How can I know? (assisted hatching + unexpected deaths)

LikeTurkeys

Crowing
Jul 25, 2018
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Southern California
This will be my second death today. I'm sure I have more, but these two were the most unexpected.

#1. The egg externally pipped in the afternoon of day 20 where it should (near the air cell). It began to zip. But then, for some reason, it wasn't getting through the shell. Wing got over it's head maybe? The chick turned halfway around the egg before running out of oxygen.

#2. (this is the one I feel I could have helped) The egg pipped on the evening of day 19 malpositioned (head away from air cell). I knew it would take more time from external pip to zip because he didn't internally pip first. ~28-30 hours later, I was beginning to get concerned when I saw that it was zipping. Okay, that's good right? Should be able to get out? Interestingly, this was the only egg that had liquid coming out of it but the air cell was the same size as the rest when candling day 18 (I'm pretty sure my humidity wasn't too high throughout incubation, I tried to keep it around 35%). At this point, he was about half-way around. So I dabbed some of the liquid away and put him back in the incubator. By now, he had already slowed down on zipping and wasn't making very much progress. (Kind of just pushing up with his beak). He was making 'eating motions', the kind they make when they are still absorbing their yolk sac, so I was afraid to help him out. And I figured, he's already halfway through, he'll manage to push himself out. Nope. I check on him 4 hours later (that is, around now), and he has passed. Opening the egg reveals that the yolk sac was fully absorbed.

So how do I know? Even worse is the number of deaths when the egg hasn't even internally pipped yet. But I thought that once they were zipping they would be okay... Everybody says that you generally shouldn't need to help an egg when it's zipping. And it has plenty of oxygen so why did it die? Couldn't it have waited till I could help (it was the middle of the night after all, now dawn). It can't of course, but I'm lamenting such losses. Maybe I just waited too long and should have helped it as soon as it went past 24 hours without hatching.

The article I read that I found the most helpful was this one: https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/guide-to-assisted-hatching-for-all-poultry.72886/. which is where I got the part about 'eating motions' meaning that the yolk sac isn't fully absorbed.

Feedback is appreciated, thanks.
 

LikeTurkeys

Crowing
Jul 25, 2018
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Southern California
What's your humidity? Sounds like their membranes are to tough/dry.
Humidity during incubation was around 35%, during lockdown 65-90. The membranes never dried out to tannish color or became hard, they were always white/pliable. I actually did successfully assist one of the eggs, he was malpositioned in a weird way (kind of side ways in the egg, and couldn't turn to zip or leverage himself out. I started with a safety hole, after opening the air cell I saw veining so I put him back in the incubator. 4 hours later I helped him (actually a sex-linked her), out of the egg. Perfectly healthy!
 

EggSighted4Life

Crossing the Road
5 Years
Apr 9, 2016
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California's Redwood Coast
Feedback is appreciated, thanks.
Sorry for your frustration. What incubator are you using?

I actually did successfully assist one of the eggs, he was malpositioned in a weird way
I'm gonna say two malpo's indicates incubation problem.. maybe with turning? I haven't YET faced that issue enough to research it. Early pipping might indicate high temperature.

Reason for hatch failure analysis including exactly which day they quit.. starts on page 52 of the following link..
Incubation guide

Here's another..
Hatchability Problem

Your chick #1 did not run out of oxygen or all embryos in the bator would also have died. Why did it die.. because of something internal we can't see or maybe a bacterial infection, not enough nutrients to support organs, any number of reasons. Some breeds even carry lethal genes like tufting a double dose means death, While some have lethal genes that will kill a perfectly good looking chick even at 3 weeks old. I presume you would know if you were hatching any of those breeds though.

So no, everything isn't peaches and cream or worry free once zipping has began or even once the chick has fully hatched.. Some will still fail to thrive. I always hold my breath until I see all the new hatchlings POOPING and DRINKING and connecting with FOOD... and really until about day 4 or 5 when I KNOW they are relying on their own digestive system, intestines, crop, gizzard, all that are working together as they should.

