Need help troubleshooting: 13 dead-in-shell

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by InsaneBreeder, Feb 28, 2011.

  1. InsaneBreeder

    InsaneBreeder Chillin' With My Peeps

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    During my past two hatches, I have ended up with a number of chicks that never breached their air-cells and which, upon my opening their eggs, I found that they were all dead. I am going to list a summary of the conditions of my past two hatches in hopes that someone will see what went wrong and where. I used a forced-air styrofoam 1588 Genesis Hovabator for both hatches.

    For the second to last incubation, the temperature was constantly at 100 degrees except for two brief 102 degree spikes, and I kept the humidity between 30-40% (this is with no water in the trays, and it is impossible to get the humidity lower, since where I live the normal humidity inside and outside the house ranges from 60-90% and sometimes higher), and for lockdown I kept it at a constant 65%. The chicks began hatching on the afternoon/evening of Day 20, and, because I had read not to, I did not open the incubator to get out the ones that hatched. I woke up on Day 21 to find nine chicks out, and the humidity was at 90%. I took out the vent plug and unblocked the hole for the turner cord, but the humidity only fell into the high 80's. There were no others that had pipped or zipped, so, afraid that they would drown, I created a very humid environment, opened the incubator, and removed the hatched chicks. After that, I kept it at 65% for a few more days until I gave up and opened the unhatched eggs. A total of 18 out of 29 eggs hatched, 4 died of identifiable causes, and I found 7 fully-developed dead chicks that had not breached their air-cells or pipped.

    The conditions for the last incubation were nearly identical to those listed above, except that on Day 17, there was a six-hour power-outage during the evening, during which time the temperature fell to 82 degrees and the humidity rose to 64% (I covered it with a blanket). I kept the humidity strictly between 60-70% during lockdown (the majority being 65% or between 63-65%). I assumed that the chicks who had never breached their air-cells had drowned because of the 90% humidity spike in the last hatch, so I determined this time to remove each chick and its shell after it hatched. I stayed up the night of Day 20 and, after each chick hatched, I would wait until the humidity rose to 67-68%, and then remove it as planned. The humidity would drop briefly to 63-64%, and then would remain in the 63-65% range. This was often with the vent plug out, and the humidity outside the incubator was much higher than that inside the incubator, and I was not worried about shrink-wrapping any of the chicks since they continued to pip, zip, and hatch without assistance (the humidity never dropped past 62%). Sixteen out of 29 eggs hatched, and, because none of the remaining eggs showed any signs of pipping or hatching, I went to bed. When I got up mid-morning on Day 21, the humidity was at 51%, so I raised it back to 65% and waited another day. There were no pips, and no cheeping, so I turned off the incubator, candled all the eggs, noted that none had broken through to the air cell, and opened them in hopes that some might still be alive (I thought that if I had opened them earlier last time, they might not have died yet). Four of the 13 unhatched were standards, and 9 were bantams (also, I don't know if this means anything, but all the standard eggs in the incubator hatched before the bantam eggs); of the standards, two were almost fully-developed, and had yolk-sacs the size of golf balls, and two had died quite early on; one of the bantams died early on, a few were mostly-developed and had yolk-sacs the size of quarters, and the rest looked pretty much ready to hatch. They were all dead, stiff, and smelled slightly.

    I have wondered if some died because of the power-outage, but I thought that they would have survived a lower temperature drop than that from my readings of the accounts of others. I have also wondered if it could be that the higher temperature killed the males (since I have read that males don't tend to survive higher temperatures as well), but I have my doubts about that. I have a feeling that they died during lockdown, but before the others started to hatch, but I am not entirely sure and I can't prove it. I am gentle when I candle on the evening of Day 17, and I try not to jar them, but could I have killed them while candling?

    So does anyone have any idea what the problem might be and what I could do to avoid the deaths in future hatches?

    (I am sorry it is so much information, and thanks to anyone who read it [​IMG] )
     
  2. WhiteMountainsRanch

    WhiteMountainsRanch Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm only working on my second hatch now, so I may be of no use, but it seems that the temperature spikes and drops would do the trick. [​IMG]
     
  3. InsaneBreeder

    InsaneBreeder Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Really? But why would it kill some but not all?
     
  4. Gypsy07

    Gypsy07 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Hi there! I can't give you a definite answer as to why your chicks didn't hatch, but I can tell you for definite that they didn't drown. Chicks can't drown until they pip internally, as before that point, they aren't breathing air. They drown if your humidity has been too high throughout incubation and the egg hasn't lost enough fluid, so that when they pip internally into the air sac and start breathing air, they inhale the excess fluid. So if your chicks hadn't pipped internally, they didn't drown.

    Also, if your humidity has been ideal up until lockdown and your eggs have lost the correct amount of moisture, I think it's almost impossible for them to drown, no matter how high your humidity goes in lockdown. I ran my last lockdown at 80-85% and it occasionally went as high as 90%. None of my chicks drowned.

    In your first incubation, what were the identifiable causes that those other four died of?
     
  5. perolane

    perolane Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Some people have had success in hatching in the styrofoam incubators.....I am not one of them. I've had horrible hatches & just hate them. It's very humid here also (Louisiana) & I could never regulate the humidity as needed.

    What kind of thermometer/hygrometer are you using for readings & have you calibrated it??? Your instrument may be way off.

    Also, were these shipped eggs or your own?
     
  6. InsaneBreeder

    InsaneBreeder Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 12, 2010
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    Quote:Hi there! I can't give you a definite answer as to why your chicks didn't hatch, but I can tell you for definite that they didn't drown. Chicks can't drown until they pip internally, as before that point, they aren't breathing air. They drown if your humidity has been too high throughout incubation and the egg hasn't lost enough fluid, so that when they pip internally into the air sac and start breathing air, they inhale the excess fluid. So if your chicks hadn't pipped internally, they didn't drown.

