Advice on What Went Wrong--Hatching Experts, I Need You!!!

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by my sunwolf, Mar 5, 2013.

  1. my sunwolf

    my sunwolf Chillin' With My Peeps

    Okay, so my first hatch might have to be the worst hatch in all of history. I'm going to give as many details as possible... I would very much appreciate if anyone can give me any input on what may have gone wrong and how I can do better next time (going to put some in on March 10th, in time to hatch for Easter, I hope). I would really like to not murder any more babies [​IMG]

    Incubator: Genesis 1588 w/temp and hygrometer. I did not adjust any settings, its thermometer and my cheapo calibrated thermometers read the same, between 99˚F and 100˚F, the whole time. Used an automatic turner which worked (I monitored it). Got it up to heat and humidity before placing the room temperature eggs in it.

    Eggs and Conditions of Parents: Drove a little ways to get them. They were 2-10 days old when I picked them up. The poultry were in small shed-like pens (2sq ft per chicken) with scratch grains. One Buff Orpington rooster covered about 20 mixed hens (Leghorns, BSL, RSL, mutts). They sat in the front seat of my car in cartons. The man had stored them pointed side down. He says he has fantastic hatches in his cabinet GQFs. Candled the eggs, and all air cells were attached and correctly placed except one saddle, which I set with the others. Most eggs set were clean and non porous.

    Humidity: Did a "dry hatch." Unfortunately in the winter it is about 12% humidity in my house, and could not get the room above 15%. Inside the incubator, I kept the humidity at 20-40% for the first 18 Days. Candled a few eggs at Day 7 and 14, saw that they were developing nicely, air cells growing at a normal rate. Humidity dropped down to 21% almost every night, then back up around 35-40% during the day while I could keep an eye on it.

    Temperature: Averaged 99.5˚F. No cold spells except when it went to 98˚F when I would open the incubator to add water. It dropped down to 96˚F for about 2 minutes when I removed the egg turner on Day 18. Absolutely no hot spells.

    Lockdown: By Day 18, I candled all the eggs and noticed that 23 had stopped developing. When I did eggtopsies, 18 of the eggs looked like yolk mush with no veins, blood rings, blood spots, anything. 5 of the eggs had veins or blood rings or meat spots. None were rotten. Discarded unviable eggs, left 19 to set in the incubator. Kept the humidity from 60-65%. A few times this would drop down to 40% (happened once) or spike to 72% (happened four or five times), but never for more than 1 hour at a time. My incubator says not to operate over 65% humidity, so I tried not to go higher than this.

    Day 19: We had 2 pips. Humidity 54-68%

    Day 20: 4 pips by the morning. By the end of the day, 5 chicks had hatched. Humidity 58-72%

    Day 21: Humidity dropped to 40% overnight, but got up to 67% that day. 2 more hatched for a total of 7. One of those was very tired and did not move. Another one pipped.

    Day 22: I assisted 2 chicks in their hatch since they had pipped over 24hrs ago. One of those was very weak (had pipped the wrong end of the shell). Humidity 52-65%.

    Day 23: Did eggtopsies on the remaining 10 eggs that had not hatched. All the eggs had dead baby chicks inside of them. Most had unabsorbed yolk sacs. Two were not very developed, but the other 8 were fully developed chicks. 2 out of my 9 chicks had died overnight, the weaklings.


    42 Eggs Set 2/10/13
    23 Eggs Discarded 2/28/13
    19 Eggs Locked Down 2/28/13
    10 Eggs Unhatched 3/4/13
    9 Chicks Hatched 3/4/13
    7 Chicks Alive 3/5/13

    7 Chicks out of 42 Eggs is a 17% Hatch Rate (more or less)...

    What went wrong???
  2. stefan333

    stefan333 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 5, 2012
    Amazing info. Most of these posts say, "My chicks didn't hatch, what did I do wrong?" and that's it. LOL. From what I can tell is that you did a great job. The only thing I'm noticing is pips on day 19 -seems a little early. I would quadruple check the thermometers. Even with that, though, I would think you would have had a much better hatch rate. Personally, just my opinion, with that bad of a hatch rate and you being very meticulous (which is a great thing), I would venture to guess that there was something wrong with the eggs themselves. I personally wouldn't like to incubate eggs that are near 10 days old. The older they are the worse the hatch rate. And just 1 Buff Orp roo for 20 hens doesn't seem like a good idea. It sounds like they were obviously fertile, though. It could be breeder diet, genetic issues, disease in the flock. Unfortunately, you'll never know the answer to those issues. Just my opinion, but I think you did a great job, and I don't think it was your fault. Sometimes this happens, and I'm sorry this happened with your first hatch.
  3. my sunwolf

    my sunwolf Chillin' With My Peeps

    stefan that was a fantastic, well-thought-out response, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate your feedback. I hope that if others see my stats on this post that they say the same. In many ways I wish it had been my fault so that it could have served a purpose in being a learning experience.

    I set up a breeding pen with my roo and 5 of his hens and will be collecting my own eggs for incubation the next time around, not relying on someone else's flock. Hopefully I will have somewhat better odds, maybe at least 50% this time (though possibly I should set my sights lower).

