The "old fashion" method...why not use it???


◊The Spontaneous Pullet!◊
15 Years
Aug 19, 2008
I've always wanted to hatch out my own eggs when I was younger; I've always wanted to have the experience of being a mother bird. In fact sometimes when I was like 5 years old I took an egg out of a wild bird's nest, wrapped it in a sock, and stuck it in a messy stick and moss "nest" of my own in a tree near my house.
I really thought that it would hatch!
When we got chickens, I tried putting an egg in a plant pot on our porch in the sun, thinking it would be warm enough.
Of course, all these tries at hatching an egg failed.
Then I got an idea. Why not use a lamp to make an incubator(didn't know that this is what they were called lol) to hatch my own chickens??? So, I took any old plastic box, wrapped it in tinfoil(thinking it would keep heat in or something), put a cloth in it, put a random lamp over the box, and placed a some of our own chicken eggs in it. I had NO idea about humidity, the temp. it should be at, etc. All I knew was that the egg had to be warm, in a safe place, and for some reason(probably because hens always make a nice, soft nest for eggs when they go broody) I also knew that it had to be in a soft place. So I put those eggs in that plastic box and left them there. I turned them(I knew this because in the wild mother birds, shift and turn their eggs. I had no idea why! lol). I didn't candle because I had no idea that I could do this or how to do it. Finally, half way through the period of the development(which I had no idea how long it took for them to hatch), I found I dreadfully read through all the posts about how too high or too low temps. can be fatal to eggs. I read about how humidity is a big part of hatches and that it should be at a certain percent. I read about turning the eggs and candling. I immediately put soaked wet cloths in the "incubator", got a cheapy temp./hum. monitor, etc. Humidity was 80% so I freaked out and took out all the wet cloths. Temp. was surprisingly in a good range.

When I candled, two eggs had nothing in them(they were storebought...just an experiment) and one of our own had a vein in it when I cracked it(an early quitter). The last one had a tiny embryo wiggling around and I was so excited.

Anyway, I through out the dud eggs and the last egg developed even when I had been literally blindly incubating it. I kept trying to keep temp. and humidity in the right ranges, constantly opening and closing the cover to let our heat when it got too hot, etc.

In the end, the egg didn't make it. My first hatching experience was going so well until I got all specific and scientific with it. I think the constant worrying over temp. and humidity caused the chick to quit a few days before hatching.

So I have a question: why do so many people worry about temperature and humidity so much? In the end, when you worry about it and constantly change it, doesn't it affect your hatch rate more? Why doesn't anyone use the "old fashion" method, like a broody hen would? Why not just take any old box, put a few wet cloths in or however you add humidity, put a 40watt lamp over it, and incubate some eggs?
I think I'm going to try this sometime again and compare my results to a group of the same eggs in a more precisely-controlled incubator.

Any thoughts of this? (and sorry for such a long post!
) lol

Please don't start any arguments! I just want to see what people think about this.
I understand what you are trying to say that back to basic smple is better way of looking at things, but I think that we have an obligation to do everything within our power to help these little creatures come into the world once we begin to take it upon ourselves to develop an egg. If we have the ability to mantain a constant environment that will help the chick develop and hatch we must do that. experimenting with simplistic non accurate methods when we have a proven method that is more condusive to the eggs development is basicaly wasting a life. I believe that the miracle that occurs inside that tiny shell is beyond our complete control (God is ultimately in charge) but It is my responsability to do all that I am capable of doing or I risk losing respect for living beings.
If we are ever put in a position that we no longer have the ability to have incubators and instruments that measure the environment, (major power failure for example) then we would be forced to go back to other more basic methods like kerosene heaters and such, as with all things this is my opinion and you asked for it
. It just doesn't seem logical to me why anyone would settle for a 30-40% hatch rate in a box with a lightbulb when we have the ability and I say responsability to use an inc. that if used properly should yield 70-80%.
My question to you would be if you did the experiment and saw a wide gap in hatch rates would you do it again?
When you pay 40 to 75 bucks for a dozen eggs, you want an incubator. You will want good temps and humidity to get a good hatch percentage for your investment. Lol sorry thats all i got to add, lol. I dont go nuts though, it is what it is. I just try to hatch with as much sanity as i can gather at that moment, lol
I find that the more precise I am (and my instruments), the better my hatch results. After many trials and errors, I have the right settings and don't mess with them..ever. And my hatches go as planned, every time. Well, ok sometimes I mess with it and mess things up. As long as I leave things be, all goes well. But this is after getting very precise and getting everything just right. It's an even balance that makes for successful results.

I think of all the times mother hen doesn't get it right. Yup, had lots of those experiences too. They're not perfect either and could not even measure up to my ability to hatch babies.
The "old fashion" method is to let a broody hen do it. I don't know that anyone has ever simplified the process to the point where putting eggs in a box and putting a lamp over them was or is a widely used and dependable method.
And I seriously doubt that the developing chick in that one egg realized that you were worrying over the temp and humidity and stressed itself to death over your worries.

