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Duck Egg Hatching and Humidity

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by CrunchyDoc, Feb 7, 2013.

  1. 60%

    4 vote(s)
  2. 65%

    1 vote(s)
  3. 70%

    0 vote(s)
  4. 75%

    0 vote(s)
  5. 80%

    0 vote(s)
  6. >80%

    1 vote(s)
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. CrunchyDoc

    CrunchyDoc Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 7, 2012
    Trenton, SC
    What: description of my duck hatching efforts and the critical humidity consideration
    Why: because I've learned some things the hard way and I don't want others to suffer the losses I have
    When: December 2012 and January 2013
    Where: South Carolina
    Who: Family Medicine physician by day, mother, wife and hobby farmer by night.

    I originally purchased a Hovabator Genesis 1588 https://www.gqfmfg.com/store/comersus_viewItem.asp?idProduct=77#
    with automatic egg turner for its presumed low level of intervention. Of note, the instructions specify only to operate it between the humidity 55-65% which is pretty narrow.

    Round 1
    The maiden voyage involved 15 white and green eggs from mixed flock of Ancona and Cayuga ducks in Washington State. The eggs arrived at my home day three of shipping, all intact air cells. Warmed to room temp with pointed ends down for 12 hours and then sat them at 99.5 F and 55% humidity.

    Of note, I quickly learned that opening the incubator was a bad idea and by day 16 had invented a way to fill with water without opening the incubator. My humidity fluctuated a lot though throughout ranging from 32% up to 65% until my invention.

    At candling days 10 and then 14, I only had a 60% fertility rate which I verified by cracking open the eggs to be sure (9/15). Of those nine eggs, three died in early development which I'm convinced is related to the eggs being very dirty from the seller. There were spots on the inside of their membranes that looked like a bacterial infection that had come through the pores into the egg.

    Six made it to "full term" and were alive on day 25 at lock down. Humidity turned up to 65%. Of the three that hatched two made it out without help but the third's membrane was like parchment and he couldn't tear it despite incubator being at its maximum humidity of 65%. I soaked the shell with normal saline twice to rehydrate his membrane and he finally tore through and made it out. The other three never pipped, but rocked and cried and finally died. When I opened the eggs at the end of everything. I had three fully developed ducklings that just didn't pip. I wasn't sure why.

    Round 2
    Started with 12 Ancona eggs from Tennessee. Arrived in my home on shipping day 2. Rested eggs at room temp for 8 hours, pointed side down (had a road trip to make). Set in incubator at 55% humidity, 99.5 F. Due to my new method of keeping humidity up, humidity stayed stable throughout entire incubation period.

    On day 10 I candled and found 11/12 fertile and living. Kept things stable. Day 25, all 11 were alive, "full-term". I was so excited! Lock down for hatch at maximum humidity of 65%. Day 26 and 27 pipping began. First one was out on pm of Day 27, all the eggs were rocking, crying, trying to pip. A total of 5 more pipped but they seemed to be getting worn out by day 29, they were all still stuck. 4 eggs had stopped chirping, the others weren't making any progress. I had 1 duckling and 10 eggs that weren't hatching.

    On day 30, fortunately my husband noted my distress and took it on himself to scientifically analyze the problem. His conclusion was that the humidity was still not high enough, as I had suspected. I am a strong believer in natural selection so I hadn't wanted to interfere. If they couldn't get it out, they weren't intended to reproduce. But then he pointed out that this wasn't the ducklings bad genetics, it was operator error. I needed at least 75% humidity to hatch duck eggs and I didn't have it. The light bulb flashed and I realized that they were all trapped because my humidity wasn't high enough. It was my fault they didn't have sufficient moisture but I was following my incubator instructions!

    The incubator instructions clearly said "do not run above 65% humidity" but didn't say why.

    We proceeded to wet all the eggs thoroughly and put a warm wet towel under the eggs inside the incubator. The humidity rose to 75-80% The eggs that had pipped already after that made it out in the next 48 hours (day 32 was the last hatchling).

    However, the electronics in the hovabator didn't like that high humidity and started going haywire. One time I came in to find it had reset itself to a target temperature of 103.2. I turned it off and back on again several times to get it working normal again. I'm just thankful our intervention with the increased humidity was a weekend. Otherwise I would have lost them all to slow baking at high temperatures due to electronics not being able to deal with the high humidity level while I was at work. Another time it wasn't reading the temperature at all. I don't know for sure about temperatures the last two days of hatching but they weren't constant.

    The remaining five eggs never pipped. I suspect four were already dead by the time our intervention happened since they had become quiet to tip us off something was wrong. The fifth must have just been too exhausted. I ended up with 6 hatched and 5 dead fully developed ducklings.

    At the end of all this, I have two very important conclusions, duck eggs must have high humidity to hatch and the Hovabator Genesis 1588 with its current electronics cannot handle sufficiently high humidity to hatch duck eggs.

    Anyone have comments or ideas? I do plan to discuss this with the manufacturer but I'm curious what experiences others have had. Thank you!
  2. CrunchyDoc

    CrunchyDoc Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 7, 2012
    Trenton, SC
    Update: I've discussed my humidity concerns with a representative from GQF Manufacturing, makers of the Hovabator (excellent customer service by the way) and they are replacing my top with the electronics that went haywire. He said I should be able to run it at higher humidity but that it will just get condensation between the window layers. That's fine with me, as long as I can count on it to keep the temperature stable while keeping my eggs moist enough. I'm going to start using a second hygrometer just to be on the safe side, can anyone recommend one?
    1 person likes this.
  3. Heidisgran

    Heidisgran Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 30, 2013
    Burleson Texas
    My Coop
    I'm sorry no one replied but I wanted you to know that I benefitted from your post...what I chose to do it purchase a separate incubator for hatching time...that way I can set whatever I want and have accommodations ready for whoever is ready to hatch...I'm new to duck hatching and I've lost 5 out of 12...pray for the others...they aren't as far along as the others were...the person I bought them from set them at staggered times!

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