Chicks Died After Hatching -- What Happened?


10 Years
Jan 16, 2010
This is my first experience trying to hatch out my own eggs. It has been a steep learning curve!

On day 20, two eggs pipped, one on the small end of the egg. The one that was improperly positioned had a fairly good size hole made, so I decided not to open the bator to do anything with it. The second egg just rested until last night. I got up to check on the eggs in the middle of the night, and the second one was completely out of the egg. By this time, I wasn't seeing any more movement out of the first egg. I didn't feel like I should open the incubator to remove it, as now another egg had pipped. When I got up again in the morning, the chick that had already hatched out was dead, and the other chick had hatched out. Not long after that, the second chick that had hatched out died. Seeing no other pips in the remaining eggs, I opened up the lid and removed both dead chicks, the unhatched dead one, and the egg shells. Any idea what caused the chicks to die? My best guess is bacterial infection from the first dead chick that never hatched out. The chicks that did get out of their shells looked fully formed and no yolk or blood on them. They died before they even dried off.

Any thoughts on what went wrong, and how to avoid it in the future? I don't hold out any hope for the remaining eggs still in the incubator, but I will wait a couple of days to be sure (it is just now day 21).
A few things come to mind - one is ventilation. What kind of incubator are you using? Sometimes they don't come with enough "holes" or we leave those little plugs in when they should be out.
Tell me about your temp/humidity levels through the process. Is it possible there was a dip or spike in temp?
Also (thinking out loud here, which can be dangerous :) ) is your incubator new or used? Bacteria can be a problem as well.
Shipped or back yard eggs? This makes a difference with survival as well.
Lastly, sometimes chicks die. They die before they get out, and they die after. But, your case is unusual (too many, I think, to have it be coincidence).
One of the biggest hatching lessons I have learned is to really evaluate every factor when I have a failed hatch (and I've had some whoppers!) - open up eggs that died in shell (DIS) and take a look at them closely, do some research about your incubator and its shortcomings (they all have them, even the spendy ones), and then, don't give up. :hugs
My incubator is a Janoel 12, with a humidikit for humidity. Following the manual instructions, I set the humidity level to 45-50%. Temps stayed constant at 100. Tried candling at 7 and 14 days. Then I read an article on BYC indicating that my air cells were too small, so I went with ambient air humidity which was in the mid 30's range (fairly humid here right now in S. Central Texas) until I heard what sounded like they were internally pipping, which is when I put the humidity back up to 65-70% on the 19th day. When I first tried regulating the humidity manually, I was having a hard time keeping the levels low enough, so I drilled three more air holes in the sides of the incubator, so I don't think ventilation should have been a problem. This was my first time using this incubator, and I wiped it down with bleach water before using. These were eggs from my own hens. Thank you for any thoughts you might have.
That's a hard one. I'm not familiar with that particular incubator. It looks like it may be Australian from what I found online. The design looked pretty basic, it has an automatic turner so turning should not have been a problem. It should work.

My first thought was that they suffocated because or insufficient ventilation, they need fresh air to breathe just like you and me. But you drilled those holes, that probably wasn't it.

I don't think humidity was the problem at least for the ones that made it out. My humidity often runs in the 80% or higher when a bunch hatch out and add their moisture to the incubator. They are a little slow to dry off but they don't die.

Did you calibrate the temperature. The thermometers that come with incubators are notorious for being off. Especially with them hatching as early as they did I suspect your temperature may have been too warm. That would be unusual for that to directly kill them after hatch, but being too warm can cause birth defects. I suggest you confirm the temperature settings before your next hatch if you haven't already.

Did you smell the rotten egg smell? It's pretty horrible. Bacteria can kill developing chicks but they usually don't hatch, they are dead before that. If that is a problem you should be able to smell it. Sterilize the incubator before you use it again, don't set dirty eggs, keep your hands clean when you handle the eggs, and don't wash or sandpaper away the coating the hen puts on the eggs to combat bacteria. That should prevent a bacteria problem.

As long as you are not smelling that rotten egg smell I'd give them another couple of days, you never know. To me the only thing I can think of is the temperature, but it's really unusual for two to die after they make it out, even with the temp being a bit warm.
I calibrated the temperature with a thermometer before setting the eggs. I just wonder if I should have risked opening the incubator to remove the malpositioned one, but it was still alive when I went to bed, and I didn't want to risk opening up and dropping the humidity. Kind of a darned if you do, darned if you don't thing. None of the remaining eggs smell, and I did candle them on day 18. It has me stumped, and pretty bummed. I have no idea what went wrong, and how to correct it for the next time.
Hi. :frow

Sorry your chicks didn't make it. :(

I wonder if you were using your own thermometer and hygrometer or relying on the one in the incubator?

As far as bacterial infection for the hatched chick... I would think it would take longer to set in than right after hatch. :confused: But I have zero experience with bacterial stuff so far.

