Incubating Eggs - 4-H Embryology

Incubation Instructions for Teachers

If you plan to use an incubator to hatch eggs, always carefully read and follow the manufacturer's instructions.

The following instructions are for teachers in Lancaster County, Nebraska who are using incubators as part of the 4-H School Enrichment program.

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Incubator Types used for 4-H Embryology:
Square Style
Hova-Bator 1588
Square Styrofoam

Printable Incubator Instructions:

General Incubation Instructions

1) Location of Incubator:
  • Ideal room conditions are 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Place the incubator away from drafts, out of direct sunlight and placed on an inside wall.
2) Start and Regulate:
  • Follow the Incubator Directions.

Teachers: If you are using the wooden or square stryofoam incubators, you must begin to calibrate them at least two weeks prior to your scheduled embryology presentation. It is absolutely necessary that the incubator be calibrated before setting the eggs.

3) Setting the Fertile Eggs:
  • Place the fertile eggs in the incubator. Do not change the temperature settings. The eggs are cool and it will take a few hours to warm them up.
4) Incubating the Eggs:

*Maintain the temperature at no more than 102 degrees F. In general, overheating can cause more problems than underheating.

IMPORTANT NOTE: In working with local teachers, a temperature of 102 degrees F has increased the hatching success rates in our classrooms. This may be because students and teachers are opening the lids of the incubators more to work with the eggs than in a typical situation. If you are not opening the incubator, then adjust the temperature accordingly by following the instructions that came with your incubator and/or checking the resources listed below.

*When adding water to the incubators, always use warm water.

*Turn the eggs three times each day. Always turn eggs an odd number of times. Rotate eggs once a day.

*For teachers - On weekends you can turn the eggs once a day and rotate them once each day.

*At about 9:00 a.m. on Day 19, turn the eggs once and rotate them once. Follow the directions for your incubator. You may need to add warm water and/or wet sponges. Close the incubator and DO NOT OPEN until the baby chicks hatch.

When Chicks Hatch

Chicks will begin pipping (pecking through the shell) around the 21st day of incubation. Pipping will take place for one to six hours before the chick emerges from the shell.

After emerging from the shell, the chicks will dry, become strong and begin to move about. This may take four to six hours. It is important to leave the chicks in the incubator until they are completely dry.

Remove the hatched chicks from the incubator and place in a heated box. The heated box should contain a 40-watt light bulb lowered to within six inches from the bottom of the box. Keep the box in a warm place and away from drafts.

Remove empty shells from the incubator and clean it.

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