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Helping with Hatching

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by Steph Martin, May 7, 2011.

  1. Steph Martin

    Steph Martin In the Brooder

    May 7, 2011
    Nova Scotia Canada
    Good Morning! I am new to the game of incubation. I have several eggs in an incubator and, although they aren't set to hatch yet, I was wondering if it is alright to help out a chick once they pip. Years ago, as a child, I incubated duck eggs and once they pipped, my mentor and I helped them out by peeling off the shells. I've heard that you shouldn't do this with chickens. I really don't want them to die inside the shells but I don't want to do anything wrong either. I don't like playing God so I need some help beforehand with this dilema.
    Thank you in advance!


  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    [​IMG] Welcome to the forum! [​IMG] Glad you joined us! [​IMG]

    That is a good question. When do you hellp them out? I don't have experience with ducks, so I cannot compare ducks and chickens. I'll just talk about chickens. I'll discuss humidity first since that seems to be a huge part of helping or not.

    During the forst 18 days of incubation, the egg needs to lose a certain amount of moisture. Too much and the chick can die or have serious problems. Too little, and the chicken can have problems or die. The same percent humidity does not work for all of us. There are too many different factors at work. There are a lot of different threads on this. Books could be written on this alone. My suggestion on that part is to follow the manufacturer's recommendations the first time, analyze your hatches, and adjust as necessary for later hatches.

    But after about 18 days, this changes. The egg has already lost what moisture it needs to lose. After 18 days of incubation, you go into what is called lockdown. You increase the humidity and leave the incubator closed. The reason for this that if the humidity drops, the membrane inside the egg can dry out and shrink to the chick or stick to the chick so much that the chick cannot hatch. This is especially risky after the chick has pipped. This does not happen each and every time the incubator is opened, but it does happen. If you open the incubator to help a chick, you risk shrink-wrapping other chicks. I've opened the incubator before to deal with something and I wound up shrink-wrapping another chick. It was only one. Others that had pipped did fine. I do what I need to do, but there is a risk to consider.

    There may be a lot going on inside the egg after pip and before hatch is complete. Some zip pretty quickly after they pip, but some take a very long time. During the hatching process, the chick has to absorb the yolk, the blood vessels exterior to the chick inside the shell have to dry up, and who knows what other processes go on. The chick is not just resting after pip and before zip. Sometimes a lot of this happens after the internal pip and before the external pip, but sometimes the majority of this happens after the external pip. Occasionally a chick will completely zip and hatch before totally finishing these processes. Many of these do live. But if you help a chick before it has finished these processes, you take avery high risk that you will kill the chick. And there is so much variation in how the individual egg handles this that it is extremely difficult to tell what stage the chick is actually in.

    There are a lot of things other than humidity that can cause a chick to pip and not complete the hatching process. Most of these are things that means the chick is not meant to live. There is something basically wrong with the chick so that it cannot live, even if you help. When you deal with living animals, you sometimes have to deal with dead animals.

    So, when do you help? That is a real hard call. We have different tolerances, but for me, the only time I help is when there is no other hope and I caused it by opening the incubator too early. I try very hard to provide the right conditions and let nature take its course. My goals are different than some people. I raise my own replacement chickens for the most part. I do not want a chicken that genetically has a hard time hatching in my flock so I am a more ruthless than some people.

    Hope this helps a bit and again, [​IMG]

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