Advice needed...first incubation

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by MontanaDolphin, Dec 16, 2013.

  1. MontanaDolphin

    MontanaDolphin Chillin' With My Peeps

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    So I bought an OLD hovabator from goodwill a few years ago. I set it up to see if it works, and it does. I decided to do a trial run with some eggs from my pullets in case the hatch is a complete wash...I won't be heartbroken if I lose them all, because the sire is my bratty and aggressive Barred Rock cockerel, Zeus, who is to become dinner this week after I get his replacement. I know most people say not to allow chicks to hatch with aggressive genes, so if they don't make it, not a big loss. If some do, I'll just eat them when they get old enough :)

    I'm having issues, though, and need some help.

    First, the temperature does not stay constant. It's got a metal rod that looks like a tent peg to adjust the temp. I have three thermometers in there as well as a humidity gauge. The temp goes up and down, from 98 degrees to 101. It's a still air incubator (no fan).

    Second, the dang humidity is driving me nuts. I cannot get the humidity level down past 62. I do not know how dangerous this is for the chicks developing in the eggs. The bator did not come with the plugs that go in the holes in the top, so they are open. Which SHOULD allow the moisture out, but it's not working.

    I have 10 eggs set...we are on day 4. I am flipping the eggs 5 times a day. I candle once a day, during one of the flips. They are brown eggs from my barred rocks and barred rock crosses, so it's difficult to see much, even with my bright candler...but some of the shells are light enough that I can see something...but at this point it just looks like a dark mass which is the yolk. I can see veins in 2 of them, and one is a maybe on the veins...but the rest are too dark to see.

    So, I guess my questions are these:

    How bad is it for the temps to go up and down like that?
    How bad is it for the humidity to not drop below 60?
    What happens if an egg that isn't living stays in the incubator during the entire process? Will they explode? I can't tell on most of them if there's any growth because the shells are just TOO dark!!

    Thanks for your help. Here's the incubator I am using:
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  2. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

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    Hi there, and congrats on jumping into the hatching world with both feet.

    Your temperature swings are just fine. The more mass you put into the incubator the steadier the temperature is. A bottle of water or rock or any heat sink of that nature will help. Make sure to warm it up first if you decide to use one. 10 eggs aren't much mass to hold heat so the the temp will swing some. In reality your perfect right now and know that the inside of eggs are keeping steady temp of 99.5F only the air is fluctuating 98-101F. On that note people find that the best hatch rates in still air incubators occur when measuring temp of 101F at top of egg. Still airs vary in tempt from bottom to top with most heat at top. Just like your temperature fluctuations right now the temp would be about 98F at screen level and 101F at top of egg or so the theory goes.

    Your humidity is high. If you've a turkey baster or other means to get the water out out of the wells in bottom and run dry for a few days. Also do a salt test on your hygrometer to ensure it's accurate. Real easy to do: put salt in bottle cap, add drops of water until it is a paste not a slurry, p ut hygrometer and cap into ziplock type bag allowing air in it before sealing and that's it. Wait more than 4 hours and it should read 75% humidity. How ever much it is off from that make a note of so you can adjust in your head to what true humidity is in your incubator. Ex. your gauge reads 68% with salt test. Add 7% to any readings you see in incubator.

    What humidity to run is subjective and you'll get many opinions on this. I find my best hatches come from 30-40% humidity first 18 days. If the air sack is not of good size when I candle day 10 I run without water for a few days or if too large for day 10 up humidity to 40% or a bit more to slow down it's growth. I'll candle again on day 15 and set my humidity again for last few days based on what I see changed. Come day 18-19 I up humidity to 55%.

    I don't use the water wells rather different sized small glasses. For the humidity my house runs during my spring hatches a shot glass of water set on screen yields 35% and a tumbler of water yields 55%. Trial and error with differing surface area containers will find you what works for what humidity you choose to run. Just remember it's the surface area of water that changes the humidity not how much you fill that container. Why I find the water wells yield far too much humidity for me in my environment.

