What I've learned about incubating and hatching eggs

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by suliah, Oct 15, 2015.

  1. suliah

    suliah Chirping

    Oct 8, 2014
    Muskegon, MI
    So, this round was my 3rd round of egg incubation. But I'm a scientist at heart, experiments, cause and effect, etc.

    At the beginning of the summer I finally broke down and bought an incubator. I was going to be out of town, so I splurged for the turner as well. Here's what I bought.

    It's a styrofoam incubator, which everyone said was awful. I had trouble getting the temp to stay where it should, but over time that got better.

    My hatch rate during incubation 1 was abysmal-- 4 hatched out of 27 started (20 made it to lockdown).
    Hatch 2 was better-- 15 hatched out of 24 in lockdown (started with 27 I think)
    Hatch 3 is still going, but of the 26 that are due by today, 20 have hatched.

    What I've learned:

    1. FIRST buy a separate temperature and humidity detector. Seriously. The one in my incubator, which I used for the first half of my first incubation, was about 3 degrees low (so the reading of 99 was an actual temp of 102). And the humidity sensor is nowhere near accurate. That alone probably accounted for the low hatch rate in hatch 1.

    2. DRY HATCH. I'm in Michigan. Even in the fall, with no water in my incubator, the humidity inside stayed between 30 and 40%. It may have dropped to 25% once or twice. Using this method, I have NEVER had a chick pip and die. Never. Nobody was shrink wrapped, nobody drowned. Every pipped chick hatches. My first time I had the humidity higher, roughly 55%, and things just didn't develop well. At day 18ish I do raise the humidity, but I'm not super concerned about how high it gets. Above 70 is good enough... so when I look in there and it's 98 during hatch I don't worry. It's high enough, and there really isn't a "too high" in my experience.

    3. MARK YOUR AIR SAC-- at least once, you don't have to do it more than that. It just gives you an idea of how your eggs are developing and where to look for pips. I've done it at 10 and 18 days, and this last time did it just at 14 days. when you don't do this you're searching the whole egg looking for a pip. Not helpful.

    4. RELAX-- seriously. I was all worried about lockdown, don't move the eggs again, don't open the incubator, find a way to add water without opening it, don't ever open after something has pipped...
    I open it all the time. I close it quickly, but yes I open my incubator. The chicks survive. Mama hens lift up to allow hatching chicks to get some air, they're not locked down on their nests. I maintain that opening the incubator gives a little bit of helpful airflow to those eggs and helps them, rather than hurting.

    5. TAKE OUT hatched chicks. Yes, you need to have a brooder ready. Yes it must be warm and waiting. But I do not leave the chicks inside to knock around hatching eggs until they're dry. OK, late in the game the humidity is high (mines normally around 80-90% honestly). It takes a chick a VERY long time to dry in 90% humidity! As soon as they hatch I simply reach in and move them, soaking wet, to the brooder. They dry a lot faster and then no other eggs get damaged in the process. By the way, this also allows for a successful staggered hatch, which so many people worry about.

    6. LEARN your own lessons! Everybody has a different experience. Just keep in mind that every incubation can teach you something. Be willing to learn, make adjustments, try new things, and don't blame someone because what works for them didn't work for you!

    Oh, and post what you learned here!
  2. AmyLynn2374

    AmyLynn2374 Humidity Queen

    Oct 11, 2014
    Gouverneur, NY
    It's not too often that I find hatchers that I agree with...lol But i feel like I am reading my own advice....lol The only thing I differ on is marking the air cells. I do 7/14/18 and I think that the early two are important for monitoring air cell growth and the latter to get an idea of where it is going to pip. I always mark and lay my eggs flat so that the air cell's dip is up and very seldom do I have a pipper go unseen.

    I TOTALLY agree with not being afraid of opening the bator. (I'm a meddler and I open throughout the hatch.) I hate seeing people warn about certain death if you open the bator. Makes me want to pull my hair out and I'm convinced that "warning" came from a hatcher having a bad hatch, (probably too high humidity) and not knowing what happened blamed opening the bator. So the next person said "that must be it" and thus a paranoia was bred. Seriously if you have your humity up and adequate at at least 70% there should be nothing to worry about. I have NEVER lost a pipper/zipper and I am hands on-bator opening from first pip to last hatch. I cringe when people say they hatch at 55%/60%, but I guess if you are hands off that is plenty.

    One of the reasons I do open during hatch is to take out my chicks. As soon as they are active and start running around they go to my bator. One reason is I use a LG bator with the fan kit installed and the fan has no cover and I had 2 different chicks 2 hatches ago get hurt so I started pulling them as they got active. Also, it is hard for a chick to fluff up in 80+ humidity. They fluff up faster and better under my brooder light and lastly, I don't subscribe to the theory of letting chicks go 2-3 days with no food/water available. My brooder is set up with food and water the minute the first hatches and when they go in the brooder they have that available. Usually they are drinking within a few hours of going to the brooder and eating within the first 24 hours.

    I also learned about checking thermometers they hard way. First hatch, borrowed bator (which a year later I am still borrowing...lol Sisters can be great...lol) I had to buy a thermometer/hygrometer for it. I never checked it. Lockdown had 17 moving growing chicks- at day 24 I finally got one hatcher. Day 25 one hatcher that died. I was told to check my thermometer. It was 6 degrees off!! When I thought I had a steady 99-100, I had a steady 93-94F. I never use less than 2 therometers that agree with each other in my bator and I aways spot check for new hot/cold spots in my bator too.

