I feel like giving up!!

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by mamachick, Dec 4, 2013.

  1. mamachick

    mamachick Out Of The Brooder

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    My husband bought me a new incubator a couple of years ago, and since then I've tried about six times to incubate eggs. Each time I changed some of the things I was doing to make the next time a better success, but it seems no matter how much research I do or how much I follow the rules, I have an average success rate of about 4 to 7%. Upon candling the eggs, they are almost all fertilized, and I discard those that aren't. This time around when I candled them at the lockdown time, about 2/3 of them looked good while the rest weren't developed. Out of the 2/3 that were developed, a few pipped, some zipped but all but four successfully hatched, one of which was born weak and its insides outside. So three live and healthy chicks, which seems to be the norm for me. Never more than two or three that hatch well and survive.

    Here's what I know I'm doing right: The room is not drafty, the incubator has two thermometers that demonstrate the temperature is maintained consistently, it has an automatic egg turner that works correctly, I keep the wells in the bottom of the incubator full of water, I remove the eggs from the turning tray three days before they are to hatch, I remove both the plugs from the lid of the incubator at that time to allow circulation, etc. etc. etc.

    Here's what I'm doing / not doing that I'm unsure of: there is no fan in the incubator, and when I remove the eggs from the trays I tend to increase the heat a tiny bit because at the bottom of the incubator it is cooler than where the chicks were in the trays - so I try to ensure the thermometer continues to say 99.5 where the eggs sit lower down, I don't open the incubator when the chicks hatch and so they tend to pummel the eggs that have yet to hatch, etc.

    I have no desire to quit trying, but this is wearing on my nerves and highly discouraging to my children who are always excited to watch the little chicks hatch. I'm very teachable and eager to learn what to do to get the success rate I'm looking for. Please, if anyone can help ...
     
  2. sumi

    sumi Égalité Staff Member

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    The first thing that comes to mind is the temperature. In a still air incubator the temperature should be 101-102*F measured at the top of the eggs. In a forced air incubator (with a fan) it should be 99*F. You say you keep the water wells filled, but have you any idea what the humidity was during incubation and lockdown? Incorrect humidity can cause hatch problems and hatch failures. This article breaks down all the causes of hatch problems, embryo development problems and causes. It's a long, but very interesting read:

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/hatchability-problem-analysis

    I'd suggest for future hatches invest in a hygrometer so you can monitor humidity and also have a look through this article for more incubation tips, info on humidity, getting the most out of your hatch etc:

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/hatching-eggs-101

    Hope that helps!
     
  3. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    This will give you a lot to chew on.

    http://www.natureform.com/kb/index.php?article=1011&o=save

    I think in a still air, the temp on top of the eggs should be 101.5

    I hate thermometers. I even got one from an incubator company that was accurate at room temp but was off by 4 degrees at 100.
    I'd verify your thermometer accuracy.
    Rather than keeping the water in the whole time I would weigh the eggs to track humidity instead. Get a small inexpensive gram scale. The eggs should lose 13%-15% weight during incubation.

    You can make a graph like the one halfway down this page.
    http://www.brinsea.com/customerservice/humidity.html

    Brinsea also has other good tips pages.
     
  4. mamachick

    mamachick Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you for all these links! I've started reading them and am seeing some really interesting things. How can you test your thermometer for accuracy at the incubator temp?

    I'll keep trying :)
     
  5. Kyzmette

    Kyzmette Chillin' With My Peeps

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    One of the things that really helped me was changing where I got the eggs. If these are your own eggs than that isn't the likely culprit.

    Have you considered trying to dry hatch? I've read if you have too much humidity in the first 18 days it can have as much negative impact as too little in the last 3 days.
     
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  6. Farmer Viola

    Farmer Viola Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Last edited: Dec 4, 2013
  7. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

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    If you have an adjustable hygrometer you can calibrate it close enough by putting it outside a little while and check your local weather. Adjust it to the ambient humidity and that's close enough for government work as they say.
    I find I have to adjust cheap ones periodically.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2013
  8. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    The thing you want to do is check that any of thermometers and hygrometers are correct by testing them against a known criteria.
    Comparing devices is useless unless you know how accurate any of them are.

    I used a candy thermometer tested in boiling water and noted how far off 212 degrees it was...or whatever temp water boils at your altitude.

    You can check your boiling temp at altitude here.
    Then put the candy thermometer and 3 others in the incubator and compared them all, noting any differences.
    I made a chart noting all temps and made notes about if this one reads this temp, it is actually that temp.

    Hygrometers can be tested by putting 1/2 cup salt and 1/4 cup water in a dish or jar and mixing it to a slurry.
    Put the salt slurry jar and the hygrometer next to each other in a sealed plastic bag.
    After 8-12 hours the hygrometer should read 75%...again note and differences and you're set.
     
  9. kmollyhughes

    kmollyhughes Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Keep at it! We don't use an incubator...we just use our broody girls and that's just as fun for the kids, if not more. My three year old helped take care of the mamas and got the help chicks out of the eggs that had problems with drying out. She loved it. If your hens aren't super broody you can always look at silkies. We have 3 sitting now that are only about 6-7 months old. Just another way to go that is way less stressful and a beautiful thing to watch. Good luck.
     
  10. davemonkey

    davemonkey Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Depending on where you are and what your local humidity is, I'd say you are too humid and your chicks aren't hatching because they are drowning or have other issues associated with high humidity. I also think the plugs should be OUT for the entire process (or at least take them out at Day 10) if you are in a humid area.

    The hatch I did recently, I left the plugs out the ENTIRE incubation process and kept only 1 well in the incubator 1/2 full of water. That water evaporated at some point and I never refilled it. At lockdown, I filled them all up and left it at that. I had 7 eggs that didn't make it due to shrinkwrap, which was because 1) they had thin shells that evaporated too quickly and 2) I opened the incubator too much during hatch so I could play with the baby chicks. Had I left it all alone, I an confident those 7 would have hatched. (We had 19 hatch successfully, 2 infertile, and 4 that died aroudn Day 9 or earlier. Then hen that laid the 7 thin-shells always lays thin shells...the others were normal/thick.)

    So, if you are in a humid area, keep plenty air circulating (by keeping the red plugs OUT) and don't fill the wells in the incubator until lockdown. Candle on Days 7, 10, 14, and 18 to keep track of air cell and adjust humidity accordingly.

    ETA: Oh, and start off with good thick-shelled eggs.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2013

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