How Do You Hatch a Chicken Egg WITHOUT an Incubator?

How do you hatch a chicken egg without an incubator?
Hatching chicken eggs at home can be a fun and educational experience for the whole family, but what do you do if you don’t have all the equipment you need? How do you hatch a chicken egg without an incubator? You can hatch a chicken egg at home without an incubator if you provide the egg’s proper temperature, humidity, and ventilation. You will also need to turn the eggs by hand to prevent the baby chicks inside from sticking to the eggshell.  The article below will give you all the information you need to hatch a chicken egg without an incubator, including alternatives to an incubator and the steps to properly care for your eggs! 

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What to Use if You Don’t Have an Incubator

basket of eggs
Hatching eggs without an incubator is completely doable, so if you’re looking for an alternative then we’re sure you’ll find a method to use in this article!
If you do not have an incubator for hatching your chicken eggs, there are a few other options for keeping your eggs warm. Some alternative methods can be a bit more challenging but yield the same results if done correctly.  The best incubator alternatives for hatching chicken eggs include:
  • A homemade/DIY incubator 
  • A heat lamp
  • A heating pad
  • A bird other than the mother

How to Make a Homemade Incubator

The best alternative method is to create a homemade incubator that mimics the real thing as closely as possible. This method is the simplest and produces the best results.  To create a homemade incubator, you’ll need:
  • The Structure: The structure of the incubator can be a cardboard box, plastic tote, foam cooler, etc. Foam coolers are a great choice because they are insulated, allowing them to hold the heat in better. 
  • The Heating Source: The most commonly used heating source is a 25-watt light bulb. A higher wattage bulb or additional bulbs may be needed depending on the size of your incubator. 
  • The Monitoring System: A thermometer that will give a humidity level reading is the best option for monitoring the climate inside the incubator. 
  • The Humidity Source: Humidity can easily be created inside your DIY incubator with a heat-resistant bowl and a sponge. 
Here’s a step-by-step video for building your very own incubator:


Hatching with a Heat Lamp

It’s possible to hatch chicken eggs with a heat lamp. The process, however, can be trickier than if you were using a regular incubator. 
  • To hatch eggs using a heat lamp, you will need to place the eggs in a container underneath the light.
  • Then, add small wet natural sponges around the eggs to help create humidity within the container. 
  • Rotate the eggs 3 to 5 times a day.
This method makes it challenging to maintain the proper heat and humidity levels for your eggs, which is a crucial factor in hatching healthy chicks.

Hatching with a Heating Pad

A heating pad will keep the egg warm and allow the embryo to develop.  This method requires you to be more available and attentive to your eggs than others. In addition, since the heating pad will only provide heat to one side of the egg, you’ll need to flip your egg 5 times a day to ensure the heat is evenly distributed.  You also don’t want to let your egg get too hot. Overheating the egg would be very easy when using a heating pad, and it should always be on the low setting.

Hatching with a Different Mother

If you have another chicken to sit on the eggs, you can provide the same environment as eggs being incubated by their mother. This is also known as natural incubation It’s a hen’s natural instinct to brood or sit on eggs, so any hen should tend to eggs.

The Science Behind Natural Fertilization and Incubation

For eggs to become fertile, they must be fertilized by a rooster.  On the first day that the Rooster’s sperm is present, it will only fertilize 1 egg. However, it’s collected in pockets and will continue to fertilize an egg a day for up to 14 days. Read our related article, How Do Chickens Lay Eggs Without a Rooster? Discover more about the egg-making process in this guide!

Broody Hens

Much like women go through the nesting phase, in which they have an overwhelming urge to prepare the home for their baby, hens also have a period where they obsess over their eggs hatching There’s no specific timeframe or month that you can expect a hen to become broody because it depends on when her hormone levels shift after she lays her eggs.  A broody hen will sit on eggs that are not fertile for up to 7 weeks in hopes that they hatch. Depending on the hen’s level of broodiness, she may give up a bit sooner.

How Can You Tell if an Egg is Fertilized or Not?

You do not have to crack an egg open to determine whether or not the chick is alive inside the egg.   You also do not need to drop the egg in water and guess its viability based on its ability to sink or float. This method does not generally provide an accurate result and could damage the egg. You can tell if an egg is fertile by candling it.

Candling Eggs

The best way to determine whether or not an egg is fertile is to use the candling method. 
  • In a dark room, hold a flashlight to the large end of the egg to allow you to see the inside of the egg. 
  • If the egg is fertile, you should see a dark spot near the center of the egg, along with veins. In some cases, you may even see movement.
  • If you do not see this, the egg isn’t fertilized and will not hatch
It’s best to wait until the eggs have been incubating for at least 5 days before candling them. Before then, it will be difficult to determine whether they’re fertile.  Here’s a great video showing how to check if an egg is fertile or infertile:

Read our related article, Why Do Chickens Lay Unfertilized Eggs? Here’s how and why some eggs are fertilized and others are not!

