Dry Incubation

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by cgmccary, Apr 2, 2008.

  1. cgmccary

    cgmccary Songster

    Sep 14, 2007
    NE Alabama
    I thought the following worth sharing (let me know what you think):

    BY Bill Worrell

    As a student of poultry at age 14, I became fascinated with the breeding and hatching of eggs. Even when I only raised mixed up chickens and ducks I was always trying to find ways to incubate eggs. I started my poultry career with a few Araucanas and a few White Jersey Giant hens. My challenge became to find a way to get them to become broody. I never did. So I started trying to figure out how to make an incubator. I tried everything you can think of and nothing seemed to work.

    A few months later an old friend of mine told me he had an old redwood incubator that hadn’t been used for 15 years or longer. I asked what he wanted for it. He replied that he’d like to have my car stereo. So I went out to the car and took it out and swapped it even. Man what a deal I thought. This thing was huge to me. It was 4 feet long, 2 feet wide and 3 feet tall. No egg turner and it had a water pan in it that had more holes in it than a sifter. I brought it home on my dads old pick-up truck and cleaned it up

    . I plugged it in and decided it would probably need some work before I trusted it enough to leave it alone much less hatch in it. Well, to make a long story short, I did fix it up and got it working. Then placed it in my bedroom, much to my parents dismay. Man I was in the hatchery business. I hatched every egg I could find. Tried everything imaginable from ducks to geese, from chickens to guineas, from quail to wild turkeys. I had some success but mostly failure.

    I had no understanding of how a bird develops in the egg, knew nothing about humidity, heck I didn’t even know about turning eggs in the Incubator. I just knew it was fun to see baby chicks come out of the shell. Still today I love to hatch. The next year later I added my first Hova-Bator from GQF. Reading the directions I found out for the first time about how to add water and the importance of turning eggs. For the first time I had a thermometer and I learned what a thermostat wafer was. Boy was I excited.

    I started to incubate in conventional ways of adding water and turning the eggs, keeping the temperature at 99.5 degrees, and candling. I had good success but never hatched better than 60% and that was on rare occasions. Still I thought that was great. I had a few friends bring their eggs to me and ask me to hatch them for them. So I started a little enterprise at age 15 doing custom hatching for $1.00 per dozen. That first year with my new incubator and my old redwood incubator I incubated over 750 eggs. But all along I never realized how these hatcheries got 90-95% hatches. That was until a few years later. I met an older gentleman who asked me how I was hatching my eggs. I told him this story and explained that I could never get the hatch rate above 60%. He then replied, “Have you ever heard of Dry Incubation?”

    I said I hadn’t. Then he explained what I am about to tell you. He said, “Bill, you need to stop adding water to your incubator.” I said to myself, yeah right. That don’t sound like any way of incubating I ever heard of. But I listened intently. This man changed my incubation practices forever. I took the info he gave me and experimented with it. And soon my hatch rate went to 70%, then 80%, then 90% and has even been 100% on several occasions.
    I now use it exclusively. I now incubate fewer eggs each year and have more chicks that I did when I was incubating several hundred each year for myself, though most of what I hatch today is for other people. At one time I was hatching over 1,000 eggs per month and sometimes 1,000 per week for other people. So this is not theory. I still use it today and will never go back.

    Here is how it works: First, you have to remember a few things. An egg must lose approximately 11% of its weight during the incubation cycle. That is, it has to have some evaporation of the contents of the egg itself in order for the chick to have room inside of the egg to develop and still have room to turn in the egg so it can spin around and hatch. Where most folks go wrong is they add water to the incubator and cause the humidity to increase to levels that hinder the evaporation process.

    This causes the chick to grow too large inside the egg. The chick will pip the shell on day 21 and never go any farther. Have you ever wondered why this happens? I sure did. Second, the closer you can get to the proper temperature and keep it there the better. That is, keep your incubator in a room that the temperature doesn’t fluctuate drastically. My old redwood incubator will hold heat in a room where the temp doesn’t fluctuate more than 20 degrees. My Hova-Bators aren’t near that good.

