned to a local hatchery that we've trusted to grow over half of our flock. Ideal Poultry is the obvious choice as a sponsor for this video. A Texas family-run hatchery, Ideal raises fantastic layers and meat birds and ships them nation wide. Each batch we've raised from Ideal has been robust and healthy. Their varieties are beautiful and productive. If you aren't incubating your own chicks, Ideal will help you begin your flock big or small.


Today, we still make room to pause in wonder. They’re still teaching us so much. To be willing to not have all the answers. To observe how God’s designed each of us with a role. A compliment to the other. We get milk from our cow, the birds enjoy the abundance. They scratch and spread manure, actively assisting in the soils richness, and as a thank you for all of that, they share eggs daily and the cycle can begin again.


What a life!


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