Good luck if you continue your efforts.
Hey 77horses! When I was a kid, I tried to hatch an egg I had found in the park by wrapping it in a towel and setting it on top of one of those old hot water radiator type heaters (very common in England in the 80s). Of course I was not successful--probably the egg was just a store bought one someone threw away, lol!

I also (to my shame) stole eggs out of a bird's nest once as a child and tried to incubate them, also with no success.

However, folks on this board have had success with all kinds of methods: Heat lamp & glasses of water on a desktop; homemade incubators in countries where they suffer hours-long power outages on almost a daily basis; even one lady who had success by holding the eggs in her bra for 21 days!

That having been said, to answer your seemingly simple question
, the reason most people "mess with" temp & humidity is that when you get it right through the whole incubation process, you get higher percentage hatches with less aggravation.

I know you said everything was going fine until you started worrying, but technically you were having a less than 25% success rate, and you hadn't even reach hatching day--you had already lost three out of four eggs, though only one of the three was fertile. Counting only fertile eggs, you had lost one of two 50%. Considering that most of us take most of our losses during the very very last part of incubation (the hatch itself), that's really not that great a percentage.
Granted, you lost the other one *after* you started worrying, but keep in mind that without a proper incubator, it's unlikely your conditions were ideal.

So far I have had an 85% and a 92% rate up until hatch day, with actual hatching rates of about 69%. My percentages are low compared to plenty of folks who use the tried-and-true "scientific" methods propounded on this site--I'm new and learning.

I am sorry you lost your eggs. And I think your idea for an experiment is awesome--that would be a great answer to the question, lol!

By the way:
This is a great place to hang out!
I get what you are saying as well, but it's also not that simple. Hens don't just put the eggs in a nest in the corner in the sun and hope for the best. They put a lot of time and energy into bringing those chicks into the world, it just so happens their natural humidity and temp reflect what is right for those chicks at that time.

I do think you can over-worry about temp and humidity both. But also think that basic precautions to control environment and maximize hatch rate are important. This doesn't have to mean obsessively checking an $800 incubator six times per day, it can be as simple as a homemade "box with a light" set-up that just so happens to meet minimum requirements.
The reason for a THERMOSTAT is so that you don't have to worry and fuss. I don't worry and fuss. I don't adjust. I just glance to make sure the EQUIPMENT hasn't failed for some reason, now and then during the day.

But my homemade Darthbator and the Goliath - antique redwood, operate themselves and hold temp just fine without my fiddling and that's the GOAL of any incubator - built or bought.

I happen to see temps when I turn eggs. Every now and then I'll check the one that does max and min temps for 24 hours for swing - and don't really find much. .5-.8 degrees, nothing to worry over.

Thermostats maintain temp for you. Without one that's working there is a near constant ugly battle.

Since I dry hatch I never worry about humidity to the end and then it's a simple matter of adding a sponge.

I'm not worried, it's all set up right and running right.

If I want a hen to incubate some eggs, I let one, I have a broody Sizzle on four Delaware eggs, it's silly looking but she's managing. That's the old fashioned way.

And old fashioned sometimes sucks. I started incubating because HENS fail all too often, some broodies suck and accidents also happen. They blew it, I needed an incubator. After that I liked hatching but hated the LG even though - for me - it worked. I hated the way it was designed. Saw MissPrissy's work and did that. Liked it, still hated top opening bators. Decided on a mini-fridge one like Speckledhen's. Built that and two more. Kept the best one - Darthbator. Darthbator rocks.

If it's going to work well, it needs a thermostat. If it's NOT working well with a thermostat - either the thermostat is bad or the set up is improper, and a heat sink is needed or repostioniong is required, or the thermostat needs remounting (water heater thermostats like being mounted on a metal panel), or drilled carefully for more holes in the back of it for more accuracy.

What works is a matter of PRACTICE. And while new people and people who haven't got their equipment quite figured out yet are still freaking. Most of the regulars aren't. Enough proper practice and less freaking.

I do my part, I built and repaired good bators. I'm not worried.

Your experiments failed for lack of consistency of temperature, too low, too hot or too much swing.

That's what a thermostat and proper set up are for.

Hens work very hard to maintain consistent temps. A good incubator maintains consistent temps in a short swing or no real swing.

Humidity can be over done. Ventilation is huge.

Learning it all is important. Just because you WANT something to be simple/easy doesn't mean it can or will be.
Thanks, walkswithdog!
Your opinion, along with everyone else's, is greatly appreciated.

iamcuriositycat: thanks! But I don't get why you put
at the end of your post??? LOL I'm not really "new" here.
mmm.... if I saw a huge gap in hatch rates, I would probably look at what I did, examine the eggs that didn;t make it(to see what went wrong) and then try it again after fixing things up a bit. After that, I would see which had a better hatch rate; box and lamp or incubator. Then I would know whether simple is worse or better than more precise. Does that answer your question?

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