    This was definitely an awful experience. I am not squeamish at all, but those dead almost-chickens will be haunting me for a while.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2013
  4. Bill 101

    Bill 101 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 1, 2013
    One rooster to cover that many hens is a stretch, however you say they were fertile, so evidently he was doing a good job.

    The thing I see is that you say the birds were getting scratch grains - That is a big red flag. Feeding a normal Poultry Feed with a 16% Protein would be the minimal protein level they should receive., especially if they are cooped up. (Scratch grains are 8%) The protein level of feed affect the hatchability/livability of chicks. To low a protein level & the chicks die sometime during the incubation process, they simply run out of nutrients to sustain them

    One thing most breeders do is up the protein level of the feed a couple weeks before the time they want to incubate eggs. A 20% feed is far better & it assures there is enough nutrients to carry the chicks through to hatch They NEVER feed scratch during that time
  5. Egghead_Jr

    Egghead_Jr Overrun With Chickens

    Oct 16, 2010
    NEK, VT
    It does sound like a fertility issue for nearly half the eggs. If 18 eggs were clear with no development at all I'd guess they were infertile. It doesn't answer for the early and remaining poor hatch rate. Why couldn't you keep constant humidity?
  6. my sunwolf

    my sunwolf Chillin' With My Peeps

    That is definitely good to know. I've been keeping the scratch out of the new breeding pen--in fact, they're on thick bedding since there's no grass this time of year, so all they really have is the 20% starter/grower I'm feeding my breeders. I am definitely hoping that this will make my eggs better able to develop and hatch correctly.

    When I did the eggtopsies, I definitely wanted to say that quite a few were infertile.

    I'm not sure why I couldn't keep the humidity up. I wasn't adding very much water, so I think it was drying out inside the incubator between waterings because my house is so dry. Maybe next time I will use dampened sponges around the edges of the incubator to keep a more even flow of humidity.

    Hm, and I am curious about temperature, since 19 days does seem too soon. I'm on my way to invest in a thermometer with smaller increments between degrees and more accuracy, not the cheap plastic ones, and then calibrate and use the new one for the new hatch on Sunday.

    Thank you Bill and Egghead Jr, for your excellent responses [​IMG]
  7. Sally Sunshine

    Sally Sunshine Cattywampus Angel <straightens Halo> Premium Member

    Aug 23, 2012
    My Coop
    Did he wash the eggs or rub them with a cloth for cleaning?

    Bill 101 can you go into more detail on scratch grains? If I remember correctly the effects of nutritional deficiencies or excesses effect ebryos at the earlier stages of development? I want to get this right and understand because I feed scratch to my hens. I would have to research this again to be sure, but for some reason this is embeded in memory.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2013
  8. CayuseRanch

    CayuseRanch Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 4, 2011
    Newalla, Oklahoma
    Heartmoss did you sign up for the Easter hatch?
  9. my sunwolf

    my sunwolf Chillin' With My Peeps

    Eggs were not washed at all, just picked up from the nests. I heard this was the best way. No cloth or water or sandpaper. There was a little poop on some of them but it wasn't too bad. I didn't set a few of the very poopy eggs.

    I haven't officially signed up, but I'm definitely doing one [​IMG]
  10. Bill 101

    Bill 101 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 1, 2013
    DETAI;LS??? Suire:
    Scratch Grains normally have an 8% protein level. Layer Feeds normally are 16% (Some are now 18 or20, but it works the same). When you feed scratch grains, which the chickens will eat better because they like it better (it's like candy to them) they are getting to low a protein level of feed for proper nutrition. Scratch Grains are high in fat content, low in calcium. The results are fat chickens (lower egg (production} & soft shelled eggs ( low a calcium level). In birds used for breeding the nutrition level is decreased in the eggs they lay. The results are eggs without enough nutrition to get a chick through to hatch. Remember that the chicks also need to absorb the yoke which will also keep them alive for 3 days.
    Layer birds can get by just fine on layer feed alone. Breeder birds should have a higher protein level, at least 18, but 20 is better.
    Chickens will gobble up the scratch & ignore the layer. Assuming that they will consume 1/2 scratch 1/2 layer the protein level ends up being 16%(layer)+8% (scratch) =24 divided by 2 or a total protein level of 12%
    If a chicken eats twice as much scratch as layer you end up with 2/3 +1/3 or 8%+8%+16% or 32total divided by 3, a total protein level of 10.6%
    It works the other way too. Mix 1/2 16% layer with 1/2 22% pheasant feed & you get 16% + 22% or a total of 38 divided by 2, a protein level of 19%
    I've tried to keep this simple, because it can get rather complex. There are other type of feeds that can be added to chicken feeds to increase protein levels but things like salt content & micro-nutrients come into play & all have to be considered when mixing in something like Dog, Cat or Rabbit feeds, so I don't recommend anyone try it.
    BTW: Higher protein level feeds also help during molt. Feathers are pure protein & birds will recover from a molt faster & with better feathers if fed a higher protein level at that thime
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2013
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