I spent an insane amount of time reading threads on here and learning all I could about incubating and hatching eggs. There was some conflicting information at times but I formulated a plan and hit the ground running. I'm hoping others on here can give me some additional guidance on things I should tweak and others in the future can use this thread to see what to do (and what not to do) when they try this for thier first time.
Following is a recap of my setup and procedures:
Incubator - I purchased a cheap incubator off of eBay for $70-$80 or so. It's the Chinese made model with an automatic egg turner. Using the ice water method I calibrated a digital thermometer and using the saltwater in a ziplock bag method I calibrated a hygrometer. I then turned the empty incubator on and left it on for a day. The following day I inserted the thermometer and hygrometer and found the temp readout on the incubator within a half a degree celcius. I calibrated the settings on the incubator accordingly. The humidity reading on the incubator was way off so I only relied on the hygrometer that was set at egg level.
Setting the eggs - I put 3 BR/BO eggs in the incubator, 3 BR/Production Red eggs in the incubator, and 24 easter egger eggs in that I purchased on Craigslist. I placed them in around 1:00 pm Sunday, Nov 29th. 30 eggs in total.
Day 1 to 18 Humidity - I had read some threads saying humidity should be at 40%-50% for the first 18 days, so that is where I started. For the first 10 days I kept the humidity in this range. On day 10 I read the Hatching 101 thread and noticed it said 20%-30%, so for days 10-18 I kept it in this range. From day 5 on I candled the egs every few days and marked the air cell to make sure it was growing according to some pics I found on here. All in all I think my air cells were about the right size at each candle.
Day 1 to 18 Temp - I kept the temp at 37.6 degrees and the incubator seemed to do well at keeping a constant temp.
Lockdown - I reduced the temp to 36.8 for days 19-20, and reduced it further to 36.4 on day 21. I increased humidity to 65%-70% on day 18 and surprisingly it held the humidity well.
The Hatch - To my surprise I found a baby chick in my incubator on Day 20, Saturday, Dec 19th. Since it was still morning it was technically on day 19 (didn't set the eggs until 1:00 pm, and the chick was out of the shell at 8:00 am). I had one or two other pips but that was it. This one came early but was very healthy. It was about 12 hours or longer before the next one hatched. When I awoke on Sunday the 20th I was greeted with 10 new chicks, and several more hatched out on Sunday. I had 2 hatch on day 22 which was Monday, and I had 2 still in the shell and chirping as of last night, day 23. I tried to assist with the hatch as instructed in the assisted hatch thread but I was unsuccessful.
The Results - Of the 30 eggs I sat, 1 was a day 3 or 4 quitter. The remaining 29 made it to lockdown. Of those 29, I have 23 chicks in my brooder right now. All 3 BR/BO's hatched, 2 of the BR/Production Red's hatched, and 18 easter eggers hatched.
Chick issues - I have 4 chicks with red hocks and splayed/underturned feet. I am using the baindaid method I found on here and we'll see how that goes. All 4 were some of the last ones to hatch. In fact there were 2 of them that quit mid-zip and I had to help them out. They were looking weak yesterday but look much better today.
Eggtopcy results - All 6 eggs I cracked open had a fully formed, dead chick in them. The BR/Production red had a brain growning outside the skull but the rest looked normal. One had a lot of blood in the egg but the rest were just sort of slimy. Almost forgot, one of the 6 was upside down in my egg turner from day 14-18 at least. This probably killed the chick.
Observations - I noticed that the first chicks to hatch were in eggs closer to the front of the incubator and the last ones were in the back of the incubator. Most chicks that hatched on Day 21 were in the middle. I'm guessing the front is warmer than the back but I will confirm this with an empty incubator and thermometer in the next day or two. I also noticed that my hatch slowed way down when I decreased the temp in the incubator. I'm thinking I may have decreased it too much, especially given that the back of the incubator may be cooler and I'm taking my readings in the front. I may have cooled them down too much. I can't help but wonder if this is what caused the leg issues and caused the last 2 to not hatch at all. I will also try weighing some eggs going forward so I can use that to adjust my humidity instead of going by pencil marks.
Now that some folks with a lot more experience has read this I'm hoping they will respond with suggestions about my future hatches.