How To Hatch An Egg – Naturally or Artificially

Lately, I have been writing a lot of posts on breeding of cockatiels, birds, and problems with eggs. Here we will look at how to hatch an egg if something happens to the parents or the eggs are deserted.

how to hatch an egg
As long as you don’t have addled eggs or dead-in-shell eggs, then you have a good possibility that the eggs will hatch if you keep incubating them, whether it be in an incubator or naturally.

Note that in colder weather, the eggs may take a day or two longer to hatch. If there is too much chilling or cooling of the eggs, that can result in dead-in-shell chicks.

Sometimes it comes as a pleasant surprise to find that there is one more chick in the nest than there were eggs.

These extra chicks come from one of the eggs having been double-yolked.

The chicks in these cases are not necessarily any smaller than the others, but if they are then it is likely that they will die.

If birds often lay these double-yolked eggs, it is best not to breed with these birds or birds that show any other reproductive disorder as most of these types of disorders are inherited.

How To Hatch An Egg

There are two methods how to hatch an egg. Either with parent birds or in an incubator.

Sometimes, some disaster or another will leave the breeder with some surplus eggs. If the eggs cannot be fostered off with another breeding pair, rather than destroy them, put them in an incubator. There are many different types of incubators available online from cheap to expensive, and you can click on the pictures below if you want to see a wide variety of incubators for sale at great prices.

If you need to incubate your eggs, it is obviously more convenient to have a group of chicks hatch together rather than one every other day. It is thus best to store the eggs until the clutch is complete before they are incubated.

Eggs must be stored in a cool place where the temperature is between 40 and 60 degrees and they must be turned at least once a day during their storage.

It can help to mark the eggs in some way with an indelible felt-tipped pen.

Put the date on them and details of the parents or whatever information you think you will need later.

Do not use a ballpoint pen as it will go straight into the eggshell.

Do not use a pencil if the eggs are to be placed underneath a bird, as the marks will rub off.

If you breed birds and find yourself having to incubate often, it will help to have a professional incubator or home incubator similar to the ones below.

The first one is rather pricey and more for the professional breeder.

Thermo Scientific Heratherm 50125590 Model IMC18 Compact Microbiological Laboratory Incubator, Mechanical Convection, 17 to 40 Degree C Temperature Range, 0.65 Cubic Foot/18L Capacity, 100 to 240V, with US Plughow to hatch an egg

  • Digital mechanical-convection incubator with 0.65 cubic foot/18L capacity keeps eggs or samples at a constant temperature. Makes how to hatch an egg a breeze.
  • 17 to 40 degrees Celcius temperature range, and +/- 1.5 degrees Celcius temperature uniformity at 37 degrees Celcius.
  • LED displays the current temperature, and an audible alarm sounds when temperatures deviate.
  • 10.2 x 16.3″ footprint (W x D).Glass door allows contents to be viewed without opening the door, and internal light facilitates sample viewing.
  • Temperature stability of ± 0.2°C (measured at 37°C).

This is a smaller version if you only breed on a small scale.

G.Q.F. Manufacturing 1602N Hova-Bator Incubatorhow to hatch an egg

  • The GQF Hova-Bator has been widely recognized for over 30 years as the world’s best small incubator.
  • This Thermal Air Flow model, the 1602N, is the most economical and efficient incubator available.
  • Heated air flows out the exhaust vents on top and draws fresh air through the bottom vent.
  • Includes two small windows on top for easy viewing of eggs and hatching chicks.
  • Can be safely used for a variety of poultry (chickens, ducks, quail, guinea fowl) as well as reptiles.

The best artificial incubators are those in which the air is circulated by a fan and they have some form of humidity control.

Even better if the eggs can be mechanically turned as well, as they should be turned several times a day, and this can be easily forgotten in a humans’ busy day schedule, and this is not how to hatch an egg.

The temperature of the incubator should be set at 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celcius.

When the eggs are mechanically turned do not stop the rotating mechanism in the last two days of incubation, because it has been found that their hatchability will not be affected by the turning.

With the damp wick of the incubator reading 91 degrees Fahrenheit with 70 percent water vapor saturation, hatchability has been found to be as good as it would have been had the eggs been incubated by the best of parent birds.

