Originally Posted by jmdes
Hello Colorado Chicken Fan Friends ! I just found this thread today (thanks to COChix !). I've been reading/referencing BYC for a while, but I don't post very much. I tend to get pulled into the internet vortex for hours if I get started, so I try to avoid it.
Hello LateStarter - I live near you, in Wattenberg, off Hwy 85.
I am a newbie chicken owner ---- I have 7 hens now, one year old, and 21 eggs in the incubator. This is my first attempt at hatching, and I don't have a broody hen, so it's a borrowed foam incubator. They are due to hatch Monday, 2/29, so I've been here on BYC a lot more lately for technical and moral support.
I am hoping to use the heating pad/Momma Hen approach this year.
My hens are: 2 Silver laced Wyandottes (SO pretty !!), and 2 Buff Orpingtons (big eggs), and 3 Easter Eggers (pretty eggs).
The 21 incubator eggs are from a mixed barnyard flock of healthy hens, so I'll have some healthy babies, I hope.
***Question: Do you have advice for me on how to increase the humidity in the 'bator? I have it on lockdown now, and the highest it will reach is 38-40%. The windows in the lid are fogged-up and dripping some water. I read that the target is 60-65% for the hatching time? I have the channels full of water, 4 cups of water under the screen, plus 4 small wet ShamWows in there, plus a humidifier running on high in the room.
I've heard some scary stories about "dry-hatchings" and dead chicks, and I don't want that to happen. Any ideas? Input? Help ??
Glad to meet all of you lovely Chicken Fan Folks in Colorado.
Welcome, Jan. This is a helpful, active thread, as you can see already by the number of fast, good responses to your question about humidity. I want to add some help, too. If you've got condensation in your incubator, the humidity is over 80%, and, like others have said here, your gauge is not working. I actually caused one of my gauges to stop working, as yours has, by putting it in hot water - testing, testing, testing - and reading the directions later. Let's just say I know that hygrometers CAN malfunction.
I have had shrink wraps and pips with no zips and hosts of other maladies at hatch time. And I had questions just like yours about humidity; I could not keep the humidity up at hatching time. We live in a dry climate and I was sure that was why my chicks got shrink wrapped.
The best answers were from a Hatchalong support group, and the answer was to create some sort of a tent around the incubator and enclose a humidifier in the tent with the incubator. I intended to use one of those emergency Mylar blankets so that I could minimize the temperature variations as well. I also bought one of those little personal humidifiers that people use at their work stations nowadays, with the intention of putting it in the tent next to the incubator. To make things more complicated, I bought a digital humidistat with an external probe - so that when the humidity dropped below 70%, the humidistat would turn on the little humidifier, and then turn it off when it got back up to 70% again. These little gizmos are cheap from China on eBay, and wiring can now be done by anybody, btw. In any case, that was the best suggestion, I thought. One person suggested putting the incubator in a room that was humidified.
BUT, before you do that, think about dry hatches and why so many people swear by them. The whole point of a dry hatch is to let the little air space at the top of the egg increase enough during incubation to give the chick some room to breath and pip and zip at hatching time. If you keep the humidity too high during incubation, the air space will be too small when he pips the internal membrane enclosing him, and he will suffocate before he can make the external pip to fresh air. If he CAN make the external pip, he needs the fresh air for all his work (translate that into VENTILATION), and humidity to keep the membrane moist while he rests for the final zip. A "dry hatch" does not mean low humidity at hatching, just during incubation where it is typically around 30-40%.
You CAN make the air space too large by providing too little humidity, but it can go as low as 35% with good results. One of the goals in candling is to observe and keep track of the air space so that you can adjust the humidity accordingly. People trace the air spaces with pencil to help with this. If you have collected eggs over a long period of time, you might see a bit of difference between the air spaces in the first and last eggs collected. That is why, when I collect eggs over a longer period of time, I enclose the eggs in a plastic sack to reduce loss of air from the eggs - so that they all start with the same size of air space at the top. Does that make sense?
At hatch time, though, you want the rh up around 65%; with every hatch the humidity will jump a little and the humidity easily jumps to 70%. If there is condensation, the humidity is too high for the chicks to breathe, and they can suffocate. The goal is to have continuous warm moist oxygen available to the hatching chicks.
So, get a hygrometer that works; my Accurites agree within a few degrees of each other, and there are better, both cheaper and pricier. Figure out in advance how much water you need to keep heated in your incubator to keep it at your preferred humidity.. In my experience with the Hovobator, I thought I had to close the ventilation holes to get the humidity up to 70. The directions said NEVER do this, and after reading my dissertation, I'm not so sure it's a good idea. So, the tent might be a good idea; it would be even better if the water in your humidifier were hot or very warm. If it were me, I'd put a little computer fan in the side of the incubator, and it would be blowing warm moist air from the humidifier into the incubator across the hatching chick eggs - not hard, but just a gentle wafting breeze. But then that's me. Remember, in order for fresh air to find its way in, old air must be able to find its way out.
I hope all of this helps. It took me a lot of hatches, many failures, and a lot of answered questions to get to this point. These are SUGGESTIONS, and I have not tried them all out. I can't start hatching again until I've taken good care of all the chicks I have already hatched. Wish you success.