Why do chicken eggs need to be turned in an incubator?

Turning the eggs in your incubator is one of the most important parts of incubating. Hatch rate can significantly decrease if you do not properly invest in the time to turn your eggs every day for the first two weeks or so of incubation

So, why do eggs need to be turned in an incubator?

Eggs need to be turned inside the incubator for proper development of the embryo. Turning helps nourish the embryo by distributing oxygen and nutrients. Not turning may favour one side in growth, and the embryo will get stuck to one side of the membrane inside the shell. Turning also allows for the embryo to get itself into the proper position for hatching.


Proper embryo proper development

There are a few reasons, and they all have to do with the proper development of the embryo. As well, they have to do with the proper development of the internal workings of the eggs that nourish the embryo. You can turn your eggs a few times a day by hand or you can have an incubator that self-turns your eggs at a given interval over the course of the day.

Either way, it is very important that you turn your incubating eggs. Otherwise, it’ll affect not only the hatch rate but the health of the chicks that do hatch.

I’ll address several important reasons why eggs need to be turned into the incubator in this article. I will also explain how often eggs need to be turned in the incubator and how you should go about turning them.

You should have a firm grasp of both why you need to turn the eggs in your incubator and the best ways and times to do so when you’re done reading. Always remember that patience is key.

Properly incubating eggs can be a lot of work, but your chicks will be very grateful that you put all that work in one they’ve hatched niced and healthy.


Why do chicken eggs need to be turned?

There are a few reasons why it is important to routinely turn your chicken eggs during incubation. They all have to do with not keeping the embryo in one place for too long. This is both so the embryo grows correctly and so that the internal workings of the egg grow correctly.

If the embryo stays in one position then it will not grow as strongly due to one side being favoured in growth. The embryo should also ideally be rested on the yolk. The embryo can often get stuck between the wrong side of the yolk and the shell if you don’t turn your eggs.

This results in both the embryo and the yolk being at risk for damage or improper development. There is also a risk that the embryo will get stuck to one side of the membrane inside the shell.

You want every part of the embryo and every part of the internal workings of the eggs to be able to breathe and move. Turning the eggs increases the development of the vein network. The vein network is responsible for carrying oxygen and nutrients to the embryo.

Turning also promotes the growth of the yolk and allows for the embryo to get itself into the proper position for hatching.


What happens if incubated eggs aren’t turned?

There are many issues you will run into if you don’t turn your eggs properly in the incubator. First of all, the chicks will simply have a hard time hatching.

It is likely that they will be stuck to one side of the egg during growth. The embryo getting stuck to one side of the egg can lead to deformity and sometimes even death. If eggs are not properly turned, the average hatch rate can drop by as much as 30% (1).

Even if your chick manages to come out of the shell without any problems, they likely won’t be as healthy as they would be if you had simply turned the eggs. Not turning the eggs means the internal workings of the egg don’t develop as freely as they should. This can lead to the embryos not getting the right amount of oxygen and nutrients. You may notice that the chicks that hatch are slightly sickly if this is the case.

Eggs can be turned either by a machine or by hand. Many people don’t want to pay for a machine that will turn their eggs for them. You should definitely be sure that you are turning your eggs by hand if this is the case.

Turning the eggs is incredibly important to the overall health of the chicks, and it’s not that hard to turn the eggs by hand at least a few times per day.


How often do I turn the eggs in my incubator?

Firstly, it is advised that you leave the eggs to settle for about half a day after placing them in the incubator. There should be no turning in this first small amount of time.

This allows time for the eggs to settle internally and for the embryos to get comfortable. You will begin your turning routine once this time has elapsed. It is advised that you turn your eggs at least three times a day, though ideally more like 5 times a day.

Many people believe you should make sure that you turn the eggs an odd number of times per day as compared to even. This ensures that the embryo is never resting on the same side of the egg two nights in a row.

This will mainly be an issue if you are turning the egg by hand only a few times per day, such as 3. Odd numbers going up from 3 would be 5, 7, 9, 11, etc.

Another common trick to ensure that the eggs are never resting on the same side two nights in a row is to mark with a pencil on the shell their resting place. Simply make a mark and then make sure that the mark is never facing down two nights in a row.

The most important time as far as turning the eggs is concerned is the first week or so. You want to invest plenty of energy into making sure that you are turning your eggs enough, especially in that first week.

The second week is still important, but you are going to be better off missing a few turns the second week than the first week.

Some commercial egg operations will turn their eggs once an hour and will generally use a machine that automatically turns the eggs every hour on the hour. Turning your eggs once an hour isn’t going to be totally necessary, or even feasible if you’re turning your eggs by hand. Still, you should try to aim for it at least 5 times a day, and always remember to keep it at an odd number.

You should generally turn the eggs about 45 degrees each time. Turning too much or too little runs the risk of decreasing the hatch rate. It is also not advised to ever continuously turn the eggs. Continual turning results in the egg not being able to settle and can lead to the yolk rupturing.


What day do you stop turning chicken eggs?

It is generally said that you can stop worrying about turning your eggs in the incubator about two to two and a half weeks after they’ve been placed. So, generally about 14 to 18 days, with most people going closer to 18 days than 14.

Ceasing to turn the eggs allows for better airflow and heat transfer from the embryo. This results in a more stable temperature for the embryo in a few days or so before hatching. You should have the egg placed with the larger end up if the egg is placed vertically in the incubator.

This will allow for the best positioning of the embryo prior to hatching. The egg simply laying flat will be fine if the eggs are placed horizontally.

Eggs will typically start hatching at around 21 days, but don’t be surprised if it takes just a few days longer. Patience is key as far as growing chicks. Never be put off or perturbed if they aren’t hatching as fast as you’d like them to. Things should go fairly smoothly if you’ve done everything right in the weeks leading up to hatching.

Resist the urge to continually turn the eggs if they aren’t hatching on time. Turning the eggs this late in the game can cause the chicks to be moved from their ideal hatching position and offers no benefits.

Simply sit tight and wait for the chicks to hatch and rest assured that you’ve done as much as you could.

The hatch rate on eggs that are from your own chickens is generally going to be around 80%, or 50% if the eggs have been shipped or purchased elsewhere (2).

This rate shouldn’t be negatively affected if you’ve taken the proper care to turn your eggs at least 5 times a day for the first two to two and a half weeks. Don’t get too bent out of shape if things don’t go perfectly. There is always going to be some trial and error involved when it’s your first time.

You will develop a workflow as you continue hatching that will enable you to find the best times of day to turn the eggs that fit into your daily routine. In general, the more you turn the eggs, the better!



  1. https://poultryperformanceplus.com/information-database/incubation/170-turning-during-incubation
  2. https://modernfarmer.com/2015/04/how-to-incubate-chicken-eggs/