Dry Incubation... my experience...

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by beebiz, Oct 9, 2007.

  1. beebiz

    beebiz Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jul 2, 2007
    W. Tennessee
    I have two incubators; a Hovabator and a Little Giant. Both are still air, foam incubators. In the past, I have incubated eggs in them, followed the included instructions "to a T," yet had rather poor results. The best results that I have ever had was about 20% hatch from eggs that were 100% fertile. I normally average around 10% to 15%. Not good.... not good at all!!!

    I've described my problems over and over to those who have more experienced with egg incubating than what I have. I was virtually always told that it sounded like a moisture or humidity problem... a lack thereof. I even tried (at the advice of one of the "experts") lightly spraying the eggs with a spray bottle; beginning it on the day that I stopped turning the eggs. No good..... no good at all!!!!!

    Then, I read the article by Bill Worrell which is entitled "Dry Incubation." The article is viewable on the Backyardchicken site here: Dry Incubation by Bill Worrell. I feel this article to be a "must read" for those of us who incubate our own eggs. And, especially for those of us who use the small foam incubators.

    As I read Mr. Worrell's article, I was in awe of the fact that the problems that he had experienced were exactly the same as mine!! We even had very close similarities in failed hatch rates!! I then began telling my wife about Mr. Worrell's article. Less than half way through my "re-telling", it was as though a light "came on" in her eyes. "That's the exact same trouble you've been having", she exclaimed!

    She was excited and could see my excitement as well! I told her that I sure wished that it were not so late in the year (with winter comming on and everything); I'd set a few eggs and try it. She encouraged me to set some of our Mille Fleur eggs anyway. She said that they were a small chicken and it wouldn't be hard to keep them in the house until they got big enough to be outside anyway.

    So, I did it!! And, I followed Mr. Worrell's instructions to the letter. My wife says I am quite the stickler for following instructions to the letter! And, here's what has happened.... so far!

    I put 5 eggs in the incubator the first day. Seven days later, I added 6 more and candled the first 5 eggs. The first 5 were 100% fertile (nothing new about that). Seven days later (14 days from the first 5), I dadded 5 more eggs, re-candled the first 5 and candled the next 6. The second 6 were 100% fertile; still nothing new. When I candled the first 5, the inside of the egg was black; still nothing new. But, what I saw next was new!! In the top of the first 5 eggs, there was a clear spot.... an air pocket.... just as Mr. Worrell said was needed!!

    When I had candled eggs on day 14 in the past, the entire egg would be "black." In other words, the place where the air sack was supposed to be was filled with fluid. And, just as Mr. Worrell concluded, when the chick would break through the membrane into the area where the air sack was supposed to be, the chick would get a gush of fluid instead of air! Therefore, a large percentage of the chicks would drown at this point. And, the ones that did hatch out were soaking wet and very weak.

    But, with these first 5 eggs that I've used the dry method of incubation, all 5 were pipped late last night (I had already taken them out of the egg turner and put them in a second incubator that I am using as a "hatcher/temporary nursery"). And, this morning there were two of them hatched out!! So far, that's a 40% hatch rate... more than double what my best was when following the bator's instructions. And, instead of wet, weak chicks that took 8 to 24 hours to get strong enough to get around well, these guys popped out relatively dry, very strong, and in just a couple of minutes they were running around without any problem!!!

    This experience has made me decide a couple of things. And, they are in concrete!! First, I will never try to hatch any more eggs in my incubators unless I use the dry incubation method. Second, I am going to install a fan in the incubator that has the egg turner. Hopefully that will boost my hatch rate even more.

    As soon as the first 5 have finished hatching, I will let you know what the final hatch rate was. I'll also post some pics of the babies!

    Robert
     
  2. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    That's great! I'm glad you found what works for you. I have let the humidity go down into the 30% range with one hatch and got a better hatch than when it was running 50-55%, but of course, there are so many factors that come into play with shipped eggs, etc. Anyway, it does work for most people to keep the humidity anywhere from 25-50% the first 18 days.
    Tell, me, what was your humidity the last three days?
     
  3. Arklady

    Arklady Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 30, 2007
    Kansas
    I have always used the dry hatch method just because I live near the south and I have about 45% humidity all the time. I have watched our hygrometer for weeks several times a day and found the humidity right about 40 to 45% all the time. So I just quit worrying about the humidity level.

    Some people set eggs at 60% humidity and thats just too high for what I know on hatching. I lost several batches of eggs to high humidity and since going to the dry hatch I have done much better.

    I get about 45% hatch on the chicks.

    If I had 100% I would be in trouble lol...

    Congrats on the hatch improvement!

    Arklady
     
  4. marie_martin

    marie_martin Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 21, 2007
    Grenada, MS
    I have been reading about that as well and find it very interesting. I am having some of the same problems with my hatches. I do end up with pretty good size air cells in mine, but I think there is probably water there or something because they will die in the shell alot of times. But most common for me is to have them pip the shell and then not hatch. I have read that can be a sign of low humidity and the chick sticking to the membrane, so I am totally confused and don't know what to do. I have eggs coming the end of this week. I just don't know.

    Glad you had a better hatch, keep us posted on the rest.