With so many assistings and failures I would also ask a few questions.. if you've calibrated your equipment, how long the eggs were stored before hatching, How is turning being done (sideways or upright, auto or hand), Age of the flock laying them and feeding routine including treats and supplements?

Not being able to turn into position or zip CAN be caused by high humidity not growing the air cell large enough while allowing the chick to grow too large... Just continuing to think on your situation and reason out what it is exactly that might need to be dialed in. Hopefully those links will help you narrow it down! :fl

Happy hatching! :jumpy:jumpy
 

LikeTurkeys

Crowing
Jul 25, 2018
1,156
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Southern California
Sorry for your frustration. What incubator are you using?


I'm gonna say two malpo's indicates incubation problem.. maybe with turning? I haven't YET faced that issue enough to research it. Early pipping might indicate high temperature.

Reason for hatch failure analysis including exactly which day they quit.. starts on page 52 of the following link..
Incubation guide

Here's another..
Hatchability Problem

Your chick #1 did not run out of oxygen or all embryos in the bator would also have died. Why did it die.. because of something internal we can't see or maybe a bacterial infection, not enough nutrients to support organs, any number of reasons. Some breeds even carry lethal genes like tufting a double dose means death, While some have lethal genes that will kill a perfectly good looking chick even at 3 weeks old. I presume you would know if you were hatching any of those breeds though.

So no, everything isn't peaches and cream or worry free once zipping has began or even once the chick has fully hatched.. Some will still fail to thrive. I always hold my breath until I see all the new hatchlings POOPING and DRINKING and connecting with FOOD... and really until about day 4 or 5 when I KNOW they are relying on their own digestive system, intestines, crop, gizzard, all that are working together as they should.

With so many assistings and failures I would also ask a few questions.. if you've calibrated your equipment, how long the eggs were stored before hatching, How is turning being done (sideways or upright, auto or hand), Age of the flock laying them and feeding routine including treats and supplements?

Not being able to turn into position or zip CAN be caused by high humidity not growing the air cell large enough while allowing the chick to grow too large... Just continuing to think on your situation and reason out what it is exactly that might need to be dialed in. Hopefully those links will help you narrow it down! :fl

Happy hatching! :jumpy:jumpy
Thanks so much for responding with such detail! My incubator is a 1588 Genesis Hovabator. Now that the hatch is over, I can provide more information.

I made a hatch log, here is a link to the doc: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1S5jZZCq23y0gM1O1Sf3sOzc1ige61nI-k7LDeXPWRI8/edit?usp=sharing

Some very early deaths and infertilities may not be covered, only the eggs I broke out at the end. And unfortunately, I somehow managed to not candle them all at day 14 which resulted in some mid-term deaths getting missed.

I actually had WAY too many malpositions this time. Out of the 46 eggs that I set, 8 were malpositioned (surprisingly, 7 of those hatched). My turner is a horizontal Incuturn, and I think unfortunately it may have not been working properly during incubation. It was noisy in the beginning, and I thought it was turning properly, but I'm beginning to think it wasn't, at least not under that load. I know high temperatures can cause early pipping, but since most were day 21 I don't think it was that big of a problem.

I know oxygen wasn't a problem because I did have this issue last time and I resolved it with a small aquarium pump for air turnover. Chick #1 was a naked neck and chick #2 was an Easter Egger (but bred to a non muffed bird, so I'm pretty sure the genes wouldn't be lethal).

Only a few of the eggs were older than 7 days, and all of them were 10 or under. Ironically, some of the oldest eggs actually did hatch without any problems. A double yolker I set for fun didn't hatch but that is explainable. Eggs were turned 3 times a day prior to setting.

I had much fewer late-term deaths that were either pipped or not pipped but ready to pip this time than I did last time, I think because of the additional oxygen. But I did have more early/mid term deaths, and some mysterious mid-zip ones.

I will definitely look through those links, thanks!
 

