Topic of the Week - Incubating eggs

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by sumi, Mar 12, 2017.

  1. sumi

    sumi Égalité Staff Member

    Jun 28, 2011
    Rep of Ireland
    We're getting into that time of the year when many of us start setting eggs for spring chicks, so this week I would like to like to hear you all's thoughts on incubation. (I'm going to talk about hatching and afterwards next week). Please give me your thoughts and tips on:

    - Good incubator recommendations, especially for new hatchers.
    - Homemade incubators.
    - Selecting eggs for incubating.
    - Humidity during incubation - "dry" incubation, what humidity do you incubate at, etc.
    - How to handle power outages, temp spikes and other incubation mishaps, like cracked eggs, etc.

    Anything you'd like to add.

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    Last edited: Jul 23, 2017

  2. BantyChooks

    BantyChooks Sing Brightly Premium Member Project Manager

    Aug 1, 2015
    Got the money? Go with a brinsea. They're super reliable, stable, and easy to use. Just make sure to calibrate them. Their only downside is the price, which is about $500. Second choice would likely be a Genesis Hovabator. They're styros, but many people swear by them. I don't recommend the LG models---people swear at them instead of by them. ;)
    If you have lots of time to babysit them, you can get decent hatches, they're just a ton more work. Definitely not set-and-forget.

    For homemade incubators, one of the best guides I've found yet is Sally Sunshine's cooler incubator. Link available upon request. It is a simple, easy-to-follow pattern that can easily be modified for different bodies or setups. I'm currently working on my 2nd one.

    If you're selecting eggs for incubation, make sure they have strong shells, the birds producing them are well fed, and they aren't deformed or odd looking. Candling them beforehand to remove porous eggs is also recommended.

    Humidity is a highly variable subject, with some people running as low as 25% and others as high as 50% to get good hatches. It all depends on area, and interestingly enough, incubator. Cabinet incubators seem to require higher humidity than tabletops. In general, 30-35% is a good place to start, and adjust from there by air cells.

    A "dry hatch" does not mean run dry. It's just an unfortunately named idea of running humidity at 25-35% instead of 50%. This has increased hatch rates in styros especially. In some places you won't need to add any water, but for me at least, I need to add a little to keep it at about the 25% that gives me the best rate of weight loss. Humidity levels also depend on the egg colour.
    At lockdown, increase humidity to at least 65%, closer to 70%, but not enough to get condensation on windows. Some people have luck with keeping humidity at 30% in lockdown and doing a low humidity hatch, but in general raising humidity on day 18 for chooks gives you the best hatch rates.

    Always plan ahead for a power outage if you have eggs going. A generator is my preferred method of back up, but some use their car charger or other ways like water bottles heated on a BBQ.

    If you find your eggs at a high temp, immediately remove the lid and let the eggs cool off. Watch temp for several hours later to ensure they return to a stable state.

    I cover cracks on eggs in new-skin, let dry, and set like normal. I've had 1 out of 2 cracked chook eggs hatch this way. Other one had a rolling AC and didn't make it long.

    Incubation temperatures are best set at 99.5-100.5 for forced air (100.5 is only if you have a reliable incubator that won't spike) and 101.5 for still air. In both of these, temperature should be measured at the TOP of the egg. The reason for this is that the still air has "layers" of heat -'member, heat rises- so a higher top temp is needed to get on-time hatches.

    Oh, and if you wish to read more on incubation and delve a bit deeper into it, I recommend reading some of the info in the notes article listed below. Good read for a rainy day or seven.
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2017
  3. chickenshiha

    chickenshiha Songster

    Apr 19, 2014
  4. 3riverschick

    3riverschick Poultry Lit Chaser

    May 19, 2009
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2017

  5. AmyLynn2374

    AmyLynn2374 Humidity Queen

    Oct 11, 2014
    Gouverneur, NY
    Brinsea is one of the most touted. It's really true you get what you pay for with incubators. Many of us can't afford these beauties though, plus the capacity is much lower. The hovabators are good midline incubators. I recently bought the 1583 which is the non digital version of the 1588. Love the picture window and the thing holds temps beautifully. I don't need the digital, so the 1583 fit my needs perfect at a less cost. No matter what incubator you go with, the important part is double checking all thermometers and hygrometers for accuracy. A thermometer that is off can compromise your hatch.

    For 2 1/2 years I incubated very successfully in an old LG 9200. Boy, it was a lot of work monitoring and adjusting temps, but it can be done. I also prefer hand turning instead of using the automatic turner. I started with the turner and switched to hand turning on my 3rd hatch.

    As for humidity, I think we get too caught up in numbers. Like banty said people use so many different ranges successfully. Mostly because there are just too many variables that affect humidity's effect on different eggs. The trick is finding what works for you, but even then, eggs from different sources can need adjustments. I'm a big advocate of low humidity incubation for standard eggs if the hatcher is not in high elevations. But.... with that, I am a firm believer of monitoring air cells to know what your humidity is doing for your eggs. I think if more new hatchers understood the importance of humidity and what it does to eggs instead of just getting a number and trying it, success would be found much quicker. I use this method: I know quite a few people that have been helped by learning this method. Dry incubation as it is often (and to my thinking wrongly) named is nothing new, but when you add the explanation of humidity and a way to monitor it, is one of the best methods for many.