    Marie
     
  5. beebiz

    beebiz Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jul 2, 2007
    W. Tennessee
    Thanks for the congratulations! It saddens me somewhat to learn that I probably drowned most of the chicks that I tried to hatch before. But, I am tickled pink to have learned what the problem was, and to have fixed it!!

    Cynthia, I don't know what the humidity level was during the last three days. I have to blush here and admit something..... I don't own a hygrometer.... yet!!!! To get one was one of the "set in concrete" decisions that I forgot to include in my original post!![​IMG]

    As I said, I don't know for sure what the humidity was during the last three days, but I'm sure it was on the higher side. The eggs were moved from the automatic egg turner in the Little Giant and put in the Hovabator. In the Hovabator, there are two water troughs; one is a large square, and the other is a long, slender trough. I put 1/2 cup of water in the one that is the long, slender trough. About 4 hours after I put the eggs in the Hovabator, I checked it and found condensation on both of the square windows. I removed one of the red, plastic plugs, and checked it again in about 4 hours. Since the condensation was gone, I left it alone.

    I figured that the moisture level must have been about right though; since none of the chicks had their shells stuck to them. But, since I will be adding a fan to the incubator with the turner in it, and I really want to take as much guess work out of the equation as I can, I intend to get a hygrometer for each incubator!

    You are soooo right about so many things comming into play with shipped eggs.... humidity, handling, length of time since they were laid, fertility issues, parent's ages, and so on. That's why I consider my "test" to be accurate for my circumstances. These eggs came from my hen and rooster. Both are less than 2 years old. I stored the eggs properly after gathering them. I put them into the incubator on the 7th day after the first one was collected. And, I compared the hatch rate of these eggs to the hatch rate of eggs that I have gotten in the past from friends who are local to me and who handle their "hatching" eggs the same way that I do. So, I feel that I have made a "apples to apples" comparison rather than a "apples to grapes" comparison!

    Robert
     
  6. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    Absolutely you are right about apples to apples comparison. I know that many have used dry incubation successfully. I have been trying to resist adding water in this batch of chicks till it drops below 40%, mainly because of that success. So glad you found a good system for you and I hope soon you'll have that 80-100% hatch everyone shoots for. (BTW, that hatch I referred to where I kept my humidity slighly lower than usual was an 88% hatch with shipped eggs)
     
  7. jimnjay

    jimnjay Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 11, 2007
    Bryant Alabama
    I am so happy you discovered a better way to incubator your eggs. The dry method works very well in humid climates. In W. TN you may want to monitor it in the winter. It gets very dry here in East Alabama during the winter and spring and incubating is a whole different ball game. No matter which method works best for you, having a hygrometer and keeping good notes is invaluable for improving your hatch rate.

    It is very important to candle during the process. One of the things we look for is air cell development. That tells you better than anything else how your hatch is going. Do you have the graph on idea air cell size? If not let me know and I will email it to you. When air cell development is off you can often make necessary adjustments before hatch date and eleminate problems.

    It must be very exciting to finally have lots of chicks hatching after the long wait.
     
  8. siz8003

    siz8003 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 31, 2007
    Fitz.,NH
    Quote:I will take that graph My chicks should hatch on thrs. [​IMG]
     
  9. beebiz

    beebiz Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jul 2, 2007
    W. Tennessee
    Quote:Marie, I can't tell you what to do with your new eggs. But, I used to have lots of trouble with the chicks pipping and dying in the shell. And, I too was told that it was a sign of low humidity. One of the people who told me that was one of the ones who suggested spraying the eggs with a water bottle. That only made things worse. As I told you, I can't tell you what to do with your new eggs. But, if they were mine, I'd sure try the dry incubation method!

    Good luck with them!!

    Speckledhen, 88% hatch.... with shipped eggs.... all I can say is DANG!!! YOU GO GIRL!!!!!!!!!!! And, as for me evering having a 80% to 100% hatch.... I'm afraid that with my luck, all I can do is wish!! But, I'll keep my fingers crossed!!

    Quote:During previous hatches, I candled the eggs frequently. But, during this hatch I followed Mr. Worrell's recommendations. I only candled them on day 7 and on day 14. I am unfamiliar with the graph of which you speak. Because of that, I don't know how it will incorporate with Mr. Worrell's instructions for dry incubation. But, I would like to take a look at it. You are welcome to email it to me at beebiz(at sign)charter(dot like a period)net. I spell it out like that to help keep down on "junk" emails that are sometimes generated by a publicly listed addy!

    And, as far as keeping notes goes, I try to keep very good notes. Having bred dogs and pigs (not to each other, so don't go there!![​IMG]) in years past, I learned the hard way that the only way to get a good look at the overall picture and see where you are succeeding and where you are failing is to keep good notes..... and look at them!!!

    Thanks to all of you for your words of congratulations, encouragement, and advise.

    Robert
     
  10. jimnjay

    jimnjay Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jan 11, 2007
    Bryant Alabama
    [​IMG]
    I have found this graph to be invaluable when candling. I hope it help those of you who are just starting and don't know what to look for.

    BeeBiz, All things being equal, Air Cell development should be consistant with this graph no matter what method you use. It is all about proper evaporation within the egg and they need the air to finish the hatch after pipping the internal membrane. Good Luck.
     

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