How to Turn Incubating Chicken Eggs

By Kim Dieter

Chicken eggs require 21 days to hatch. Eggs successfully hatch under a broody hen or in an incubator. Hens naturally turn the eggs as they move in the nest. Eggs require turning when hatched in an incubator. They are turned by hand or with an automatic egg turner. Eggs are turned to hatch normal, healthy chicks. Days one to 12 of incubation are the most critical for normal chick development. A consistent turning schedule is necessary during those days.

Select fertile, medium size, clean eggs from healthy hens for hatching. Collect the eggs three times per day unless the temperature is greater than 85 degrees. In warm weather, collect the eggs five times a day. Fertile eggs are also sold by hatcheries. Do not wipe or wash the eggs. This removes the coating, and disease organisms may enter the egg through the shell.

Store eggs up to seven days prior to placing them in the incubator. Store the eggs at 55 degrees and 75 percent relative humidity. Store the eggs with the small end pointed down. Turn the eggs at least once a day. To easily turn eggs, place a 6-inch block of wood under one end of the carton to make a 45-degree angle. The next day place the block under the other end of the carton. Allow eggs to warm to room temperature four to eight hours prior to placing them in the incubator.

Place the eggs in the incubator. If using an automatic egg turner, place the eggs on their side and space them evenly in the turner. Do not allow the eggs to touch the side of the incubator. Follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully. With an automatic turner, turn the eggs at least five times per day up to once an hour.

Mark the eggs with a pencil if turning the eggs by hand. Place the eggs on their side and make an "X" with the pencil. Turn the eggs to the other side and mark it with an "O." Or, mark the other side with the date the eggs were set. Turn the eggs an odd number of times per day with a minimum of three turns per day. Turn the eggs first thing in the morning and just before bedtime in the evening. Evenly space the time between the egg turning throughout the day. Place the "X" on top during one turn and the "O" on top during the next turn. Do not rotate the eggs in the same direction for each turn. Wash your hands prior to turning the eggs to avoid spreading disease organisms. Stop turning the eggs during the last three days of incubation.