Are we killing our chicks inadvertently?

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by Three Cedars Silkies, Jun 21, 2011.

  1. Three Cedars Silkies

    Three Cedars Silkies Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 17, 2008
    Gainesville, Fl.
    Over the years I've had my ups and down with hatching, using a variety of different incubators and have had some great hatches...and some dismal ones. A few months ago, I built a new incubator and hatcher and the first several hatches were near 100%. Over the next 6 - 8 hatches, the hatch rate has steadily declined even though everything is exactly as it was in the beginning.

    The lightbulb finally went on yesterday as to the possibly reason for my poor hatches.

    First, the eggs are incuabted in a separate bator and at day 18 I put them in the hatcher. The incubator has eggs in it most of the time, so I really haven't cleaned it much. The hatcher, however is given a thorough cleaning after each hatch and I have used some pretty strong bleach water to clean it. I realized that for the last several hatches (poor hatches)
    I have cleaned the hatcher JUST before putting the eggs in. I spray the inside, wipe it down, dunk the trays in bleach water and let them dry without rinsing.

    Don't know why in the world I never thought of it before now...but I am so sure that the chlorine is releasing chlorine gas inside the hatcher and the chicks are dying somewhere between day 18 and day 20.

    No more bleach solution for me! I will use a mild oxine solution and clean it a minimum of 3 days before the hatch, leaving the door open to allow the chlorine to be chelated by the circulating 02 in the air.

    I've always heard to be sure to use a strong bleach solution to "scrub the incubator (hatcher) in between hatches" and I believe that, for me, this has led to late chick death.

  2. clairabean

    clairabean Chillin' With My Peeps

    Nov 7, 2010
    Kootenays of BC!
    Naw, I don't think so. It would have to be pretty strong, and pretty intense to kill them. And most of the chlorine should dissapate.

    To be sure, just wash with hot, hot vinegary water and rinse immensly.

    At day 18 are they good and growing? I would be more concerned about an unclean bator too.
  3. raimnel

    raimnel Chillin' With My Peeps

    I would say that you are on track. 1 question, have you calibrated your hygrometer each time/year?
  4. Three Cedars Silkies

    Three Cedars Silkies Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 17, 2008
    Gainesville, Fl.
    It IS very strong and intense. I use about 1/2 cup bleach to a gallon of water. I clearly recall thinking that the smell was pretty strong...just can't imagine why I didn't think that would be harmful to the chicks.

    Yes, all the eggs were candled when transferred to the hatcher and had moving chicks. Yes, I calibrate the hygrometer and thermometer regularly. I know that the condition are perfect for hatching.
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2011
  5. Bat Cave Silkies

    Bat Cave Silkies Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 11, 2010
    Bat Cave, NC
    I believe you're on the right track in figuring out what is causing bad hatches.
    I'm sure you'll have much better results---as good as you did in the past---by switching to cleansing with the oxine.
  6. A.T. Hagan

    A.T. Hagan Don't Panic

    Aug 13, 2007
    North/Central Florida
    Oxine has chlorine in it as well. In fact it's the active ingredient. Laundry bleach is sodium hypochlorite and Oxine uses chlorine dioxide.

    What's important is to use the correct amount of either then to allow the hatcher or incubator time to air out.

    I use a 10:1 water/bleach solution which is stronger than what you've been mixing. I wipe my box out well with it, then let it air dry for a while before closing it up and running it empty for a few hours to eliminate the last of any remaining fumes. No chlorine smell at all by that point.

    Free chlorine is pretty volatile. It dissipates quickly, particularly in a warm, well ventilated box.
  7. Keara

    Keara Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 24, 2009
    If you let the bleach solution (doesn't need to be more than 10%) sit for 10 min on any surface it has done it's job! Then rinse, rinse and, rinse again. No need to let bleach dry on the equipment, all that does is degrade your plastic bits over time.
  8. Three Cedars Silkies

    Three Cedars Silkies Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 17, 2008
    Gainesville, Fl.
    I have not rinsed with clear water in the past and there was still a fairly strong chlorine smell when I put the eggs in the hatcher. You would think that this would be a clue that the chlorine had not completely dissipated, wouldn't you.

    My point in this thread to warn folks that, while it's important to have a clean incubator/hatcher, it's also important to let it air dry very well before starting another hatch. If there is still sodium hypochlorite in the bator/hatcher, it will still smell like bleach. Once it is completely dissipated, the smell will be completely gone. (At least that what the scientific article that I read said [​IMG] )

    I did a search of scientific articles and found out that a.) some plastics do absorb chlorine and b.) that the standard operating procedure for hatcheries is to clean and fumigate a minimum of 96 hours prior to the next hatch. It will eventually dissipate from the plastic but needs time. Oxygen will neutralize/chelate chlorine but it just take a little longer. You can also use fish tank dechlorinator.

    A.T....yes, the oxine is still like bleach but the chlorine dioxide has been proven safer for the birds. Oxine is primarily used in the food service industry because of it's bacteriostatic properties AND safety.

    I'll repost after this current hatch that is due Friday. I decided not to take a chance on the hatcher and left them in the incubator to hatch this time!
  9. ranit

    ranit Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 14, 2010
    I always use a bleach solution to clean my incubators & hatcher. I don't even measure - just pour some bleach in a bucket and add some water. Never rinse it but I do let it run for about 10-15 minutes with the door open to dry it out before adding any eggs.
  10. flgardengirl

    flgardengirl Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 2, 2009
    Sunny side up :)
    I use bleach as well but I do rinse with hot water very well after the bleach. I usually let sit open for several days before using. I would be interested to see what happens with your next hatch and if there is marked improvement in your hatch rate. Please let us know. It is useful information [​IMG]

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