frustrated as heck

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by JCAS, Mar 25, 2018.

  1. JCAS

    JCAS In the Brooder

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    I apologize if this is a bit long...

    I have been hatching eggs in incubators for 7 or 8 years, on and off. My first attempts were in a Styrofoam still air incubator, eggs hand turned. I had consistent 70% success rates with geese, ducks, and chickens. I graduated to a forced air Styrofoam incubator (Hovabator) with an auto turner and had similar results most of the time. I used the factory settings and instructions for humidity (45-55% until settling, then 55-65%). The temps fluctuated, but stayed within the 99-101 degree range.

    Then 2018 arrived. I am hatching from a free range flock of mostly Marans Hens and the same Marans roo I used last year with good results. Some of the hens are his daughters. They range on the same untreated pastures and eat the same whole grains (organic peas, corn, triticale, wheat, sunflower) and organic supplements as last year (I make my feed based on Harvey Ussery's recipes). Everything is non-GMO and organic. I used the same Hovabator, same humidity levels. The first hatch in Feb was 66% with several dead chicks in the unhatched eggs. Some eggs were undeveloped (not fertile?). The following hatches got worse and worse, down to 25% with many undeveloped eggs and several with chicks in late development. Some pipped, even zipped, but never made it out without help. Some were shrink wrapped. Some pipped and then quit. I help them out and they were shrink wrapped.

    I did a lot of research, including on this forum. I got a lot of conflicting information: incubation humidity is too low or too high, hatching humidity is too low or too high. I experimented with humidity levels from 40-60% for incubation (air cells seemed normal size at 7 and 14 days at any level) and going as high as 70% (using sponges) for hatching, and still getting shrink wraps. I checked humidity levels and temps with secondary devices, even bought two new incubators (both Little Giant) with forced air and auto turners. The temp seems to be in normal parameters in both. Same results, possibly getting worse. The hatch just finishing now was a little better (10 out of 30) but I had one chick hatch rigid and one hatch with no yolk absorption and died.

    One problem I was having early on was that early hatchers were rolling pipped eggs and preventing them from hatching. I solved that by settling the eggs into plastic 30 count egg trays, which worked great.

    I am getting a wide range of hatch times, 19-23 days, where they hit almost exactly 21 days (for chicks) in previous years. I crack the non-hatching eggs later and find chicks that are in the air cell but dead. Some are well developed but dead. Some died halfway. Still about 50% are undeveloped at all. (I find that candling Marans eggs for early blood vessel development is unreliable because of the dark shells)

    Yesterday I had a batch of eggs hatch under a hen, using Ameraucana and olive eggs from the same flock. 7 of 9 eggs hatched. The eggs I am hatching in the incubators are the Marans, so there is more than one variable there. I have a batch of Marans eggs under a hen now, due in two weeks, just to see what happens.

    So what am I missing? The parameters that worked before no longer work. Changes aren't working. Is there something wrong with my breeding birds? They all appear healthy. The chicks that hatch successfully grow up well.
     
    penny1960 likes this.
  2. Tiana's chickens

    Tiana's chickens Songster

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    Problem with the incubator maybe?
     
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  3. Tiana's chickens

    Tiana's chickens Songster

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    Or could it possibly be because of the inbreeding?
     
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  4. JCAS

    JCAS In the Brooder

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    Mar 25, 2018
    After getting the same results with four different incubators, and having has good results previously with two of them, I am confident I can rule out defective incubators.
     
  5. JCAS

    JCAS In the Brooder

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    I did consider that. However, the rooster is not of my breeding and is totally unrelated to the hens I bred him to last year. They even came from different ends of the continent. I know that father/daughter matings are not considered very risky in domestic animals generally, if their ancestry is not already closely related. My understanding with poultry is that they can handle quite a bit of inbreeding before serious negative traits begin to arise. However, I do not know the genetics of the rooster I purchased - perhaps he carries some weird gene that causes embryo death? I can't find any information on the internet that discusses such a thing, but that doesn't mean it can't exist. Having eliminated a lot of variables by trying different parameters for incubation and even different incubators, I am leaning toward something amiss with my flock - but I don't know if it is genetic or cultural. To that end I am not breeding this rooster again, I suppose I"ll have to invite him to dinner (which is a shame because I spent a bit of money to acquire him). I have his son, who I will breed to some pullets I purchased elsewhere, and also an unrelated cockerel I will try with my existing hens when he is old enough later this year.
     
