Incubation Cheat Sheet

The Henthusiasts' Still-Air Styrofoam Incubation Cheat-Sheet
By ChooksChick · Jan 11, 2012 · Updated Sep 15, 2012 · ·
  1. ChooksChick

    Henthusiasts' Still-Air Styrofoam Incubation Cheat-Sheet

    ***The first, most important rule is: get the temp right with an empty incubator, and make sure it's stable for 48 hours- without the plugs, without you touching it- BEFORE you add eggs.***
    This is the hardest part, and if you can be good and do it, you have a much better shot at success. Do it before you order eggs, even. That gives you time to get it perfect.

    Use 3 (yes, 3!) of the sealed-in-glass aquarium thermometers from Wally World ($1.70 each, I always have at least a dozen on hand for my 6 incubators).
    They have a little green suction cup- I leave it on and move it to the weighted end for one thermometer, the top end on another and the middle for the third. This makes them a slight bit different in elevation in the incubator as the turner moves, so you can average them for the true temp.

    Place them where it will be easy to read from the windows, and turn them in the suction cup so they're angled correctly to read the red line through your windows. They need to be on the turner, wedged between eggs so you can read what the center of the egg is, internally.

    This is the only reliable way, as the thermometers that come with the incubators on cardboard change as humidity changes, and they tell you the eggs' top temperature or the temp on the floor! Took forever to figure out my incubator wasn't really spiking as badly as the thermometer said, but that the temp spikes were due to the cardboard shrinking and swelling from humidity!

    ***Recently it has come to my attention that some folks are having issues with these thermometers losing accuracy. I have not experienced this, but thought I ought to post a valuable bit of info to ascertain whether you have accuracy or not in YOUR thermometers.

    BYC user Jessshan8 posted this regarding evaluating your thermometer:

    Even a tiny bit of difference in height can mean a big difference in yolk-temp so you might wipe them out in the last 3 days if you don't use a carton or prop up the wire. You can mark the turner edge on the styrofoam and use that line to help you position the wire on shallow bowls or compote cups to get the middle of the eggs at the same height they were for the first 18 days. Put the wire back in and you're good to go. Egg cartons are easier. This doesn't affect hatchability, but you won't want the paper towel on the wire AND cardboard cartons, as this will be too humid. Do use the paper towels if you use styrofoam egg cartons. I have also used saucers upside-down and put the wire on those with little silverware baskets from the dollar store to hatch the at the right level. This also keeps them sorted by breed when I have multiple similar-looking breeds hatching.

    If you have had both plugs out the whole time, you might be able to get the right temp for them lying on the floor by just plugging both holes, but that's an unknown factor until you've tried it, and you don't want to find out with eggs that are about to hatch. I use a separate machine as the hatcher to avoid this conundrum when I can.

    Hope it makes sense! Let me know if you have any questions. ChooksChick at gmail dot com.

    I'm adding this Q & A section for frequently asked questions. Let me know if there's something you'd like to see here.

    Q. Can you describe your feelings on the humidity portion and why you suggest no water at all?

    A. The method I describe is also referred to as 'dry incubation' and it's the only sure way I know of to decrease the embryonic mass by enough in the first 2 1/2 weeks to make the baby small enough to negotiate getting in the right position to pip properly. Many times if there isn't enough evaporation, the chick can't get into the right position to get enough leverage to pip and they never make it out. The chick is just too big.
    If there's substantial evaporation, this seems to be less of a problem. You do need to have adequate humidity for the chick to not get glued in, however, so you increase the humidity to prevent the remaining moisture from dying as the chick opens the shell with first the pip and then the zip. That's why it's important to watch the humidity at the end. There's a whole host of various opinions about how to incubate, but this has worked for me a zillion times and I encourage folks to at least read it, even if they choose another method, just to get some ideas about what they observe and have a bit of background so they can make educated decisions as they go through their chosen method the first time.

    Q. Will this work on a forced-air incubator?

    A. Yes, many have used it on a forced air incubator, but I suggest you don't let the humidity dip below 20% for a prolonged duration, adding a tad of water through a straw if it's that low for more than 24 hours. I also advocate using the paper towels on the last three days STRONGLY, because anytime a pip is large but the pipper is slow, gluing can occur more easily with the fan and air movement.

