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How Much Water Do You Put In An Incubator?

If you’ve ever raised eggs in an incubator, you know that there is a long list of dos and don’ts for successful hatches. Many professionals still debate about what incubation method is really the best, so if you’re new to this process and are wondering how much water you should put in your incubator, you’ve come to the right place. 

Most average home incubators require around ½ a cup of water to be added to the middle reservoir in order to maintain proper humidity levels for the eggs. 

Incubating eggs is a delicate process because humidity and temperature levels can be quite specific during those 21 days. Water levels and the humidity percentage play a large role in the success of your hatches, so keep reading to fully understand how much water should go in the incubator.

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Do You Have To Put Water In An Incubator? 

Incubators do require water in order to have a successful hatch and this is all because of humidity. However, if you are using a “dry incubation method” then you don’t have to add water to the incubator until the lockdown phase (days 18-21).

Humidity is, by far, the most difficult aspect to control and interpret when it comes to incubating eggs. It is so important because having the levels too high or too low can lead to unhatched eggs or weak and unhealthy chicks. At the broad end of the egg, there is an air sac that grows larger as the egg loses weight during incubation. 

While incubating, eggs are supposed to gradually lose weight because moisture within the egg is dissipating and the chick is changing in size. Having ideal humidity means that the eggs are losing the moisture at the appropriate rate, allowing for room and air for them to breathe as they grow. 

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How Much Water Goes Inside An Incubator? 

Every incubator is different, so following the instructions for the one you purchased is ideal. The standard egg incubator will most likely require around ½ cup of warm water in order to reach the recommended 50% humidity for the first 1-17 days

If you have too much humidity in the incubator, then decrease how much water is added to it. If the humidity is too low, then add more. 

Incubator Tip: Know that the humidity in your home and incubator environment will affect how much water you need to put in. 

How Do You Put Water Into An Incubator? 

The way in which you will add water to your incubator will depend entirely on the device that you are using. I personally like to recommend the Brinsea Mini Advance II because it really keeps things simple for you. 

To add water, all you have to do is pour it into the external water top-up reservoir. I love that I don’t have to lift the lid at all! This is especially handy during the final 3 days of incubation called the “lockdown period” where you can’t remove the lid or it will affect the humidity too much and potentially ruin your hatch. 

Other incubators generally have a small well, pan or reservoir in the middle or bottom that is where the water is meant to be added. There’s not much more information about how to add water, except don’t add too much!

What Happens If The Humidity Is Too High Or Too Low? 

When humidity is too high, the eggs won’t lose the necessary amount of weight and internal moisture, if it’s too low then the chicks will be too weak and probably not strong enough to hatch. 

Having improper humidity levels in your incubator could spell disaster for your fragile eggs and chicks, which is why it is important to understand exactly how to measure it and how you should adjust it over time. 

In order to appropriately measure humidity within your incubator, you will want to have a hygrometer. These can be built into the incubator itself or you can purchase one separately. No matter what, having a way to interpret humidity and temperature is crucial for having a successful hatch. 

High Humidity 

Having humidity that is too high is much more problematic than low humidity. When this happens, the chick and egg did not lose the necessary amount of weight that it should for a successful hatch. Not only that, but the chicks will be too wet and large, making it very difficult for them to “pip” and hatch from the shell. 

Some speculate that the extra build-up of moisture on the egg will also clog the shell’s pores, making it difficult for them to lose their moisture, essentially suffocating them. 

Egg Fact: Having humidity that is too high during the first 17 days and then too low during the “lockdown phase” is the most common reason for unsuccessful hatch rates. 

Low Humidity 

Low humidity will certainly be less problematic than high humidity, but it can still come with it’s own issues. When the humidity has been too low, especially during the lockdown phase, the chicks will lose too much moisture and weight, leaving a larger air sac in the shell. 

When this happens, the chick is now smaller than it should be and will be weak, most likely leading to its death during the hatching process. 

Ambient Humidity

Ambient humidity is referring to the temperature and humidity levels within the environment that will have an effect on the incubation of your eggs. Depending on your area, you may have a very dry winter and a very humid summer. This environmental factor will have a large impact on the humidity control during the incubation process. 

You can use a basic humidity monitor like these to keep everything under control, monitoring temperature and humidity in the room and inside the incubator if it doesn’t have this feature built-it.

What Is The Dry Incubation Method? 

The way it works is pretty simple and there is less worry and stress. Just like it sounds, you DO NOT add water to your incubator for the first 18 days. Once the lockdown phase hits, that’s when you will add your water and bring the humidity to around 70%. And remember, don’t lift the lid afterwards for 3 days

The dry incubation method is my go-to process for incubating my chicken eggs because it makes things much easier. I had done the traditional method for years where I painstakingly micromanaged the humidity and the temperature, just to have a 50% hatch rate. This grew to be really frustrating! So, I did my research and made the switch to using the dry incubation method and I will never go back! 

Is Dry Incubation Better Than The Traditional Method? 

Whether or not it is better just depends on the individual and how much success or failure they have had doing either method. I wasn’t having a good hatch rate with the traditional incubation process, so I decided to give this newer method a shot. This brought my hatch rate from 50% to around 90%! 

There seems to be a lot of debate between chicken farmers and backyard flock raisers alike. Some swear by the traditional method, while others, like myself, say that they have much more success using the dry technique. 

Conclusion: Water And Incubators

No matter what method or incubator you choose to use, it is crucial that you understand how much water to add for appropriate humidity control. This important detail is what can make or break the success of your egg hatching rate. 

No one wants to lose precious chicks after weeks of mothering and incubating the eggs, so make sure you have the water and humidity levels on point first! 

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