The eggs when you decide to collect you can collect for up to 10 days. DO NOT collect one day and put them in the incubator and keep adding more each day. Your hatch will not only fail but not turn out so well. Wait and collect all of them for no more than 10 days then you can set them to hatch. Everyone has there own way of hatching and guidelines they prefer for you to follow. But what I will go over is my preferred process and what I have learned from my personal experiencing to help hatch healthy happy chickens.
I pick a day about 10 days before I am going to set my eggs. The day before I am going to set them I like to put my incubators on at 99.9 degrees for a test run for 24 hours and make sure they are maintaining the right temperature for the eggs. This was probably the biggest thing I have learned with hatching. The first few hatches I did read about the temperature, but I was so anxious to get them going I skipped this first step and fail quite a few times. You may still have them hatch if you do not do this but the success rate of the hatch will be lower. But making sure your incubator is maintaining that 99.9 then you know they are ready for your eggs.
The next thing for you to consider is the humidity. This is another things to keep an eye on and I do recommend using a hydrometer to make sure the humidity does not raise before it's supposed to. The first 18 days the humidity does not need to exceed around 50% you do want some humidity but to much will drown the babies before they even have a chance. So using something to maintain this or at least keep track of it will most defiantly help in the long run. The last few days of the hatch around day 18 you want to raise the humidity in your incubators to 80% and can do it a few different ways depending on the type of incubator that you have. Some have the bottom sectioned for more or less water to help raise and drop the humidity. Some come already with the sponges to help. What I have found useful for mine since my incubators are basic still airs.The last few days for mine I use a kitchen sponge and a very shallow dish. I fill the dish with water and place the sponge in the container that it fits perfectly in. I had a lot of trial and error with this because if chick finds the dish they will go in it and if there is any space between the sponge and the container the babies can drown. The first time it happened to me I was devastated. But just like everything else in life it was all trial and error. Issues related to poor incubation are
- Crook neck
- Deformed toes
- Late hatch
- Eggs that fail to hatch
- As well as many others
The next things that you want to look at with incubating is turning. The eggs need to be turned a minimum of 3 times a day. This is to help make sure the embryo in the egg does not become stuck to the wall of the shell making it harder for the baby chicks to hatch. This can cause a few different problems
- Failure to hatch
- Early death in egg
- Crook neck
- Spraddle leg
For me personally I set a alarm and make sure I rotate around 4 times a day until day 18. When you go to flip the eggs try to do it as quick as possible without harming the eggs. But the longer you leave in incubator open the lower the temperature will drop. The more inconsistent the temperature are the more possible health issues you could have with your hatch. Some people try to skip this step all together by investing in automatic egg turners or even home make incubators I have seen knobs or pulleys that help swivel the shelf to help rotate the position of the eggs. Keep in mind if you are using a egg turner the egg should be placed large bottom up to ensure the air pocket sets correctly to help for an easy hatch. If you are not and are in fact turning the eggs yourself you want to make sure you mark the eggs on one side. You can use X,O,A,B,C what ever shape or letter you choose but it will help when you are turning to make sure you were able to turn each egg. You want to continue your turning schedule until day 18. Once you reach day 18 I call it lock down. You want to make sure you have everything done and won't have to touch the eggs again until they hatch.
Candling the eggs is another point to cover because I made my mistakes with this one as well. It is very anticipating especially the first time hatching. You just want to see if they are growing. Trust me I couldn't stop checking them and that is where I went wrong. I would take a second more than I should have when it came time to turn them and I was fascinated. Honestly being a women who had a kid and all I wanted was to see my daughter growing. This is Mother Nature at its best and it is very hard to not be curious every step of the way. With saying this I have created my own system of checking to try to not disturb the babies as much as possible. You can see growth as early as 4 days, but I honestly recommend only checking them 2 times within your 21 days. The first time I check them is at 14 days, what I look for is dead or undeveloped eggs, and one of the big signs of death is a solid red ring and no veins, that is a definite indications of death inside the egg. I can go over some of these points a little more in later posts. But one of the reasons for checking is because YES a bad egg can explode in the incubator. So day 14 check all the eggs, look for
- Good air sacks
- And good veins
The second time I check them is right before lock down. I look to see that all the eggs are developing the same, again looking for those things listed above, and making sure I do not leave any dead eggs in the incubator before hatch day. I can also post some examples and pictures of all of the above during my next incubation.
This is now also around day 18-20 to set up the brooder box and lamp for your babies to be and make sure the box has had time to warm up before hatch day!!
The last thing to cover is the day of the hatch. Just with like all of the above, playing Mother Nature can be tricky at times. The eggs need to stay at 80% humidity preferable until they have hatched. In the beginning I did not realize how much a drop the incubator takes every time you open it. What I noticed is after it had been opened, pipped baby chicks can dry out inside the egg from the lack of the humidity and completely fail to hatch. I have had hatches take up to two days and have had to open it to takes out some of the babies but you want to try to keep it to a minimum. Once a baby chick has hatched and rested and dried it can become a nuisance to the other hatching chicks and can possibly knock around the eggs to the point of hindering the other hatches. My rule is I wait until I have at least 6 to pull out leaving at least 2 that are wet in the incubator before I pull any of them out. And this is for two reasons.
- Leaving a hatched chick inside the incubator can help promote the others to hatch. The ones outside the eggs will peep to the ones inside the eggs encouraging them to hatch.
- Leaving some inside the incubator helps raise the humidity back up after it has been opened. I'm not 100% on the science of why but after dozens of hatches it's a general observation.
(This photo was before I changed my sponge containers)
Another note to cover with hatching day is helping them hatch. This is something I have tried but honestly you can do more harm than good with this one. The hatching process itself is a big step into the world for a baby chick. They push and push with there legs till they finally hatch, there for the more you help the less work they do the weaker possible chicken you are now hatching. Sometimes there are just reasons they don't hatch. I have been here I have had the one that sat for so long and I tried to help and once it finally hatched I realized something was wrong with it. Not to mention you can hurt there ability to walk by helping and in the end they end up dying anyways. So my advice is let them do as much as possible with as little human intervention as possible. The same with eggs that have started to dry out, helping can effect them in bad ways, so if anything try to raise the humidity and give it time and hope for the best.
Over all it can be very rewarding and exciting hatching your very own baby chicks. To have a hands on experience and see everything from start to finish is an amazing thing to see. If you have any other questions about this topic feel free to ask!! Happy Hatching!!