LikeTurkeys

Crowing
Jul 25, 2018
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Age of the flock laying them and feeding routine including treats and supplements?
Forgot to answer this, most of the eggs came from birds around a year old. There were some (e.g. chick #2) that came from a hen almost 2 years old. And there were some that came from pullets around 7 months old (those all hatched though). The flock is fed 20% Purina flock raiser, given in the morning and enough for the whole day (though the feed bowl is empty by morning). Treats could be bits of tomato, lettuce, bread, and other kitchen scraps not exceeding 10% of their diet and done maybe once a week. There are no supplements that I am currently adding other than oyster shell free choice on the side.
 

CanadaEh

Songster
May 31, 2018
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So how do I know? Even worse is the number of deaths when the egg hasn't even internally pipped yet. But I thought that once they were zipping they would be okay... Everybody says that you generally shouldn't need to help an egg when it's zipping. And it has plenty of oxygen so why did it die? Couldn't it have waited till I could help (it was the middle of the night after all, now dawn). It can't of course, but I'm lamenting such losses. Maybe I just waited too long and should have helped it as soon as it went past 24 hours without hatching.
likely because the chick was weak. While I have read many stories how assisted chicks have made perfectly healthy chickens, this was not my experience. Of the 2 really late chicks in our latest fall hatch one have died may be at 3 week old, and another one is still the smallest at 3 months old - will she make a good layer?
 

EggSighted4Life

Crossing the Road
5 Years
Apr 9, 2016
14,342
19,982
832
California's Redwood Coast
I know high temperatures can cause early pipping, but since most were day 21 I don't think it was that big of a problem.
Okay, I didn't review your log yet.. but you gave some great details!

In the Genesis 1588.. I do believe it has hot spots.. specifically in mine closer to the turner motor. So to combat that.. I move all the eggs to a new spot every day or two.. it has significantly tightened my hatch frame reducing early or late hatcher's.

Feed routine sounds spot on. Your fish air pump is complete overkill and even bators without forced air still have plenty of air exchange.. even in my 1602N, I got nearly 100% hatch rate.. with younger crosses.. older age and pure genetics equal slightly more challenges. That being said, high altitude can effect gas exchange but I don't know of any mountains in So Cal that would qualify as high. A little info about oxygen content in our air..
https://www.technology.org/2019/03/30/is-it-true-that-air-is-21-oxygen-for-most-of-us-not-really/

https://sciencing.com/dangers-argon-5443798.html

I think it's fantastic that you came up with an idea to combat what you thought the problem might be though! :highfive:

If air exchange is a problem most people will drill more holes.. That's generally for homemade models though.. I used the Genesis 1588 fully loaded for a whole year (at sea level with plugs removed) and another bator for hatching weekly.. It's a decent bator without any help. I also had an upright turner in that one.. and the upright turner gave me reduced hatch compared to sideways hand turning. Now I'm trying some sideways auto turners. The turner may definitely have contributed to your issues.. so get a good eye on that and verify before your next round. :thumbsup

EE don't have lethal genes as they are bearded and muffed but not tufted. I know those terms get confusing at times, but it sounds like you are in the clear in that regard.. Tufts are only on Araucana as far as I know and there aren't many true Araucana around.

I have both assisted and not assisted hatching.. More often than not I regretted assisting. And since I want my flock to be self sustaining long term, I don't wan't the genetic weakness in my flock.. So I DID assist and make sure they went to another home pet or layer/ non breeding home.. but that doesn't serve my self conscience well. Those that don't hatch still bother me some. Those that hatch and don't make it might bother me more. I decided with the amount of hatching I had going on to make a contact that could use the hatch failures as a food source.. a reptile owner, wildlife rehab, small zoo.. even late term eggs. Early term eggs get boiled or scrambled and fed back to my own animals. I also have 2 feral barn cats that perform rodent services and have also eaten their share of failed chicks.. Ordering from hatcheries, I got some terrible shipments early on. :hmm