    If you can turn off the fan for the lockdown period, that would be ideal.

    Comparison of the air cell at days 7, 14 and 18 will better allow you to predict whether you need to add water in your forced-air incubator or not.

    Happy hatching!!

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  1. NomoreCSIncubating
    Honestly I think a "dry hatch" should be dry. Same humidity going in and close to the same humidity coming out. Usually under 30% with most hatchs range from 10-25% to me that would be a dry hatch but personally I call it nat-hatch.
  2. CyndiD
    What is a "we bulb"? What is a wet hatch?
    You mentioned not allowing the temp to get above 102° for 2 hours consisantly for the first 2 days. I have 3 thermometers, 2 of then are at 100° & 1 is at 102° , do i need to turn the temp down? I calibrated the thermometere in ice water. I feel this 102° temp is OK. I have a circulating air bator, fyi. Thank you for this blog & all ur wonderful instructions & experience.
  3. CyndiD
    What does "LG" stand for? Is it the name of a bator, "The Little Giant"?
  4. CyndiD
    Oops, i just saw the answer in ur article, so sorry.
  5. CyndiD
    Hi, do these instructions apply to an incubator w/heater w/air circulating fan? Thank you
  6. TheChickenQueen
    Do you have anything for heat sinks? Like marbles. I plan on trying this though.
  7. ChickAdict
    ChooksChick - I am trying your method. I have a still air incubator that I use just for hatching so I will use the paper towels but not the egg cartons. Should I move my eggs out of the turner (in fan forced incubator) on Day 18 or 19? It is Day 18 today and the hatcher ready - should I put both plugs I in and if so, when and under what circumstances should I remove them. Thanks so much for your help!! Sarah
  8. rancher hicks
    My last hatch I wasn't hopeful. Only a few had hatched. But I left them knowing that 21 days is not always correct. Mine have started early and ended late. So my advice and opinion is to wait. In the end most of my eggs had hatched.

    Sometimes you think nothing is happening and then come home from church and there they are.

    Too, everyone has to work out their technique. Even with the same brand of incubator.

    I wish you well,

      Jmpridge likes this.
  10. Natibrati1
    i dident do that when i did it and i had chicks the first time i did it so thats good to no thanks
  11. eggbeforchicken
    what is your ambient humidity would that make a different mine is around 65%
  12. rancher hicks
    Something I may have missed in the instructions. Placement of your incubator no matter what kind is very important. DO NOT put it where folks will be walking by. DO NOT place it in a high traffic room. DO NOT place it near a window or heating vent. DO NOT place it near a cold exterior wall of the room.