    Also, if your humidity has been ideal up until lockdown and your eggs have lost the correct amount of moisture, I think it's almost impossible for them to drown, no matter how high your humidity goes in lockdown. I ran my last lockdown at 80-85% and it occasionally went as high as 90%. None of my chicks drowned.

    In your first incubation, what were the identifiable causes that those other four died of?

    That's good to know, so now I don't have to worry about getting out each and every chick as it hatches. Thanks for telling me!

    Of the four, two embryos were killed early on by bacteria and were rotten, 1 died while pipping because a slightly-yellowish crusty substance dried around its beak and suffocated it (I am not sure what it was), and 1 died before Day 10.
     
  7. InsaneBreeder

    InsaneBreeder Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Feb 12, 2010
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    Quote:What sort of incubator do you use if not a styrofoam one? A Sportsman or Brinsea?

    I am using a battery-run Acurite Thermometer that also measures humidity. (this is what it looks like: http://www.ntsupply.com/images/products/acurite00613a.300x300.jpg) I didn't know it needed to be calibrated since it is digital, but, if it is possible, I will do it. It was the only thermometer/hygrometer I could find anywhere here, but if it isn't a good one, then I could always order a better one from the mainland.

    These were my eggs, not more than 10 days old, and stored big end up at room temperature (65-85 degrees F).
     
  8. Gypsy07

    Gypsy07 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Right, here are my thoughts:

    You've actually had pretty acceptable hatch rates overall. I'm assuming (because you haven't said otherwise) that all of the chicks that DID hatch were healthy, and are thriving. You said they started hatching on day 20, which would suggest that your temps overall were slightly on the high side, but if you didn't get any malformed chicks and/or weak and sickly ones, I think (and this is just My Opinion, remember!) that you could discount that as an explanation for the dead ones.

    They were your own eggs, so rough shipping isn't to blame. 10 days isn't too old to set and hatch, but hatchability DOES decrease after 7 days, so maybe that could have had something to do with it. Did you turn the eggs at all during storage? That can affect hatchability too. I don't suppose you know which eggs were the oldest? When I'm hatching my own eggs, I write the date they were laid and their weight on the shell. That way I can see how well the older eggs hatch out, and I can also check moisture loss throughout the incubation, by weighing them when I'm candling. It might sounds obsessive, but it can help to pinpoint problems.

    I recently had quite a few chicks that were late dead, like you describe. On candling just before lockdown they looked fine, but they didn't pip and when I cracked them open, they looked like they had died round about day 18. I was doing a staggered hatch, where I had different stages of eggs in my bator all at once. I hatched out three lots of eggs in it and couldn't clean it out in between, and over the whole long drawn out experiment, my hatch rate went from 83% with the 1st batch of eggs to 50% with the 2nd batch and 44% with the 3rd. I can't be certain of course, but I put my rapidly lowering hatch rate down to the increasingly dirty conditions inside the bator after each hatch.

    I think if I were you, I'd be looking at hygiene procedures. I'm not suggesting you or your hens are dirty, so please don't be offended, but small amounts of bacteria can cause big problems. For your next hatch I would suggest 1. Scrubbing your incubator out very thoroughly with hot water and a dilute bleach solution. 2. Put wood shavings in your nesting boxes, and change it daily. 3. Collect eggs two or three times a day so they're not being trampled on by mucky hen feet. 4. Wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap before touching the eggs. Maybe even collect them by picking them up with pieces of kitchen towel, so you're not actually touching them. 5. Maybe consider washing/disinfecting the eggs as well. I washed some eggs in dilute bleach recently, and they hatched out fine. Better than the unwashed eggs I set at the same time, actually...

    If you do all that and your hatch rate doesn't improve, I'd be looking at the age, health and genetics of the parent birds. If you had some way of knowing which birds laid which eggs, you might notice a big difference between different birds' eggs.

    These are all just MY thoughts of course. Someone else might well think I'm talking rubbish. LOL!
     
  9. Cass

    Cass Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:I don't think you are talking rubbish....since we can't see inside the shell until hatch day (or after), I think everything you said has a lot of merit.

    I love the idea of putting the date the egg was laid on the shell, so you are not setting "old" eggs, or not expecting 98% hatch rate from 50% eggs. (the weight of the egg? That might be a little OCD [​IMG] , but if it works for you who am I to point fingers)
     
  10. Gypsy07

    Gypsy07 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Heheh. OCD? Who, me? It probably does sound odd, but keeping tabs on eggs' weight is IMO the best way of assessing your humidity conditions. Eggs are supposed to lose 11-14% of their weight by the time they get to lockdown, and I've never found candling and looking at air sac size to be very useful in determining whether my humidity is right on track or way off target. So I weigh them at the same time as candling them. It only takes an extra second or two.

    ALL info about hatches is useful. By writing laying dates on my shells, I figured out that my 10 day old eggs seem to hatch out better than my totally fresh eggs. And that 14 day old eggs do pretty well too. By writing the weight on them when I collected them, I noticed that the eggs I had stored for 2 weeks before setting had lost a fair bit of weight through evaporation even before I started incubating them. Reading up on it, I found that stored eggs should be kept at around 75% humidity, or sealed in an airtight storage bag to prevent such moisture loss. And after the last part of my staggered hatch got a fairly poor result, I noticed that the eggs that didn't hatch had all lost 16-18% weight, which is more that they should have lost; and the ones that did hatch had only lost 12-15%, which is much more ideal. So... from the data I collected, I think I can correctly say that length of storage would appear to be NOT as important as correct moisture loss.

    Yes, I AM an incubation geek!
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2011

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