    I think another important part of hatching is understanding that there is no one right way to do it. People are so narrow minded that because they have success doing it "this" way, that everyone they attempt to help should do it "that" way. I think saying "you should" or "you shouldn't" should be replaced with, "in my experience" or "it is my belief" because many of us break the traditional "rules" of hatching with the same success as others. If we embraced the differences of hatching techniques and methods and offer our experiences as possibilities instead of certainties, I think we would be of much more value to new hatchers that we are trying to help.
  6. casportpony

    casportpony Team Tube Feeding Captain & Poop Inspector General Premium Member Project Manager

    Jun 24, 2012
    My Coop
    Subscribing! Nothing to add right now except that I cannot recommend the RCOM 20 for doing anything other than chicken eggs. It could just be me and my horrible incubation skills, but cannot seem to hatch peafowl in it, and that's what we bought it for. [​IMG]
  7. 3riverschick

    3riverschick Poultry Lit Chaser

    May 19, 2009
    Styrofoam bators: hovabator 1588 with autoturner. Best, Karen

  8. AllynTal

    AllynTal Songster

    Aug 22, 2014
    Mississippi Gulf Coast
    - Good incubator recommendations, especially for new hatchers.

    Brinsea is very good and very expensive. If that's too much of an investment, I recommend a Hovabator Genesis 1588 with the Incu-turner (not the Hovabator turner). It'll run about $180 from Incubator Warehouse. Once you set up temp and humidity (always use a confirmed accurate temp and humidity monitor -- don't rely on the control panel's display), it is set it and forget it. Well mostly. I check the temp and humidity anytime I walk by the incubator just to keep tabs on it and to refill the water cups before they completely evaporate. On day #18, turn off the turner. With the incu-turner, there's no need to remove it from the incubator. It becomes part of the floor that the chicks will hatch on.

    - Homemade incubators.

    Haven't used one. I have no recommendations.

    - Selecting eggs for incubating.

    Clean, not too big and not too small for the breed of chicken. Select eggs from healthy breeding stock. Healthy parents go a long way toward a successful hatch.

    - Humidity during incubation - "dry" incubation, what humidity do you incubate at, etc.

    This is so subjective. A lot depends on each person's situation and their environment. What works for me is 30 to 35 percent humidity for day 0 to day 18, then 65 to 68 percent for day 18 through day 21. (I won't use the term "lockdown." It's such a ridiculous term, since really all you're doing is turning off the egg turner.)

    - How to handle power outages, temp spikes and other incubation mishaps, like cracked eggs, etc.

    Damaged eggs are removed (unless, of course, it was the emerging chick that damaged it. :) ). Power outages are not a problem as long it doesn't last too long and the incubator comes back on when power is restored. I unplug the incubator if/when the power goes out so when power is restored, the voltage spike doesn't damage the digital controls. Sometimes when the power comes back on, it comes in fits and starts, which can happen within a fraction of a second, and those spikes play havoc with electronics. Once the power comes back on and I'm satisfied that it isn't going to 'blink' anymore, I plug the incubator back in.

    If you are in an area that has a problem with 'dirty' power (power levels that fluctuate on a regular basis), consider getting a UPS (uninterrupted power supply). It'll be in the computer section in stores like Best Buy and probably WallyWorld; a small one runs about $40 or $50. It'll protect the electronics in the incubator from power spikes and keep the incubator running during short power outages. Keep in mind that a broody hen will get up off the eggs for short periods to go eat, drink, and poop, so short periods without heat and temp control aren't a tragedy. The mass of the egg prevents temp and humidity fluctuations inside where the chick is forming, so no need to panic. Same with temp spikes in the incubator. The mass of the egg keeps that raised temp from quickly raising the temp inside the egg, so as long as the spike doesn't last long, you're okay. If you have wild fluctuations in temp while the incubator is running, a UPS might smooth that out, too, if it is caused by power fluctuations..
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2017
    Michelle Farmer-Brown likes this.
  9. 3riverschick

    3riverschick Poultry Lit Chaser

    May 19, 2009
    Yes, you can take that dome off the brinsea advance mini at hatching time to take out broken egg shells and remove chicks to a brooder ..Once they are dry. Just do it quickly. The bator comes back to humidity and temperature very quickly so it doesn't​ make a difference in hatching. Just do not turn the dome upside down and let all the humidity escape...And I almost forgot...Make sure the dome doesn't pinch any toes of wet chicks when you put it back on. They move around the bator quick , so keep an eye out, [​IMG]
    I have 2 of these bators and great success over multiple generations. Nice thing about them is you can do staggered hatches. Each bator hatches 7 eggs ...The perfect number to raise to 3 months in one of those triple thick sided watermelon corrals one gets at the supermarket. They are 15 sq. ft. Inside. Large fowl need 2 sq. Ft. At 3 months old. And since there. Are only 7 birds per corral, easier to watch and evaluate them . I once had 6 corrals going with 42 light sussex total.
    Best, Karen
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2017
    Michelle Farmer-Brown likes this.

  10. Teila

    Teila Bambrook Bantams Premium Member


    The only incubators I know anything about are the noisy, feathered, sometimes dysfunctional variety so I am here to learn!

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