Expected laying

Selection for
breeding pure

Mating up



Egg Production


Natural Hatching

Artificial Hatching




For the small poultry keeper there is a choice of two methods of hatching chicks – natural or artificial. The best idea is to gain experience and confidence in both. Hen eggs take 21 days to hatch, Some very small bantam eggs may be a day early and really large poultry such as Cochins may be a day extra.

Remember to feed a breeder ration to the adults for 6 weeks before you want to set the eggs to increase both fertility and hatchability and make sure only good sized, normal-shaped eggs are set. If you do not have a cockerel, you will have to buy in fertile eggs. Ask if the parent stock has been fed on a breeder ration as this will increase the number of vigorous chicks obtained.

A fertile egg remains dormant until it is placed in the correct temperature to develop. You may have the opportunity to buy in dayolds – try and make sure these have been sexed as it will remove the problem of cockerels later on. It will cost you more to raise hens than buying them in due to the economy of scale that rearers have, but the enjoyment will probably outweigh this.


Trading Standards officers have issued a warning about cheap incubators from China that could give you a shocking surprise.

A Trading Standards team at North Somerset Council said: “A number of low-cost egg incubators have appeared on the market in recent months (2014). They are frequently sold via the internet and are often manufactured in China and supplied from outside the European Union direct to UK consumers.” Three units failed electrical safety tests and one presented a potential shock hazard.

Warning signs include:
• Price – a product that is selling significantly cheaper than the market average should set alarm bells ringing
• Don’t assume a CE mark means the product is safe
• Look for a manufacturer’s address on the product or instructions. If the product is a brand you do not recognise, do an internet search for the manufacturer, if there is no English language site, be suspicious
• Instructions should carry warnings of electrical safety hazards and recycling symbols – if these are absent or the language is imprecise or badly translated, this may mean the product does not comply with EU regulations
• Units should be supplied with a standard plug – if it has a non-UK plug (i.e. 2-pin), then it should be fitted with a suitable conversion plug which encloses the non-UK plug.

For more advice, call Trading Standards on 0845 404 0506.