To help or not to help, that is the question!!

jdpotter

Hatching
6 Years
Apr 18, 2013
4
0
7
I just got back into raising chickens last year, so this Spring I thought I'd try my hand at hatching from an incubator. I read up on it beforehand, kept all the temps & humidity at the right levels, made sure they were turned properly, and was really excited when my chicks started hatching a day early. I need to note that I put 4 days worth of eggs in (total of 40), & I should have waited & put them all in at once but you live you learn right? By day 15 I had 28 that had passed candling for fertility/development. Anyway, so I have 28 chicks that should be hatching in 4 successive days now. But my mortality rate is ridiculous! I currently have 11 healthy chicks, & 8 that didn't make it. The rest are still (hopefully) on the way.

3 died from exhaustion I assume, they never gained their strength after breaking though the shell. I checked on 4 eggs that should have hatched & they were dead in the shell - completely developed, just dried up & dead. So I thought I'd help one along (despite being told to let them do their own thing), & it too died because it apparently wasn't ready - yolk still attached, hadn't got through the sac yet...sad.

So is there a point you should help them out of the shell, if so, when? If not, should I expect more dead in the egg as a part of the hatching experience or is there something I can do next time to avoid it? I'd appreciate any help:)
 

Barred4Life

Songster
7 Years
Mar 29, 2012
137
26
108
I'm glad you asked this question as I have 27 eggs going into lock-down in 2 days and it's the first time I incubate. These eggs look good when I candle them, so I'm hopeful...but then comes the peeping time. I've read to let the chicks be...but after reading your post, I'm also curious. Is there crucial things to down at that final step?
I'm following this post to learn some pointers
smile.png
 

Silkies~Polishes

Chirping
8 Years
Jun 2, 2011
234
6
91
Seattle, WA
Well firstly you said they hatched a day early, which would probably be mostly okay but since a lot of them died I think maybe the temperature was too high and they hatched way earlier than they were ready for. Also that those four were dried in the shells means the humidity was too low, so I recomend when the chicks start hatching raise the humidity level. What was the humidity and temperature in your incubator?
About helping them out of the shell, I wouldn't recomend it. I tried it once and lost the chick within the hour. Mostly I prefer not to help because then if I kill one that might've lived without help I feel awfully guilty. I think if they take more than a few days to get out and are still alive you can help them because by then they are unlikely to get out.
 

jdpotter

Hatching
6 Years
Apr 18, 2013
4
0
7
My latest count is 11 dead & 12 healthy. I had 1 die in hatching & candled the other two & found that they were not fully developed & showed no signs of activity. I've got 2 more that are pipping now & the others show no signs either way. If I've learned anything from this experience, it's that 1) Leave them alone for the most part. If they don't make it out of the shell by themselves or with very little help, they're probably not going to make it anyway. & 2) Put all your eggs in at the same time. I'm thinking that part of my problem has to do with the temp. I kept it at 99.5 pretty steady all the way through incubation, but you're supposed to take it down to 95 for hatching, which I couldn't really do without compromising the eggs that weren't quite ready to hatch.

I still have a lot to learn, & I'll be trying for another batch with a few new bits of knowledge in hopes of a better outcome. :)
 

jdpotter

Hatching
6 Years
Apr 18, 2013
4
0
7
@ Silkies-Polishes: I discovered they weren't really hatching a day early, they were just pipping. I recalculated my days & my original due date was on target. I kept the temp at 99.5 with only slight variations as I kept the incubator in an inside room (no drafts or drastic temp changes). My humidity level stayed higher than suggested, & I had trouble keeping it close to the recommended levels. But once I pulled the plugs out for increased oxygen - which is also when I took them off the auto turner - I had to do extra to keep the humidity up. On my 3rd day of hatching, I placed a clean dampened cloth under the eggs that were pipping, & that seemed to improve things a little. I'll probably keep that trick for the next batch.

I think I learned my lesson about helping them out though. I felt pretty awful about the one I took out, it very well may have survived just fine if I would've left it alone. On the other hand, I had one that was almost entirely out of the shell & I left it alone only to find that it had turned & drowned in the tiny bit of fluid left in the shell. So I suppose its something I'll have to gain experience & wisdom with time & help from others. I appreciate your advice:)
 

jdpotter

Hatching
6 Years
Apr 18, 2013
4
0
7
Out of 40 eggs, 28 passed the last candling. Of those, 14 hatched & lasted a week. 1 never grew at all & continually got weaker during the first week. I am now at 13 healthy 2-wk old chicks. I'm pretty disappointed with the final number, but I think I've learned a few things. Humidity is crucial during the last few days of hatching especially, as well as regulating the temp when you pull the plugs to allow more oxygen. I'm going to incorporate the damp rag under the eggs when I take them off the auto-turner 3 days before hatch date. Also, not going to "help" any of the chicks unless absolutely necessary & only after they've done most of the work themselves. I may lose a few in the process, but I'm hoping my odds are better this next time by letting nature take its course. Any added tips from more experienced hatchers would be appreciated! I've got another batch due the 20th!
 

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