Incubating a chicken eggs can be a hard task and you can easily loose all the eggs and get no chicks. Eggs are very sensitive and calls for special care for them to hatch well.
What you ought to understand is that an egg is the genesis of a hen. Well, you ask yourself between a hen and an egg what came first. It is quite obvious it is the hen then the egg.
Then this tells you that chickens are the source of eggs. It is from them that you get the right eggs to incubate. Your attention and focus should start from your flock to get eggs that will hatch.
Right environmental conditions, sanitation, handling and record keeping are some of the factors` you should put into consideration when incubating chicken eggs.
Incubating chicken eggs
Using a brooder to hatch eggs is easy and many eggs are hatched at a time. Some chicken breeds like Cochins bantams are used to hatch eggs but only a few are hatched at a time. Not all breeds have good mothering instincts.
Here are some of the important things that you should always consider in order to achieve a 100% hatch rate. Keep reading to find out!
Eggs that hatch are fertile those laid by hens that have mated with a rooster. They can be obtained from reputable chicken breeders or those laid by your flock in the farm.
Those who opt to obtain them from commercial hatcheries its good you know the history of the farm and the kind of eggs they produce.
Some farmers will buy eggs from the market. I do not encourage this since you are not sure whether the eggs are fertilized or not. In addition to that, the history and the exact breed that laid them still remains unclear.
Good eggs have a hard shell that is not bumpy and rough. Choose eggs that are big but not too big. Small eggs will produce small chicks that are of poor quality and will not fetch good prices once sold. These chicks may also not get buyers at all leading to a loss.
It is good to check whether eggs are double yorked because this is an abnormal condition and they will not hatch. Incubate chicken eggs that have not been stored for more than ten days.
Health, age, nutrition, genetics and stress will determine the quality of eggs that a hen will lay.
Storing eggs at the right temperature keeps the embryo from starting and stopping to develop which increases the embryo mortality. Therefore, collect eggs frequently and store them properly to delay embryo development.
Key points to note when storing eggs
Maintain storage temperatures at 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keep relative humidity at 75%.
Turn eggs stored for more than a week.
Always store eggs for less than one week if they are meant to be incubated.
Handle eggs with care.
This is probably where most people make mistakes. Too high temperatures will kill the embryo resulting to loss and damaged eggs.
Incubated chicken eggs require temperatures of 36 to 37 degrees Celsius and a relative humidity of 60%. It is good when choosing an egg incubator you buy one that has a fan as it helps in even heat distribution.
An incubator with a hygrometer and an attached thermometer is an ideal one as they ensure that temperatures and relative humidity are kept at optimum range.
When humidity is low, excess moisture will be pulled out of the eggs leading to low hatch rates. A clean sponge dipped in clean water can be put on the water tray as this will increase the surface area for more moisture to be absorbed in the air more quickly.
It is advisable you lower the hatching temperatures slightly 3 days before hatching due to the metabolism heat produced by the developing embryo.
Increase the humidity levels to prevent the chicks from getting stuck in the membrane. However, when the humidity is very high open the vents and remove the water source.
High humidity can cause the chicks to drown inside the egg shells. Get rid of excess moisture by placing dry rice on the water trays because it will help absorb excess moisture in the incubator.
An incubator fitted with an alarm to detect changes in humidity and temperature is an important aspect to consider when choosing one to buy.
This is when a poultry farmer decides to use a mother hen to sit on the eggs and hatch them herself. It is perhaps the most natural way to hatch eggs.
A mother hen will lay her own eggs ‘and later get broody and sett. This method is very good since a hen can hatch eggs that are not hers and raise young.
However this method is not effective for commercial hatcheries as only a few chicks are hatched at a time. A broody hen will turn the eggs and provide warmth and later hatch after 21 days. A hen has motherly instincts and she will raise the chicks if you wish her to.
What to consider when choosing chicken egg incubators
The choice of an incubator will greatly determine the size of the flock in your farm. For the commercial hatcheries, it is good to choose one that meets target. In some instances, chicks are already placed under order and you want to meet a 100% target.
Some incubators are equipped with automatic egg turners that save the farmer time to turn the eggs. They also prevent loss of heat when the incubator is opened regularly.
Before placing eggs in your incubator, make sure it is clean and dry to avoid contamination. Turn it on to ensure that it operates` as required. This will help you identify any possible problems that may be encountered during the incubation period.
Features such as temperature and humidity controllers are also an advantage you would consider when buying an incubator.
Place the eggs properly with the narrow ends facing up and make sure that your hands are clean and dry to avoid clogging the egg air spaces.
Place your incubator in a shaded place away from direct sunlight and wind. Also place it in a place where there is no regular movement of people to avoid any kind of unnecessary disturbances.
Regular egg turning
Egg turning is very important when incubating chicken eggs. It helps to prevent deformed chicks or chick loss. Before you place eggs in an incubator, it is good you mark them with a pencil to determine the turned eggs.
Mark your eggs with an X on one side and a Y on the other so that you can turn the X side and on coming back you turn the Y side.
When turning the eggs manually, do it with great caution since developing embryos have very delicate blood vessels. They can easily rapture if the eggs happen to fall or get knocked.
The main benefit of turning the eggs is to help exercise the embryo. However, three days to hatching do not turn the eggs as this time the embryos need to concentrate on breaking their way out of the shell.
Candling is the act of exposing eggs to a beam of light to monitor embryo development. This is done twice during the incubation period to check egg fertility and whether the embryo is developing or not.
At day 6 the eggs are candled to check fertility and at day 18 they are candled to check embryo development.
When candling, hold the egg up against the light. If you see a dark spot with veins on it then be sure the embryo is developing.
If the egg is entirely dark with no dark spot then you should know that there is no embryo development. Such egg needs to be removed from the incubator otherwise it can burst and it is the last thing you would wish for.
Thank you all for visiting my website and I wish you a happy and successful hatchings.