Are Eggs Infertile?

It is a good idea to examine the eggs for fertility, whether they are in an incubator or under the parents, after about five or six days.

It is a waste of a bird’s time and energy to sit upon eggs that cannot hatch. In an incubator, such eggs can explode and contaminate chicks that hatch from other eggs with various potentially harmful organisms. Rotten eggs can be a very powerful source of spors of the mold Aspergillus.

If the eggs of a sitting cockatiel are infertile and both parents seem to be otherwise perfectly normal, the clutch can be replaced with fertile eggs if you have any from another pair.

These foster eggs must have been incubated for an equal or a longer time, otherwise, the birds will desert the clutch and start again if the eggs don’t hatch in time.

If a fertile pair has lost their eggs, they usually start to lay within less than two weeks, and sometimes in a little as four days.

If the infertile pair is allowed to lay again it is very likely that they will lay another clutch of useless eggs. This types of birds usually make excellent foster parents, rather than putting the eggs in an incubator.

How To Tell If An Egg Is Infertile

If you want to know how to hatch an egg, the first thing to know is that the egg will never hatch if it is infertile.

A freshly laid or an infertile egg, when held in the palm of the hand looks almost as if it were translucent.

When put between a source of light and the eye, it appears to be a diffused color.

After four or five days of incubation, the egg now looks to be a duller, almost grey-white.

It seems opaque and when held up to the light, it will cut out light and appear to be darker.

If the light source is strong and cannot get to the eye save through the egg, as can be done by fiting the egg into a slightly smaller hole in the top of a dark box inside which is a light bulb. You will then see a dark blog radiating red “spider’s legs,” whih is the growing embryo and its blood supply.

The only real way for the novice to become absolutely certain in his judgment of whether the egg is fertile or not is to make a regular practice of examining the eggs in the nest.

After a little while the novice will get used to knowing how to hatch an egg,  and with a quick glance can give all the necessary information as to whether the egg is alive or not.

If there is ever any uncertainty, never break the egg to find out, as it is almost certain to contain a live chick.


If the eggs have not hatched after three weeks of artificial incubation, or 24 days after the last egg was laid with natural incubation, open just one and if this is a dud, then another and so on.

Never break all the eggs in one go.  If a living chick is found stop breaking any more.

Dead chicks cannot move and there is no hemorrhage on opening.

The state of development of the live or dead chick inside its broken shell will give a very good idea of how much further time is needed to incubate the remainder of the clutch.

Please comment below if you have anything to add on how to hatch an egg, and I hope this information has helped in some way.


  1. i have tried to incubate an chicken egg before but failed. It becomes a rotten egg. Smell so bad that it takes days for the air to be normal again. 

    I didn’t know that it needs an incubator machine. Maybe some day I will try that. Got to work for some money to buy it.

    1. Yes they are a bit pricey Kit. That must have been a terrible smell lol. The egg needs body warmth that only the parents or an incubator can give them.

  2. I was impressed by this , because when i was young we had had poroutry but we didn’t know if the eggs given to the hen are fertile or infertile.

    After 21 days we would find the chicks and some infertile eggs but we could not change anything as we didn’t know how to differentiate fertile to infertile eggs.

    But with this information I understand better what was happening.

  3. Thank you Michel, for such an informative article.I have recently considered breeding and I am quite new to the idea.  Do you find that smaller varieties of incubator are less reliable than the more sophisticated/larger models.  I’m not sure what level of investment I want to make and think I should work my way up to the larger versions?  Any thoughts for someone who is just getting started?  

    1. I think the smaller varieties are just as good as the big ones but you just can’t incubate as many eggs at one time. And you probably will have to turn the eggs manually.  

      If you are starting out I suggest starting small and then increase in size only if you really need to.

  4. Our tiels are laying and incubating eggs but have twice now lost interest in the clutch before they hatch. If I were to incubate would they accept the chicks for feeding or would I have to hand rear from birth?

    1. You may be lucky, but in most cases, you will need to hand rear. If the cockatiels are not looking after their eggs, then the chances are that they will not make good parents. The other reason they loose interest is because the eggs are not fertile.

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