The one chick you said had some fluid still while others didn't.. could be the difference in egg shell color.. darker egg will evaporate slower than light eggs. Or possibly the difference of collected the same day as setting verses at the beginning of the week. Ultimately no two eggs are exactly the same and that's why "they" recommend incubating only LIKE eggs together.. same size, color, breed, etc.. And I'm SURE it's true that MAY give the MAXIMUM hatch results.. We MUST work with what we have.. and I've hatched Silkies with Marans and Ameraucana with Swedish Flower.. And the whole lot together and so on.. it's not perfect.. but it's ALL good! Right now I've got Cemani, Silkie, and Ameraucana coming along. :wee

Regarding egg age.. yep, those guidelines are also for maximum hatch. BUT I sat egg that were 2+ weeks old, stored outside, and not turned at all.. and still got 75% hatch. We just dial in our stuff best we can.. Sometimes there will be no rhyme or reason! I'm a little but ocd.. and breed my birds with intent so have narrowed down certain things to an individual hen needing more nutrients (for hatching not laying) despite all others performing acceptably.. also on flock raiser, pasture, minimal treats if any.

One final thought.. Even when I have EVERYTHING dialed in exactly the same each time.. my hatch rate varies!

Of the 2 really late chicks in our latest fall hatch one have died may be at 3 week old, and another one is still the smallest at 3 months old - will she make a good layer?
I wouldn't count on it. For most home keepers, we try to give everything the chance to live.. especially if they are fighters! And I do this, knowing in advance that they will feed my family or pets at worst if need be. Or possibly become semi productive, pretty, therapeutic pets at best. But they have never performed equal to their hatch mates in my experience. :)
 

LikeTurkeys

Crowing
Jul 25, 2018
1,156
2,244
296
Southern California
Okay, I didn't review your log yet.. but you gave some great details!

In the Genesis 1588.. I do believe it has hot spots.. specifically in mine closer to the turner motor. So to combat that.. I move all the eggs to a new spot every day or two.. it has significantly tightened my hatch frame reducing early or late hatcher's.

Feed routine sounds spot on. Your fish air pump is complete overkill and even bators without forced air still have plenty of air exchange.. even in my 1602N, I got nearly 100% hatch rate.. with younger crosses.. older age and pure genetics equal slightly more challenges. That being said, high altitude can effect gas exchange but I don't know of any mountains in So Cal that would qualify as high. A little info about oxygen content in our air..
https://www.technology.org/2019/03/30/is-it-true-that-air-is-21-oxygen-for-most-of-us-not-really/

https://sciencing.com/dangers-argon-5443798.html

I think it's fantastic that you came up with an idea to combat what you thought the problem might be though! :highfive:

If air exchange is a problem most people will drill more holes.. That's generally for homemade models though.. I used the Genesis 1588 fully loaded for a whole year (at sea level with plugs removed) and another bator for hatching weekly.. It's a decent bator without any help. I also had an upright turner in that one.. and the upright turner gave me reduced hatch compared to sideways hand turning. Now I'm trying some sideways auto turners. The turner may definitely have contributed to your issues.. so get a good eye on that and verify before your next round. :thumbsup

EE don't have lethal genes as they are bearded and muffed but not tufted. I know those terms get confusing at times, but it sounds like you are in the clear in that regard.. Tufts are only on Araucana as far as I know and there aren't many true Araucana around.

I have both assisted and not assisted hatching.. More often than not I regretted assisting. And since I want my flock to be self sustaining long term, I don't wan't the genetic weakness in my flock.. So I DID assist and make sure they went to another home pet or layer/ non breeding home.. but that doesn't serve my self conscience well. Those that don't hatch still bother me some. Those that hatch and don't make it might bother me more. I decided with the amount of hatching I had going on to make a contact that could use the hatch failures as a food source.. a reptile owner, wildlife rehab, small zoo.. even late term eggs. Early term eggs get boiled or scrambled and fed back to my own animals. I also have 2 feral barn cats that perform rodent services and have also eaten their share of failed chicks.. Ordering from hatcheries, I got some terrible shipments early on. :hmm

