People use incubators to keep their eggs warm and safe till the chicks hatch. Incubators are mostly used by poultry farmers, hobbyists, and researchers. With the right guidance, you can easily handle an incubator and hatch loads and loads of chicks. In this article, we shall be discussing the tips you need to start hatching with ease using your incubator.
What is an incubator?
An incubator is an enclosed device that offers artificial environmental conditions needed for the growth of eggs to hatch chicks. The device provides controlled temperature, humidity, and ventilation to mimic the natural nesting environment. Incubators come in different sizes, shapes, and types, depending on the egg capacity.
Getting started with an incubator
Hatching chicks can be a fun experience, especially if you are a first-timer. Here are a few tips to help you use your incubator correctly:
Read the manufacturer’s instructions manual
The manual contains detailed instructions on how to assemble and use your incubator. Ensure you read it before starting or assembling your incubator. Pay attention to the warning labels and illustrations that caution against possible hazards or dangerous activities that may lead to accidents.
Choose the right incubator
The first step towards successful hatching is selecting the right incubator. There are different types of incubators, such as forced-air incubators, still-air incubators, cabinet incubators, and egg turner incubators. Choose the one that meets your needs and suits your budget.
Prepare the incubator
Once you have chosen the right incubator, you need to prepare it accordingly. The incubator should be in a safe, stable location away from direct sunlight, drafts, or vibrations. Clean the incubator thoroughly and disinfect it before placing the eggs. Test the equipment such as fans, heaters, and thermostats to make sure they are functioning correctly.
The ideal conditions for hatching chicken eggs
The ideal environment for hatching chicken eggs should meet specific conditions to ensure a high hatch rate. These conditions include:
The incubator temperature should be kept between 99.5°F and 100.5°F. Temperatures that are too high or too low can cause stunted growth or death of the developing embryo.
The humidity level for hatching chicken eggs should be between 45% and 55%, and at lockdown or the last three days, it should be increased to 65% to 75%. Maintaining moisture levels is essential, as inadequate moisture can cause the chick to stick to the eggshell during hatching.
Adequate ventilation is essential to maintain healthy air quality inside the incubator. The recommended ventilation should be enough to remove CO2 and other harmful gases to maintain optimal air quality for the developing embryo.
Egg preparation before incubation
Before placing the eggs in the incubator, you need to ensure that the eggs are healthy and clean. Here are a few things to consider before placing the eggs in the incubator:
Choose eggs that are healthy and free from cracks, deformities, or abnormalities. Eggs that are damaged or have cracks may lead to a high hatch failure rate.
Eggs should be stored in a cool, dry place, preferably in an egg carton or on their side. Ensure you rotate the eggs at least twice a day to prevent the yolk from settling in one position. This helps the embryo grow evenly and prevents the yolk from sticking to the membrane, making it difficult to hatch.
Disinfecting the eggshells before incubation is essential to inhibit bacterial growth. You can dip the eggs in a solution of water and hydrogen peroxide and then air-dry them before placing them in the incubator.
Egg incubation process
The incubation process can take between 21 to 28 days, depending on the breed of chicken. Here are a few things you need to do during the incubation period:
Turning the eggs
Eggs need to be continually turned to distribute the yolk and prevent the embryo from sticking to the eggshell. For best results, turn the eggs at least three times a day, preferably at 8-hour intervals. If using an automatic egg turner, ensure you activate it at the right time and keep it clean.
Candling the eggs
Checking the eggs for any visible cracks, blood spots, or abnormal growth is called candling. Candling should be done on the 7th and 14th day to check for any abnormalities. Any eggs that you suspect won’t hatch can be discarded to avoid interfering with the development of the healthy embryos.
Lockdown or the last three days of incubation, is when you stop turning the eggs and maintain high humidity levels. During lockdown, the chick will position itself correctly for hatching. Any opening of the incubator lid should be done very carefully to minimize the loss of moisture and affecting the eggs’ internal temperature.
Now that you understand the ins and outs of using an incubator for hatching chicks, you can get started with your hatching plans. With a bit of patience and someresearch, you’ll experience the joy of watching your eggs hatch into adorable and healthy chicks.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Q: Do I need to clean my incubator after each use?
- A: Yes, it is essential to clean and disinfect the incubator regularly. This helps prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria that can impact the hatch rate.
- Q: Do I need to add water to the incubator regularly?
- A: Yes, maintaining the appropriate humidity levels during incubation is essential. You will need to add water to the incubator to achieve and maintain the recommended humidity levels.
- Q: How do I know if my eggs are fertile?
- A: Candling the eggs can help you determine if they are fertile or not. Fertile eggs will have visible veins, while non-fertile eggs will remain clear.
- Q: How do I stop the incubator temperature from fluctuating too much?
- A: Fluctuating temperatures can lead to reduced hatch rates. You can maintain the temperature by keeping the incubator in a stable location and avoiding any sudden changes in the environmental conditions.
- Q: Can I open the incubator during the incubation period?
- A: Yes, you can open the incubator during the incubation process to conduct candling or add water. However, you should minimize opening the incubator to avoid affecting the eggs’ temperature and humidity levels.
- Q: Can the incubator affect the gender of the chick?
- A: No, the incubator does not affect the gender of the chick. The gender of the chick is determined by the genetics of the parents.
- Q: How many eggs can I hatch in an incubator?
- A: The number of eggs you can hatch in an incubator depends on its size and capacity. Different incubators have varying egg-holding capacities, so ensure you choose the right incubator for the number of eggs you want to hatch.
- Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering. (2002). Incubation of Poultry Eggs. Iowa State University. https://store.extension.iastate.edu/Product/2281
- Carter, S. (2020). How to Hatch Chicken Eggs in an Incubator. Backyard Poultry. https://backyardpoultry.iamcountryside.com/chickens-101/how-to-hatch-chicken-eggs-in-an-incubator/
- Scott, M. (2019). How to Set Up and Run a Successful Incubation. Backyard Poultry. https://backyardpoultry.iamcountryside.com/chickens-101/how-to-set-up-and-run-a-successful-incubator/