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How Often Should I Turn my Hatching Eggs?

Turning fertile hatching eggs is critical to the embryo development. If a hen is hatching the eggs, she'll handle the turning. If you're using an incubator, it's up to you. Here's why and how many times a day hatching  eggs should be turned.

Fertile hatching eggs need to be turned several times a day, whether they're hatching in an incubator or under a broody hen.

Many incubators now come with turning trays and can be set to turn the eggs automatically. 

But I still get asked by lots of people attempting to hatch their eggs either in a homemade incubator or a model without a self-turning feature how many times a day the eggs should be turned.

How Often Should I Turn my Hatching Eggs?

Fertile hatching eggs need to be turned regularly throughout the first 18 days of the incubation period for proper embryo development.

The How and Why of Turning Hatching Eggs

When you turn the eggs, you need to gently rotate them 180 degrees side to side, not end to end. 

The purpose of turning is to keep the yolk, which will tend to float to the top, centered in the egg and to prevent the developing embryo - which rests on top of the yolk - from being squashed between the yolk and the shell and sticking to the membrane.  

The chalazae, those thin white ropy strands of protein in the egg, hold the yolk in place top to bottom, not side to side, so that's why you need to turn the egg side to side to prevent the yolk from rising to the top.

Note: when you turn you should turn one way and then the other. I.e. first turn to the right, next time turn to the left. Otherwise, the chalazae will end up winding up and can break which can end up killing the embryo because the yolk is no longer being held in place. Reference

By turning the egg, the embryo is swept back into the egg white, where there are fresh nutrients that help the chick develop. 

The ultimate success of a hatch can often be directly tied to properly turning the eggs. 

Note: Goose and duck eggs also need to be turned.

Manually Turning Hatching Eggs

I personally like to manually turn my hatching eggs. 

Maybe it's the control freak in me coming out a bit, but I feel like that makes me more of an active participant in the whole hatch process, and I feel like it helps me bond with the embryos as they grow and develop inside the shell.

I use the Brinsea Mini Advance Incubator which is fully automated and includes a turning tray, however, there is an option to turn the turner off and manually turn, which is what I choose to do. 

(Another tip: you can fit in nine eggs instead of seven if you take out the turning tray.)

P.S. if you're collecting eggs until you have enough to put in the incubator, they need to be stored pointy end down at a 45 degree angle and turned as well - for the same reason.You need to keep the yolk centered in the egg.

Broody Hens Turn the Hatching Eggs

When a broody mother hen is sitting on the eggs to hatch them, she will turn them regularly with her beak.

She will also rotate those around the edge to the middle and those in the middle toward the edge to ensure even warming of each egg.

So you only need to worry about turning eggs that you're hatching in an incubator.

When Should I  Turn my Hatching Eggs

The turning is most important during the first week before the chicks' circulation system is developed, but must be continued for the first 18 days of incubation. 

I mark each egg with a number or other symbol on one side, so I know that I'm turning each egg the correct way at every turn. will need to stop turning the eggs three days before they are due to hatch.

Stop Turning During Lockdown

This is because at that point, which is commonly called "lockdown", the chick will get into hatch position, which basically means they position themselves with their head under their right wing and their beak positioned against the membrane separating the embryo from the air space at the blunt end of the egg.  

Next, their beak pierces through the membrane into the air space inside the egg and the chick begins to basically breathe the available air.  

Once that air supply gets low,  the chick begins to kick with its feet and peck at the shell with the egg tooth until it breaks a hole in the shell and begins breathing the air in the incubator. 

If you continue to turn after the chick gets into hatch position, this can disorient the chick and make it more difficult, or even impossible, for the chick to hatch.

So ... How Often Should I Turn my Hatching Eggs?

When you're using an incubator without a turning tray, the turning is up to you. Turning the eggs three times a day at regular intervals is the minimum recommended, five times a day is better. 

Many automatic turners will turn the eggs every hour, which is even better...and some turners continuously turn the eggs! 

Turn an Odd Number of Times

When you're manually turning your hatching eggs, you want to be sure that no matter how many times a day you turn the eggs, you turn them an odd number of times. 

This ensures that the egg is spending every night on the opposite side. That's important, since it's often a 12-hour period that egg will be sitting in the same position, so you want the egg to alternate sides each night.

I generally turn my hatching eggs five times a day: 






Those times fit into my schedule and are easy to remember. You can set the alarm on your phone to remind you to turn which is also a good idea.  

I also use the numbers to remind me that the eggs should be sitting on the Numbered side on evenumbered days. Just another of my little tricks!

So to Summarize How to Turn Hatching Eggs

  • Use a pencil to mark one side of each egg
  • Turn your eggs at least 3 times a day, 5 time is better, but you can turn up to hourly
  • Turn your eggs an odd number of times each day
  • Wash your hands both before and after handling the eggs
  • If you forget to turn or lose track of how many times you've turned the eggs, don't worry, they'll still likely be just fine
  • Stop turning the eggs three days prior to the hatch date

If you're considering hatching chicks, you'll want to read this day-by-day hatch guide.  

Visit the Brinsea website to browse all their incubators and also to read more information about hatching eggs. And use the promo code FRESH for 10% off any purchase from the Brinsea site.

 Get everything you need to hatch chicks from our friends at Brinsea!

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