To order turkey hatching eggs, shop the Meyer Hatchery website.
Hatching turkey eggs in an incubator is similar to hatching chicken eggs but with a few notable differences. Let’s take a quick look at what you’ll need to know.
Step 1: The Incubator
The first difference is the need for larger turning rails or trays to accommodate the larger turkey eggs. The “universal” rails and trays installed with the automatic turners like the Hova-Bator brands may work for turkey eggs for a one-time hatch. But if you plan to hatch turkey eggs routinely, invest in the larger turner rails or trays to save yourself some frustration and possibly even some of your eggs.
Your incubator should be sanitized, set up and running at least 24 hours before setting your hatching eggs inside. This period will allow the environment inside the incubator to stabilize and give you time to make any necessary adjustments before you place the eggs inside to begin the incubation period.
Step 2: The Environment
The incubator settings for temperature and humidity are the same as for chicken eggs. Make sure that you have a reliable thermometer and hygrometer inside of the incubator where the eggs will set. Never trust only the digital temperature and humidity display on an electronically controlled incubator. Always cross-check it with instruments you know to be accurate.
- Forced-air incubator (with a fan) 99.5 degrees F (acceptable range 99-100)
- Still-air incubator (no fan): shoot for a range between 100 and 101 degrees F
- First 25 days, the recommended range of relative humidity for turkey eggs is 50-60%
- Final three days, increase humidity to 65-70%
Step 3: Set The Eggs
You should NOT set shipped eggs directly into an incubator upon their arrival. They need 24 hours to allow the yolks to settle and reach room temperature. Setting cold eggs in a warm and humid incubator will cause the eggs to crack, and the embryos will die. If you are not ready to begin the incubation period on the day your eggs arrive, you may “hold” your shipped eggs for up to 10 days.
Before you handle hatching eggs, always wash your hands thoroughly to prevent bacteria from entering through the porous eggshell. Place the eggs into a cardboard egg carton with the pointed end down and set them in a quiet spot in the same room as the incubator. If you are holding the eggs for longer than 24 hours before beginning incubation, prop one end of the carton up a few inches. Rotate which end is propped up approximately every 12 hours. This helps prevent the embryo from sticking to the shell membrane.
When you are ready to set the eggs into the incubator, mark an X on one side of the shell using a soft pencil, and an O on the other side. During the incubation period, you will rotate the eggs. Marking the shell helps you visualize that they have been turned properly and frequently. Even if you have an automatic turner in your incubator, marking helps you ensure that the turner is working properly.
Step 4: Incubating, Days 1-25
The first 25 days you will turn the eggs by hand or using an automatic turner at a minimum of every 8 hours. Better hatch rates are usually the result of more frequent turning, but the trade-off is every time you open the incubator it loses heat and humidity. Many people find that hand turning every 6 to 8 hours to be the “sweet spot." If you do not turn the eggs, the tiny embryo can stick to the shell membrane and may die.
During the first 25 days, you will also monitor the temperature and humidity, adding water to the water reservoir as necessary to maintain the humidity. It is good practice to “candle” the eggs using a high-powered light source to view the growing embryo. If any embryos appear not to be developing at Day 14, remove and discard these eggs to avoid a rotten egg exploding inside the incubator and ruining the rest of the hatch.
Step 5: Lockdown, Days 26-28
We call these final 3 days “lockdown” because you will not open the incubator until after all poults have hatched and dried off. On day 26 of the incubation period, you should stop turning the eggs by hand or turn off and remove eggs from the automatic turner. The poults are nearly fully developed and they will position themselves inside the egg to prepare for hatching. You also want to increase the humidity to around 65-70%. Again, the humidity is a range and not an exact number. The day before the hatch, you should prepare their brooder to receive the poults.
Step 6: Hatch Day
On or around day 28, you will begin to hear peeping from the inside of the eggs. Some of the eggs will likely begin to rock around a bit as the poult “pips” the shell. Hatching takes a lot of energy and it will be a slow process, usually taking a full 24 hours for all pooults to complete the hatch. Make sure that the poults are completely dry and fluffy before you open the incubator to move them into the brooder. The first hatchlings will be okay to go 24 hours without eating or drinking while they wait for all the others to hatch. Some may struggle to hatch, but do not assist.
Step 7: Clean Up
After all poults have hatched and are moved into the brooder, make sure to thoroughly clean and disinfect the incubator and all parts, following the manufacturer's directions. A 1:10 bleach/water solution is ideal for sanitizing. Be cautious about using bleach on styrofoam incubators, as it could cause the styrofoam to disintegrate and/or retain the bleach odor.