How Long Can Eggs Be Cold and Still Hatch?

It is best to incubate chicken eggs within seven days of the time they are laid. This time frame gives you the highest chance of your egg hatching.  Some eggs have been known to survive for up to 10 days, but the number of eggs that hatched was significantly lower.

Storing Eggs Before Incubating

If you have to store your eggs and can’t incubate them immediately, it is safe for the eggs as long as you store them correctly.  To properly store chicken eggs before incubation: 
  • Position: If possible, you will need to store them lying on their side. If they cannot safely lay on their side, you should store them with the smaller end down. 
  • Temperature: When storing fertile eggs, you must keep them between 40°F and 50°F. The eggs will not begin to develop before they reach about 70°F, so you want to ensure that they are stored below the development temperature
  • Humidity: Store your eggs in a place with as little humidity as possible to prevent development before incubation.

How Cold is too Cold for Fertilized Eggs

In order for chicken eggs to hatch, you cannot allow them to get too cold. Eggs that have been refrigerated or frozen will not hatch. Fertile eggs must be kept at a temperature above 50°F in order to remain alive and hatch.

Incubation: How to Make Your Eggs Hatch

eggs in a carton
Remember to keep the right temperature, humidity, rotation, and ventilation in mind when starting your journey to incubating and hatching chicken eggs.
When incubating chicken eggs, you must provide the eggs with perfect conditions to hatch healthy chicks. There is a science behind the ideal environment and the embryo developing correctly.  When incubating eggs, it’s also a good idea to have some form of backup for electricity, such as a generator, in case you lose power.  To properly incubate a chicken egg:
  • Provide the correct temperature and humidity.
  • Rotate the eggs at least 3 times a day (5 is better).
  • Provide adequate ventilation inside the incubator (or another container).

Temperature and Humidity Needed for Eggs to Hatch

If your eggs reach a temperature that is too hot or too cold, it could prevent them from hatching.  Along with the perfect temperature, you will need to provide the appropriate humidity levels inside the container your eggs are in. This is a crucial factor in their survival.  The temperature inside of your incubator should stay between 97° to 102°F at all times. If the temperature of your eggs is colder than 96°F or higher than 103°F, it’s not likely that your chicks will survive.  Additionally, the humidity level will need to stay around 44%. You will also need to provide proper ventilation.

Turning the Eggs

You will need to flip your eggs side-to-side at least 3 times a day. This is to prevent the embryo from sticking to the membrane on the inner edge of the shell.  If the embryo attaches to this membrane, it will no longer be able to develop properly When you place your eggs for incubation, it’s best to mark the opposite sides of the egg with markings like x and o, or 1 and 2, to help you ensure that you provide the proper rotation for the eggs.  However, you will need to stop turning the eggs about 3 days before the estimated hatch date.

How Long Does it Take to Hatch a Chicken Egg Without an Incubator?

On average, chicken eggs need to incubate for 21 days before hatching.  Certain factors could cause the incubation time to vary, including if the incubation temperature is lower than recommended.

Helping a Chick Hatch

6 eggs in a carton
Keep in mind that sometimes helping a chick to hatch might do more harm than good.
There are certain circumstances when you should help a chick out of its shell. However, it’s best only to interfere if it’s 100% necessary because it’s very easy to harm the baby chick while helping it hatch.  The video below will show you the best ways to help a baby chick hatch while posing as little of a threat to its health as possible. 

Read our related article on What to Feed Baby Chickens After Hatching. Once your baby chicks are hatched, they’ll need the proper diet to grow into healthy roosters and hens. Learn more!


Do Fertile Eggs Sink or Float?

The sink or float test will not let you know whether or not the egg is fertile. This test is mainly used to determine an egg’s freshness rather than fertility. Using the candling method is a much more accurate way to check if an egg is fertile.

What Does a Blood Ring in an Egg Mean?

Blood rings are present in eggs where the embryo began to develop but did not make it. 

Can an Egg From the Supermarket Hatch? 

An egg from the supermarket will likely not hatch. This is because most store-bought eggs are either unfertile or have been kept at cold temperatures that have caused the egg to be unhatchable.  That said, it’s not impossible. If you find fertilized eggs or eggs that haven’t been refrigerated, it can happen.

Can a Washed Egg Still Hatch?

Some eggs will still hatch after being washed. However, it is not recommended due to the risk of bacteria being transferred through the shell and to the embryo. 

Do All Eggs Have Life? 

No. In order for an egg to have the potential to be fertile, it would have to have been fertilized by a male as well as the fertilization being successful.

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