Did you happen to use sponges or cut up pieces of sponge to help control your humidity? I would think having to drill holes during incubation would indicate stress on said embryos. So that may be relative.

Also, are your hens dual purpose breeds or high production breeds? DP breeds *might* need a little more protein than layer feed provides in order to hatch *more* viable chicks. Which is actually the amino acids in the protein that matters. Making sure to avoid scratch and other low nutrient treats. I guess in other words, make sure nutrition is well balance for the parent stock. One paper outlining different feed need.. Not saying that's it, Just brain storming as well as trying to learn something.

Also, did you happen to move the eggs around in the incubator. There are hotter and cooler spots. So I try to move the egg to a different location in the incubator 1 time every day. This could make a difference on which day they pip. But even doing that sometimes I get early or late pippers.

Lock down is a personal choice on how you proceed. I think some people are fear mongers making you think you'll damage all your hatch or shrink wrap the chicks. Personally, after 2 or more hatch and fluff up I usually remove them to the brooder as they are often bumping and rolling around the other eggs. Have to choose which is best. I'm quick about it. And I also have a water bottle inside the incubator which helps to maintain the temp because it's a large mass. But the hens get off the eggs and leave them for easily 15 minutes so some temp change can't be too harmful.

With everything, there are many different ways to do stuff. When I first started I was hard core "lock down". Now not too much. Not that I think it would have been different. Just sharing that there are no hard rules and do what seems right for you. Every situation might be different.

Don't give up... Hope your next hatch goes awesome! :fl
it is very important not to leave the chicks in the incubator after they hatch for very long just long enough for them to gain some strength and dry off a little bit. Some else said about ventilation that is very important. Also the humidity and high heat combined once the chick hatches is a harsh environment for the chick to be in for longer than just a few hours.
With this being my first hatch, I didn't feel comfortable opening it to try to assist the malpositioned chick. I guess I should have opened it up just long enough to remove the chick that was stuck, but was afraid with one of the other eggs pipped.

Before setting the eggs, I used a separate thermometer to calibrate the thermostat in the incubator. With the ambient humidity in the air being so high, I was having to just add a dropper full of water at a time to keep the levels low enough, getting up every two hours at night to check on them. That is when I went with a Humidikit, which automatically regulates the humidity levels. It has a hydrometer, plus I had another one I put inside the incubator. I kept the humidity levels at the average of these two meters. I drilled an additional three air holes.

The chicks weren't in the incubator long enough to dry off all the way before dying.

The only thing I can think of, is the malpositioned chick infected the incubator with bacteria. How would you have handled it? Would you have removed it while it was still alive, or wait to see what would happen?
I doubt it was the malpo that cause the problem.

I honestly don't know how I will react until in that situation. But I probably would have done the same thing you did. I don't believe they would have made it had you removed them.

My first hatch, had 11 but 2 died within a few days. I believe they had internal problems, maybe digestive that I couldn't detect. 7 out of the 9 remaining ended up being boys and 1 of the 2 girls was taken by a predator around 5-6 weeks My lesson that time was don't count your chicks before the eggs hatch or even after. :(

If I wanted to continue hatching.. I might even consider getting a different incubator that is easier to maintain than the one you are using. :confused: Hovobator 1602N was cheap ($63) and worked VERY well for my seriously lacking hatching skill. I've dumbed it down to the point of not even candling or marking air cells other than verifying development. And just maintaining my temp and humidity where I think they should be depending on what eggs I'm hatching. I screwed up how many times I turned and don't know which nights they were left on the wrong side. Last time for Marans I kept it at 10% for the first 17 ish days and then worked to raise my humidity to 70 ish % for hatch. I knew my temp was warm to start and most all hatched on day 20 with 1 still showing life I chipped away it shell and it stayed alive still 2 more day until I tried to pull its sack and created a little blood on 2 separate occasions. :barnie Worse than that I did not clean my bator between hatches. :oops: Also, per some hands on hatchers, I quit turning at day 14. Had 9 out of 13 eggs hatch and think 3 may have been clears. With the last one being the almost survivor after I chipped away half it's shell, it could have been a malpo. I couldn't tell exactly what I was looking at. It may or may not have hatched if I left it alone. But would have never been included in my breeding program as it clearly for whatever reason was not on par with the rest of the hatch. :old No, I would not remove a life to let it die on my watch. I will give them a chance to hatch as long as I can tell they are alive. But also need to be prepared to possibly cull because if it's born with club foot (saw 2 terrible ones a few weeks old at someones' place they very clearly were not going to live much longer) or something else that will diminish the quality of life or challenge it to the point of basically having a slow death, I'm not OK with that either. So many decisions.. and I'm the major over thinker, imagine every possible scenario. Ugh I hate having to decide what's for dinner even.

Well, two more eggs have pipped. I did open it up and remove the dead chicks and shells, so maybe something will survive. Keep your fingers crossed.



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