Topic of the Week - Temperature and humidity in incubation

sumi

Égalité
Staff member
Premium member
8 Years
Jun 28, 2011
39,107
23,964
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Tipperary, Ireland
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Pic by @grimes1213

Getting the temperature and humidity in the incubator as near as "perfect" can go a long way towards having a successful hatch. There are many makes and models of thermometers and hygrometers on the market and then there is calibration and and... This week I would like to hear you all's tips and tricks when it comes to setting up and monitoring incubation temperature and humidity. Specifically:

- What level of humidity do you find works best for you during incubation?
- How do you set up your equipment and what do you use?
- Any tips for new hatchers?

For a complete list of our Topic of the Week threads, see here:

https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/topic-of-the-week-thread-archive
 

Ridgerunner

Free Ranging
10 Years
Feb 2, 2009
24,164
12,240
707
Southeast Louisiana
I have never calibrated my hygrometer so I have no idea what he actual humidity is in the incubator, just what it is reading. Through trial and error I've learned that I get better hatches when the average humidity is around 39 to 40% on this hygrometer. I always go above a 65% reading on this hygrometer during lockdown.

I use a Genesis Hovabator 1588, one of those Styrofoam incubators with reservoirs in the bottom for water. Depending on the time of the year I can get some pretty wild differences in that humidity reading even with the same reservoir filled, maybe a 20% swing. It's not always possible for me to get exactly a 39% humidity reading. I go by average humidity during incubation. If it runs ate 50% for three or four days I'll try to run it an equal amount of time at 30% (or close) to balance it out. It's the average over the incubation that counts, not an instantaneous humidity.

Mine is a forced air so I can take the temperature any where in there. I put my incubator where it is not in direct sunlight, not where it is hit by air from a vent, and not where opening a door can cause a big change in temperature or the humidity of the air going into the incubator. In other words, a stable environment. Put it where pets cannot cause problems.

My tips. Read the instructions that come with your incubator and pay more attention to them than anything I or anyone else on here says, especially for your first time. You need to get to know your incubator, even similar makes and models can require different tweaks. There can be some trial and error in learning what works best for you. Different incubators can have different ways of positioning the eggs or different types of turners if you get an automatic turner. Learn the specific way your incubator works, it can be quite a bit different from mine.

When you get it, plug it in where you are going to hatch and play with it a few days. See what effects you have if you change something, especially humidity. If it is like mine with the different reservoirs try filling different ones and give it a chance to stabilizer, see what effects different reservoirs have.

Start all the eggs at the same time. Stay far away from those staggered hatches, at least until you gain experience. A staggered hatch is going to increase your stress levels and increase your chances for serious problems.

Calibrate your thermometer. The factory settings and the thermometers that come with any of them can be off. Never trust any thermometer that has not been calibrated.

Don't panic if someone on here tells you that your incubator will not work. The top of the line incubators are generally easier to use but a lot of chicks have been hatched in those cheap Styrofoam still air incubators. You may have to work harder or pay more attention to details but they can work well.

Mother Nature was very kind to us. A lot of research has shown what the ideal conditions are to get a good hatch, and a few of those are pretty critical. For instance incubating the eggs pointy side down (if you stand them up, many people don't) is pretty important in keeping the air cell in the fat end where it needs to be. But the temperature or humidity can be off a little and you can still get a great hatch. Mother Nature did not make it that hard for a broody hen to hatch eggs. Get as close as you reasonably can to the ideals, but there are windows that work. Temperature is more important than humidity but even if you are off a half degree in temperature you will still probably get a good hatch. It just might be early or late.

Don't panic if something goes wrong. Don't do anything dramatic until you've calmed down and chatted with us about it. Temperature spikes happen. Power goes out. Candling may not always go as you expect. These things are not good but they are not immediate death sentences either. Many chicks have hatched even if the power was off for a long time.

Don't expect your first hatch to go perfectly. Once the eggs go in the incubator they become precious, I understand that. A lot of people do get good hatches their first time. But sometimes there is a bit of trial and error and there can be a learning curve.
 

Mr_Matthew_L

Chirping
May 5, 2018
24
25
54
Rutherford County, Tennessee
I'm looking forward to hear everyone's thoughts. My first attempt to incubate eggs was a failure. Started with 5 eggs and am down to 2 which I don't think are any good either. Will be trying with another 3 or 4 in the next day or so.

Will be watching this post to see everyone's comments, tips, and tricks.
 

ldawntaylor

Songster
May 23, 2015
413
516
161
Arkansas
I will be watching too.

Just one addition. I have seen where some suggest adding a damp sponge to add humidity.

If you go that route please remember to use an unused sponge...those things create a good environment for bacteria growth and are next to impossible to sanitize fully.
 

Mommaj89

Chirping
Mar 24, 2018
26
95
56
I just had my best hatch so far... All of them being shipped eggs & so far we are at 75% hatch.

This time I made sure my thermometer & hygrometer were calibrated.

I do use a still air incubator, but each time I roll the eggs I rotate them, keeping them away from where the heater is, as that it about 2 degrees hotter than the outer edges.

I did not add any moisture aside from at the very beginning & end this time, and because I have other eggs in there at the same time, it stayed between 30-40% & seems to have been the best environment so far!
 

FlomatonsFlocks

Songster
Feb 23, 2015
351
256
197
Southern Alabama
I just had my best hatch so far... All of them being shipped eggs & so far we are at 75% hatch.

This time I made sure my thermometer & hygrometer were calibrated.

I do use a still air incubator, but each time I roll the eggs I rotate them, keeping them away from where the heater is, as that it about 2 degrees hotter than the outer edges.

I did not add any moisture aside from at the very beginning & end this time, and because I have other eggs in there at the same time, it stayed between 30-40% & seems to have been the best environment so far!
30 and 40 for lockdown?
 

Jack Speese

Songster
9 Years
Mar 14, 2010
57
73
119
As I've posted before, I've had a redwood incubator and a styrofoam "no frills" Hovabator. The redwood was great, automatic turning, forced air, very accurate thermostats, but it consumed a tremendous amount of power and rural electricity isn't cheap. For a backyard flock, in my personal opinion the Hovabator was just as good. Yes you had to turn the eggs by hand, and the humidity control was filling the circular troughs in the bottom, and it was still air. But it was also economical, easy to clean, and worked fine. You definitely need to "play with it" at first to get the feel of it, get the temperature right and so that it holds, and when you put eggs in it and they absorb the heat, you may have to adjust it up once again after a day, and you definitely need to set it up in a place where the ambient temperature doesn't fluctuate much. The only thing with the Hovabator is that it was harder to hatch duck eggs. It works, but you need to do a lot of turning and unless you are at home all day that's hard. Turning twice a day works fine for upland bird eggs but not duck eggs. I had to help a lot of them out, which I know isn't recommended but this was a special case; I was at work and couldn't do the necessary turning. If you seriously wish to hatch duck eggs and aren't home to turn them several times a day, then I would suggest a model with an automatic turner or a model that could be equipped with one. But with chicken eggs hand turning twice a day works fine.
 
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