Hatching chickens in a incubator.
This is my first successful attempt at hatching chicken eggs in a incubator. In the above photo you can see the chicks starting to peck their way out of their eggs at day 20. (chickens take 21 days to hatch.)
In my first attempt, I mistakenly tried to hatch turkey eggs, which I later learned that the broad breasted and hybrid turkeys require artificial insemination in order for the eggs to be fertile. The tom turkeys are simply too heavy to perform their required duties. In the end, I realized I should have tried to hatch chicken eggs first, just to get a little experience.
Prior to this, I was allowing hens to set on their eggs and hatch them out. The advantage to this is I do not have to keep a constant eye on a incubator's temperature and humidity. I don't have to worry about power outages or other problems. And afterward, the hens do a fair job of looking after the baby chicks by keeping them warm and feed.
The disadvantage is that some hens are inexperienced and would only hatch out one or two eggs out of a clutch of 12. In addition, by allowing the hens to do the work it also takes that particular hen out of production for several months. This means that if she was laying an egg a day, I might be out 200 eggs during that time.
My father told me that they use to keep a few Bantam chickens on the homestead for the sole purpose of hatching out eggs. The bantams eggs were too small to have much commercial value, but they made the best mothers and would hatch out just about anything, including goose eggs. In addition to that, the bantams being so small, were pretty much self-sufficient, and if allowed to free range would fend for themselves.
Here to the right you see the wet, less than a day old chicks. It takes about a day for the chicks to dry out in the incubator before I can move them to the brooder. Baby chicks can survive for several days on their internal food stores. This is why baby chicks can be shipped across country with little ill effect.
In this first successful attempt, I was actually surprised that I got any of them to hatch. I had three power outages and on several occasions the temperature or humidity drop below what was recommended.
I also had to collect eggs for 10 to 12 days before I had enough eggs to put in the incubator. I put the eggs in an egg carton and in a room that stayed around 55 to 65° and turned them twice a day by hand. Too cold the eggs would've died, and too warm the eggs would've began to incubate.
The best advice that I can give you is make sure you read all the instructions that comes with your incubator. Then go to your local extension office for any of your farming or homesteading information. They are a great resource for many topics and directly connected with your local agricultural university. And of course don't forget to look for additional information on the Internet.