    Good Luck and it looks like your off to a great hatch already.

    BTW, candling of eggs every day is fine if your careful and wash your hands prior each time. I wait till day 10 as it's obvious then if any quit or never started to incubate so ditch them and can check air sac development.
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2013
  3. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

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    It helps to candle in a dark room, many closet candlers out there. My rock egg shells are usually spotty looking to see good detail but if the egg is clear or dark mass you can see not growing you know it quit so just ditch it. Very few eggs actually explode, those are the ones growing bacteria. If not a solid body but dark area that seams to swish around it's bacteria or a late quitter. But don't let me overwhelm you and just relax. Even chickens can hatch chicks so go with the flow and have fun with it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2013
  4. MontanaDolphin

    MontanaDolphin Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Late last night I did some research online and saw that I should suction the water out of the bottom reservoir so that's what I did first thing this morning during morning flip. I've flipped once more since (so we are at 2 turns), and humidity read 63%. The humidity reader I have is digital from walmart, it's big with a battery compartment, so I can't reasonably set it on top of the eggs without it being millimeters from the heating disc. So, I dunno what to do with it. I'll take a pic and post it at the bottom of this reply.

    I do candle them in the dark. I have dark curtains on my bedroom windows, which my incubator is in my bedroom...only place I could put it that stays a relatively steady temperature, as well as where it is protected from curious little boys, doggies, and kitty cats. I candled again at the 11 o'clock turn, and did see two more possible eggs with veins...but again, the daggone shells are so dark, it's really hard to tell.

    Do you think the salt test will work with my humidity tester? Here it is:
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  5. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

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    If it fits in a ziplock bag (looks like it will) along with whatever bottle cap you use, I use gallon milk caps, then the salt test will work.
     
  6. Mr MKK FARMS

    Mr MKK FARMS Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

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    Good luck on the hatch! Keep us posted.
     
  7. MontanaDolphin

    MontanaDolphin Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I am doing the humidity test now...I'll let you know the results probably tomorrow, but possibly later tonight.

    At last flip, humidity was at 26. I put a gatorade bottle cap in there with water and humidity is at 27. Is that still too low?
     
  8. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

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    It isn't too low if you've been running high since the start. Exact humidity in first few weeks is only relative to proper egg air sac growth. Humidity of 60% almost stops the growth so running dry for a few days to week is what you want to catch up.

    Not to confuse by adding more information rather to put into perspective humidities role in first few weeks of incubation. Some serious hatchers mark and weigh eggs at start and instead of candling weigh again ever so often and keep record of % weight loss. If finding they are far off from a normal range for that day will adjust humidity. Loss of weight is water loss which results in the air sac development. So high humidity hinders this natural process. The diagram posted above is a general guide of normal growth and day. There is a range so use it as a general guide not exacting rule. End result is the air sac is large enough for the chick to pip into and breath prior to piping the shell. Not too large, not too small, and no need to be as fussy as Goldy Locks. Relax and go with the flow. Nature is a wonderful thing to watch and participate in.

    How did the salt test go? Zip locked on counter for four hours or more with salt paste should read 75% exactly.
     
  9. MontanaDolphin

    MontanaDolphin Chillin' With My Peeps

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    After 4 hours the humidity with the salt test read 64%. I left it in the bag overnight (put it in at 6:30 last night), and this morning at 6:30 (12 hours later) it read 71%.
     
  10. MontanaDolphin

    MontanaDolphin Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I just flipped and candled. The humidity gauge reads 20%. I used a brighter light (the brightest I have) to candle, and could see *i think* eyeballs! 8 of the 10 eggs have a black spot on the tiny kidney bean shape. Out of the other 2, one I can see a kidney bean shape but no black dot. Egg number 10 I can't even see a kidney bean shape, so I think it's a dud, but I'll wait till day 10 to remove it, just in case.
     

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