Diagnosing Incubation Problems and Hatch Failures- My incubator and me.
- A guide for first time incubator Hatchers.
Hatching eggs I have found takes a lot more time, skill and patience than I thought. Please understand me when reading this article that my incubator and I are the best of friends, it is a vital tool that helps me to breed and nourish my rapidly expanding poultry invasion! There was a time however when we didn’t get along so well together and with good reason too as outlined below. This was a frustrating time which almost caused me to give up and lose hope of ever hatching at my convenience as opposed to my hens’. Don’t make my mistakes; learn to diagnose your incubator problems.
To diagnose incubation problems:
My new incubator
1. No, don’t worry, the bulb hasn’t blown but it turns off when it reaches temperature.
2. If there are no signs of mechanical life- your incubator is probably broken/ switched off.
3. Even if the instructions say otherwise, with a semi-automatic/manual incubator turn a minimum of three (3) times a day.
4. Not all incubator manuals tell you everything.
5. Be sure to “store in a cool dry place”.
1. Disappointment and Overview.
O.K so you’ve bought the hens, you’re getting the eggs and your cockerel is all in working order. Your mind begins to think of expansion. Do you buy or do you hatch yourselves and have the untold joy of little fluffies overtaking your life for a few weeks? Well you’ve decided to hatch, you can sell any extras and you are avoiding the illness/ contamination risk. On top of this one of your hens has gone broody so you are set and ready to go. Fantastic!!! Then your mind becomes complacent, you could increase your profit and production if your hen was going broody more often but she doesn't understand you. There is no way of persuading a hen to sacrifice her bloodline to become an all year brooding machine. She will just look at you with her head on her side and give that crushing telepathic denial. Cutting your losses, you buy an incubator.
Welcome to a whole new world of technicalities and heart ache!
Facts, tips and pointers:
1. So you have bought your incubator. It looks fantastic and you cannot wait to get started but “Tarry a little” make no haste, read the instructions carefully and glean every ounce of information from them; you will need it. You prepare it, plug it in, wait the 48 hours that ensure smooth running and set your eggs. Two hours later, your house is in uproar the bulb has gone out, it has obviously stopped working, you change the bulb, same issue, you try a third to be quite sure and nope THE INCUBATOR IS BROKEN!!!!!!!!!! But it isn't!
Stay calm little feather, note the temperature gauge. When it reaches 99.5 degrees F, the bulb turns off for regulation. This is something that your hen didn't do… but then your hen doesn't have a bulb.
2. If you don’t have a bulb run incubator what do you do? How do you know it is working? Plug it in. I know it sounds stupid and I promise I’m not trying to belittle anyone but we've all done it at some stage in our lives. Incubators generally sort of buzz or hum just to let you know they are still there. Trust me you do not want to go “Oh it’s probably working just fine and because it turns itself I can leave it and walk away” then in three weeks return not to the wonderful sight of new little chooks but a bad smell or just some very old eggs.
3. I bought a manual incubator which specifically said turn 180 degrees twice daily. Well, my eggs didn't hatch, at all. A knowledgeable friend told me, “Turn anywhere between 3 to a hundred times a day.” I would try though to turn them the same number of time every day. Stop turning at day 18 for chicken eggs and day 25 for duck eggs. To be honest if you were thinking of making this a regular thing then I would invest in a self-turner because it just makes the whole experience less time consuming on your part.
4. Speaking of incubator instructions, they may be telling the truth but do some research, make sure that there is nothing omitted from their sales pitch. Just because an incubator does not mention humidity it does not mean that is unimportant. My incubator has no regulator or measure of humidity and its words are specifically, “place some water” (in the bottom). There is no measurement on the water holder or any means of testing humidity so I was just putting in enough to fill it. As a result the humidity was high and my hatching was a failure. I couldn't understand why until I searched the “inter-web.”
5. Oh and don’t forget to set up your incubator in a place where the temperature and humidity is fairly regular. Your poor little incubator works hard enough without having to regulate the outside world as well. I keep my incubator in a cupboard away from a radiator or fire but in a tepid environment.
If your hatching is a failure then “try, try again” don’t lose hope; you will get there eventually. It took me fifteen ( yes 15)times before my first successful incubator hatch. Remember to read the instructions, back it up with some Internet or library savvy, plug it in, check for faults, stabilise the humidity and temperature, keep them turning, have fun and don’t forget the eggs!
So now you have avoided all of the mistakes that I have made, it is time to get down to the fluff ball fun! Good luck Hatchers and be prepared for A LOT of noise and poop!
Thank you for reading, I hope this helps!!!