    They need to be in an area where the temp is close to the same within 10 degrees or so. I recommend that placement be in a room that doesn’t get direct sunlight in any windows. If you have central air or heat, you can leave the doors open and the vents open. This will make the whole house one constant temp. Lastly, start with good eggs. I never set odd shaped eggs or eggs that are too large or too small. They must have good shell quality and be from healthy birds. I recommend you feed a well balanced diet to your birds including Kelp, and D.E. as a de-wormer. I also recommend that you supply dried garlic to help with overall health.

    I have information about overall health of chickens on another page in this site. Use it. It can only help. I also would advise you to gather eggs often in extreme weather and store them in an environment that is around 40-50% humidity and also the temp is below 70 degrees. And finally, set your eggs each week or 10 days maximum. I usually set mine every week on Sunday’s. This is what works for me. Now that you have your room set up, I would plug in the incubator and add no water. Allow the incubator to stabilize for a minimum of 48 hours to be sure it is at 99.5 for forced air(fan installed) or 101 for still air(no fan).

    While it is stabilizing, get a room hygrometer(instrument that measures humidity) and place it in the room. Bring the humidity level in the room up to between 50%-75% preferably 50%. If you live in a humid environment, you may actually need to dehumidify your room. But nevertheless, if you keep the humidity at 50% or close to it, you will do great. By controlling the room humidity, you can be more precise with your moisture in the incubator. Since your incubator gets its air from the room, it will have the correct humidity. If the humidity in the room drops to 40% don’t get concerned. The eggs themselves will supply some of the humidity needed inside the incubator.
    Higher humidity is worse that lower humidity as higher humidity hinders evaporation. By the way, if you are using a styrofoam incubator, make sure the red plugs are in the vent holes. Dry air allows you to also be more precise in the control of temperature as well. After 48 hours of stable temps in the incubator and stable humidity in the room, you are ready to place eggs in the incubator. I use turners as they allow me to incubate the eggs without having to open it up 2 or 3 times a day. Place your eggs in a turner with the big end up. Close the incubator and forget about it for 7 days.

    On day 7, open the incubator and candle your eggs with a good candler. Throw away all the clear eggs as they will soon rot and could explode inside the incubator causing loss of the healthy eggs. Be very gently when handling these eggs, as the tiny embryos are very fragile at this stage in incubation. After the first candling, close the incubator and forget it for another 7 days. On day 14, open the incubator and candle the eggs again with your candler. Look for a real dark mass inside the egg and a small clear cell at the big end of the egg. This is the air cell. This is where the chick poke through first to get its first breath of air. If you were using the conventional means of incubation and had the humidity too high for these 14 days, your chick might encounter a good amount of water here. This could and often does drown your new chick before it even has a chance to pip the shell. If you see any eggs with large amounts of clear spots in them, compare them to the others and if they are very different, discard the eggs that have big clear patches in them

    . These embryos may have died for various reasons while developing. After you candle them, put the lid back on the incubator and forget about it until day 18. On day 18, open the incubator and add a very small amount of water to one of the water channels in the bottom of the incubator. If you notice the humidity in the room is above 65% add only a tablespoon of water or two. If your room humidity is below 65% add about ½ of the channel full of water. Remove the eggs from the turner and lay them flat on their sides. Try to allow a little room between them. Then close the incubator and follow the next direction very closely.

    DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, OPEN THE INCUBATOR FOR 5 FULL DAYS. Hate to shout at you but this last 5 days will make or break your hatch. I get a little aggravated when people will go through all the previous steps and then it gets down to the moment, and they can’t resist opening the incubator. Every time you open the incubator, you release valuable moisture out of the incubator and allow dry air in. This is what causes chicks to stick to their shell membranes.