The one chick you said had some fluid still while others didn't.. could be the difference in egg shell color.. darker egg will evaporate slower than light eggs. Or possibly the difference of collected the same day as setting verses at the beginning of the week. Ultimately no two eggs are exactly the same and that's why "they" recommend incubating only LIKE eggs together.. same size, color, breed, etc.. And I'm SURE it's true that MAY give the MAXIMUM hatch results.. We MUST work with what we have.. and I've hatched Silkies with Marans and Ameraucana with Swedish Flower.. And the whole lot together and so on.. it's not perfect.. but it's ALL good! Right now I've got Cemani, Silkie, and Ameraucana coming along. :wee

Regarding egg age.. yep, those guidelines are also for maximum hatch. BUT I sat egg that were 2+ weeks old, stored outside, and not turned at all.. and still got 75% hatch. We just dial in our stuff best we can.. Sometimes there will be no rhyme or reason! I'm a little but ocd.. and breed my birds with intent so have narrowed down certain things to an individual hen needing more nutrients (for hatching not laying) despite all others performing acceptably.. also on flock raiser, pasture, minimal treats if any.

One final thought.. Even when I have EVERYTHING dialed in exactly the same each time.. my hatch rate varies!


I wouldn't count on it. For most home keepers, we try to give everything the chance to live.. especially if they are fighters! And I do this, knowing in advance that they will feed my family or pets at worst if need be. Or possibly become semi productive, pretty, therapeutic pets at best. But they have never performed equal to their hatch mates in my experience. :)
Thanks for the detailed response. I think you are right about the hotspots, and they are probably in the same place too which accounts for those 4 eggs that hatched day 20.

Maybe you're right about the air pump, it probably was overkill, but I did notice a significant decrease in deaths where the chick had fully absorbed his yolk sac but didn't hatch. I am concerned also about excess concentrations of carbon dioxide caused by newly hatched chicks -- an article I read at thepoultrysite seemed especially informative about this. https://www.thepoultrysite.com/articles/air-requirements-during-incubation
With a full incubator it also seemed to be more important -- the more chicks you are hatching the more oxygen they are going to be using and the more carbon dioxide they are going to be outputting into the same relatively small space. (For comparison, my last hatch had 11 deaths where the yolk sac was almost completely or completely absorbed compared to just a mere 2 or 3 this time).

But of course, I am fully aware that it could be another problem, and the fact that you had good hatch rates with the same incubator fully loaded put me a little bit more at ease with regards to that issue.

I try to give every chick a chance at life and I believe that often times it is not a genetic issue but a problem with incubation that causes a chick to have trouble hatching. I did have one chick that was suffering from exencephaly (exposed brain), but he died anyway before I could properly assist. And I would have culled him had he survived.

And of course, there could be genetic issues as well. I had a batch of Marans from a friend of mine where almost every single egg that made it to the end needed assistance of some form or another. It was a batch of eggs that I highly regretted getting, because the resulting birds had a genetic tendency to pendulous crop, weak hearts leading to ascites and slow growth. So I am not discounting that fact either, but once a chick makes it to the end in development and has the chance to live, I would rather have a live chick than a dead one. And even the ones that didn't need assistance had issues... This is where knowing the flock history of where you are getting your eggs from can really help (I didn't think to ask my friend at the time).

Also, while I am prepared to cull, I don't think I have the guts to feed dead chicks back to the animals. Maybe I'm too soft, I don't know. I prefer investigating the cause of death and then burying in the backyard....

Thanks for explaining the differences between muffed & bearded v.s. tufted! And you have a good point about the color difference, I think that is exactly what caused more fluid.

I try to keep the eggs in an ideal environment, but sometimes I set ones that I know aren't ideal for fun. Like that double yolker.... or a clutch I found hidden in the hay shed with 10 or so eggs (those actually did pretty well). But when everything seems to be right and something still goes wrong, that's when I feel the need to investigate.

So, with that said, I appreciate your posting. I will call Incubator Warehouse about the turner warranty first thing Monday.
 
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