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  6. Tiana's chickens

    Tiana's chickens Songster

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    Hopefully that will help. I'm not sure where you live but could it possibly be partly due to the season? Fertility declines in colder weather I'm pretty sure
     
    ChickNanny13 likes this.
  7. feedman77

    feedman77 Crowing

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    Your range of hatch days from 19 to 23 days. Sounds like incubator had hot and cold spots. Does this seem more prevelant In the LG incubators. Watch the plastic sheet the temp probe it is attached too. It will move and change heat reading.

    Are all incubators disinfected well after hatch.

    I think I remember a thread on here about Marian eggs being a little more difficult to incubate. Mainly dealt with humidity.

    If he got 7 of 9 say it's incubator related some way.
     
    Tiana's chickens likes this.
  8. Harmony Fowl

    Harmony Fowl Songster

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    I thought the same thing. That was my problem when I had such a wide range of hatch days. Have you tried rotating the eggs through the warmer spots in the incubator? This proved to be essential for my still air incubator, even when I added a fan. I had worsening hatches, 12/24, 16/36, then 4/41. I was asking too many eggs to share too little heat and the result was a lot of weak chicks that never hatched or died trying. I put a limit on what I put in the incubator, I tried 17 and but for one infertile egg and one cracked, oozing egg, the others all hatched healthy and within 24 hours of one another. Now I’m trying an even two dozen to see if it can handle that many, still rotating by row and within each row at each turning time.
     
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  9. JCAS

    JCAS In the Brooder

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    Thanks, folks for your comments.

    I am using forced air incubators (two are brand new) so I would not think that the heat is very uneven. The room they are in stays around the upper 60's all day and night. The best hatches I have had were in my old still air incubator, with hand turning, but it got old and the thermostat became unreliable so I stopped using it. My incubators also all have auto turners so I do not open the incubators except to add water occasionally. The LG incubators seem to keep the humidity steady longer than the Hovabator does. And yes, I scrub an sterilize the incubators and hatching tray before use.

    I just cracked out the 20 eggs that didn't hatch in this batch (10 did hatch, one chick was rigid and I put it down and one did not absorb any yolk and died quickly after hatching). Of those 20 eggs 9 were in some stage of development, all with feathers, most full term, two that were in the ari cell but not pipped. All were dead.

    The comment about a full incubator may have some merit. The last good hatch I've had (the first one this year) was 20 eggs with 13 hatching. All the others afterward were 28 to 41 eggs. Again, all were in an auto turner with a capacity of 41 or 42 eggs. When I have fewer eggs I concentrate them in the center, closest to the heat source and gauges.

    I would love to see the information mentioned about Marans eggs being difficult. One of my hens hatched 7 of 9 EE & OE eggs yesterday, same living conditions and same rooster dad. These eggs were from older hens, and are large and, while not thin shelled, are not as thick at the Marans egg shells. Some of my young Marans lay eggs that have very thick shells, at least on the eggs I eat. But how would that explain chicks dying just before hatch not even trying to pip? (scratching my head here.)

    I am anxious to see what happens under my broody sitting on 9 Marans eggs now, to compare results. If I get brave enough to try an incubator hatch again, I'll try a small batch and move the eggs around periodically. Wouldn't it be great if it was as simple as that! In the mean time I am thankful that Marans are great broodies.
     
  10. oregonkat

    oregonkat Crowing

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    I cannot answer the question about why your chicks are dying in the shell but I hatch BCM eggs quite often, mostly from shipped eggs but when I do hatch my own they hatch just fine along with everyone else of different breeds. There are folks who lightly sand their BCM eggs above the air cell to thin the shell a bit but I think this just sets you up for an invasion of bacteria but to each their own. I keep my humidity around 40% for the first 18 days and then I do NOT increase the humidity after lockdown until I see the first pip, then it goes up into the 60 - 75% range.

    I am sorry for your frustration, it is such a disappointment when they fail to progress after fully developing. Of those 20 eggs that you cracked, did you notice if the air cells were particularly small?
     

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