    I use a low humidity (dry) hatch as well. I aim for 30% the first 17 days and up it to 75 on day 18.

    I also have stopped turning my eggs at day 14. The egg development chart I have shows that at day 14 the chick turns to the big end of the egg so I decided if that was the case and I already knew that it wasn't neccessary to turn after two weeks, why not leave them alone after last turn on day 13 (I hand turn. Started with the automatic turner, switched to hand turning and had my best 2 rates hand turning.) My last hatch I didn't have a single pointy end pipper.

    So,, yeah, I agree with your advice...lol
  3. Guyswithchicks

    Guyswithchicks In the Brooder

    Sep 28, 2015
    You both provide realistic, sound advice for the people who are just starting out with artificial incubation. Like most of us we learn through trial and error but recording it succinctly like you have done is really helpful.
    The only addition that I can make to this thread is that on average I incubate anything from 40 to 100 eggs at once. I weigh a sample of 20% of these and record weight on the egg in pencil and on a chart on paper. I aim for the eggs, on average to loose 13% of their weight over the incubation period. So they are weighed on day 7 day 14 and again on day 19.each sample weight is recorded and averaged out and here is where I may scare you Amy, if by day 19 I have not reached 13% average weight loss, I continue incubating dry right the way through to hatch. If I have reached that amount then water is added.
    The last hatch I did resulted in all but one fertile egg hatching.
    The only other thing I do after day 7 is open the incubator for 20 minutes every day. This assists the eggs to loose the necessary weight.
    This system works for my location but follows the findings of some very experienced people.
    Awesome job.
  4. I have never done a lock down with any incubation... I open my incubator at will any and/or every day even while they are hatching and with good eggs I get near 100% hatch rate once the nonviable clears are removed...

    As fare as thermometers and humidity meters, yes the ones on the incubators should be totally ignored, IMO the manufactures should be ashamed of themselves for even including the garbage meters they install...

    The absolute best way to monitor humidity is to regularly weight the eggs and candle for air cell development, as that is all that matters not what a gauge says...
  5. AmyLynn2374

    AmyLynn2374 Humidity Queen

    Oct 11, 2014
    Gouverneur, NY
    I often tell people that at lockdown say that their air cells are still too small to run dry and check every 24 four hours for growth and if they need to, wait until they hear chirping inside or see the first pip to higher humidity. I usually suggest that if they are still small or haven't lost enough moisture/weight to hatch out in cut down egg cartons to help prevent any excess fluid from making it's way into the air cell at the time of pip. I personally have never had the problem of too small air cells at lock down.

    My idea of "lockdown" is candle and mark air cells and up the humidity. I started not turning eggs after last turn on day 13, so that's not even part of my lockdown routine...lol
    I agree with manufacturer comment. Most (at least of your cheaper bators) of the time they are useless and cause new hatchers that don't know better to compromise their hatch. I feel the sme way about their "instructions" for humidity. I see so many newbies basically "drown" their chicks because they follow the advice of the manuals.
    I monitor air cells, but it is nice to have a working hygrometer as a guide, especially for newbies.

    I tell people that if they saw how many times during hatch I opened my bator they would be [​IMG]and like you I have high hatch rates. As a matter of fact my last one was 100%. I literally cringe when people get on tangents about opening the bator will kill all your chicks. Adequate humidity does wonders!
  6. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

    Nov 7, 2012
    Oh, how I hope some incubator manufacturers would read this!!!!
  7. suliah

    suliah Chirping

    Oct 8, 2014
    Muskegon, MI
    Update: So I ended up with a staggered hatch over almost a week.

    when I started this thread, I had 26 eggs that were due over the course of 3 days, and 20 had hatched. Well, no more of those did hatch. When I looked at them, I had D written on 2 of them (my hint that I think the embryo is dead, marked at 14 days) so those were early quitters. the other 4 had questions marks because I could not see through the dark shells. They may well have been unfertilized, I don't do eggtopsies every time and I didn't want to deal with the stink.

    In the last round that was due in the incubator (the one that had been the most abused, taken out of the turner at 14 days and not touched again, humidity raised at day 15 to allow the rest to hatch, and knocked around a little by scampering hatch lings while I was at work, and then impacted all though the "lockdown" by opening the incubator repeatedly) was 14 eggs that I bought from a local farm.

    of those last 14 eggs, ALL pipped. 1 that pipped was malpositioned and I didn't catch it until too late. Died in the shell. The other 13 are running around the brooder.

    So my take-away is this-- there are NO hard and fast rules. Every hatch is a learning experience. So learn. :)

    So the final count at my house is 44 chicks-- 34 of 41 that were in the incubator and 10 of 12 that were under my broody.
    The best part was realizing that my Blue copper marans hen had been fertilized by the Blue Copper Marans roo. Now I have 15 pure BCM chicks.

    Who wants to buy chicks? LOL

    OH, and a side note: my broody started with 21 of her own eggs under her. Which she had been hiding from me. They were ONLY her eggs, which means she'd been stashing them for AT LEAST 3 weeks (she just started laying so I don't think she was laying an egg per day either). And 15 of them hatched.

    I no longer believe that eggs lose viability at 7 days.

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