    All you will have to do is lose a few chicks to this and you will change your habits. This means don’t open the incubator until day 23. On day 23 the chicks will be ready to take out of the incubator and placed in the brooder area. Make sure you have water ready and chick starter in low feeders ready for them in the brooder box. When you take a chick out of the incubator, dunk his beak in the water and make sure he gets a drink. Do this for all of them. Make sure they have a source of warmth,(ie a heat lamp, light bulb, brooder, etc).

    I recommend you have 2 incubators. One for an incubator and one for a hatcher. This will help if you have several different hatch dates in one incubator. On day 18 place the eggs over into the hatcher incubator. Then add water and you’re good to go."
  2. M@M@2four

    [email protected]@2four Songster

    Mar 12, 2008
    THANK YOU! THANK YOU!!! THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have been having MAJOR incubation problems with low hatch rates and did all the wrong things you described! lol Okay--I'm going to try your method and get back to you!!! Pure genious!!! [​IMG]
    God bless,
  3. jackiedon

    jackiedon Songster

    Jun 4, 2007
    Central Arkansas
    I tried it after reading about it last year and I had great success. I just wish the guy was available to ask questions.

  4. cgmccary

    cgmccary Songster

    Sep 14, 2007
    NE Alabama
    Does anyone know his website or whether he has one?
  5. coffeemama

    coffeemama Barista Queen

    Mar 5, 2008
    That is interesting for sure. I think I would go crazy trying to get my whole room humidity steady. I would like to read more about it if anyone has info.
  6. twigg

    twigg Cooped up

    Mar 2, 2008
    Quote:This article dos NOT describe *Dry Incubating* I any event, the term is a misnomer.

    He is very clear about the 11% weight loss the eggs need by day 18, and that is good, solid theory.

    What he is doing is using a humidity controlled room. He correctly sets the room humidity around 50% because when the air is heated another 20F the RH will fall to about the righ level. It is very possible that previously he got lucky (cos he may be in an area where the ambient RH is correct), and that adding water pushed it too high.

    What this article is saying is that achieving 40 to 45% humidity in the incubator for 18 days will give generally the correct weight loss, and it really doesn't matter if you do this by controlling the room humidity OR the incubator humidity.

    Either will work.
    1 person likes this.
  7. cgmccary

    cgmccary Songster

    Sep 14, 2007
    NE Alabama
    Despite other's observations & popular belief, I have not noticed that the room humidity has much to do with my incubator's humidity: for instance, today, I noticed that the room was 70% but the incubator only about 48%. What makes a difference in my incubator's humidity is how much water, if any, I have put in the tray in the incubator-- just what I have observed.
  8. twigg

    twigg Cooped up

    Mar 2, 2008
    Quote:I need to open a Thread that explains RH [​IMG]

    Room humidity has EVERYTHING to do with your incubator humidity. In fact, if your room humidity is at 70%, you can prolly run your incubator dry.
  9. MsMcChick

    MsMcChick Songster

    Oct 3, 2007
    This is a most interesting theory. I would also like some more info if ya'll wanna share! I do ok with my big 'bator (3rd or 4th hand from a hatchery), but my little styrafoam one's are murder, literally!
    The big one i put a brownie tray in and fill once every couple days, and has a sponge in it. It did ok last year with a 70% rate (which was great compared to the foam one), and just as good as the homemade one i had from years back. I would LOVE to boast about a 90 or more % rate though!
    The big one resembles a Sportsman, but i am suspecting it's homemade. It has 2 fans at top, where the water sits, it has 3 levels that have 3 each trays in it (holds like 360 chicken eggs), and room for a hatching tray in the bottom (i cheat and use card board box bottoms from our local market, they fit right nice), a turner and 2 thermometers.
    Last year i considered putting in a 2nd water tray, but now i'm rethinking that one. Anyone got anything to add to this 'too good to be true' theory?

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