    Room temp should remain between 70-80*. If you are unsure place a thermometer on the wall. While your thermostat setting may read one thing the actual room temperature may be something less.
  13. Dianne1928
    Really? this is for Ducks too?
  14. kimi
    I found this site after losing an incubator FULL of guinea eggs, all 36 of them. I'm just starting about 20 chicken eggs & am going to try this method!
  15. rancher hicks
    A couple of things I'd like to mention.
    1. I've since read an article in Practical Poultry about Marans that said they are not easy to hatch with the incubator but that hens do a better job. That has been my experience. So future hatches will be by broody hen.
    B. At lockdown I use cut away egg cartons to hold the eggs upright or slightly tilted as they were in the turner.
    III. As for humidity there are varying opinions. I tried a dry hatch and it was not good. I believe each brand of incubator may require different things. I went back to a wet hatch and things went much better. I say follow the manufacturers instructions. This is also what the experts say.
  16. imacreator
    I'm really nervous about my first try at hatching! I just read your information, and we're on day 12. I had already added water before I read this, so I'll let it dry up and then hope the eggs have been able to have enough evaporation. I don't understand about your mention of "the wire". My LG has no wire. Also, should the eggs be on their sides or upright for the lockdown?
  17. Bantie
    This is a great source of advice. I always had trouble with keeping the humidity stable and now I know to just leave it alone until the end. What a relief!
  18. ChooksChick
  19. rancher hicks
    A friend recently hatched out two chicks but both died within days.
  20. GasMenagerie
    I've heard some Maran folks say they do a dry hatch. Something to do with the dark color eggs and moisture retention. I had a poor performance with my first hatch last week. I did low humidity then put it up when I went into lock down. I had one hatch "on time" and three 24-36 hours later. I candled the rest very well and saw no movement and heard no pipping.
    I'll try again becaus I love my Wheatens, but I do think they present some issues specific to the breed.
  21. rancher hicks
    I'm running the incu with a lower humidity this time 23-25% per advice. We shall see. I too gave up early when first starting to hatch. I've since learned to give them a couple of more days.
    I wish you well,
  22. mommachick1
    rancher hicks, I would be interested in knowing someone's response to your questions as well regarding the Marans' eggs. I had that same issue for my last hatch which was my first hatch ever, btw. After I explained my hatch results with a more experienced hatcher person, they told me that Marans' eggs take longer to hatch than other chicken breeds, so I should have left them in the incubator, and to candle them to look for movement or an internal pip. Also, to listen for peeping in them. I think I gave up to early on those Marans eggs. :(
  23. rancher hicks
    I have been having a problem with my Birchen Marans egg hatching. Last hatch all other breeds hatched 100% but the marans 4/14. this hatch not all eggs hatched but the marans too are not hatching well.
    an examination of eggs not hatched last time showed whole chicks. Most did not pip at all. Eggs were laid on floor of incu. This time in egg cartons.
    What could be the problem with the marans eggs?
  24. GasMenagerie
    Bless you for this info.
  25. calichickies
    Really learning a lot about this- (unfortunately a little too late) just had a large chick drown (didn't turn), and I've got 11 eggs on day 16 and their air cells are WAY too small. Uggghhhh-- I need a drastic humidity reducer:( I'm hoping for the best. Their air cells are about the size of day 7 -- should I keep them air cell up in a carton for hatching? Will that give them the best chance of getting air? Thanks! This post is great!
  26. totribet
    I just put my third batch of eggs in the incubator.....I've had two completely unsuccessful ones. I'm following these rules. Man oh man I hope something hatches this time!!!! Jandrusrn.....I'm sorry to read about yours. I've been there too lately. Maybe we both can learn to do this.
  27. jandrusrn
    Not only wasn't it good, I had to pitch all my beautiful eggs... such a sad night here. I'm going to try the dry method and hopefully follow it to the letter. I so wanted these lovelies. My Mommy bone is sore.
  28. jandrusrn
    I cannot tell you how interesting this was to read....I'm dreading the next week and a half only because I'm almost certain the hatch won't be good. may just try the dry method as you're hatches, history and help are wonderful! Thanks so much
  29. ChooksChick
    I agree using the cartons and tilting the entire incubator is a good way to go without a turner, but as much as some folks swear by using cartons for upright hatches, others warn against them. I prefer egg lying down, if possible, so I have taken to using the little plastic silverware bins from the dollar store and putting my eggs in them, tilting the entire incubator, and leaving them to hatch.
    Dry hatch works for guinea, pea, duck and goose eggs- the caveat is you MUST compare the air cell on days 7, 14 and 18 to be certain you aren't evaporating too much moisture. Adjust accordingly if the air cell is too large or too small.
  30. fishman65
    does a dry hatch work with guinea eggs..everything I have seen says 50-60% humidity for guineas.
  31. Dancingfire
    What do you suggest for someone such as me that does not have a turner?
  32. the4heathernsmom
    What about if you dont use an egg turner? couldn't/wouldn't it be easier to place eggs in the egg cartons as you described fro lockdown and just rotate the incubator by propping one corner 4x a day instead of opening the bator to turn the eggs? Have you tried this?
  33. steffpeck
    What do you use in your hatcher to hatch them in or on to prevent the temperature difference??
  34. melodym78
    I so wish I would have seen this article about 100 dead chicks ago! I kept blaming it on my stryrofoam incubators when all along it was the thermometers! I've fried them, froze them, and drowned them...NO MORE! Thank you so much for this info...Melody in Indiana

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