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The incubation process can be very exciting, however, if your eggs aren’t fertilized or you did not have a successful hatch, then you may become frustrated. So that you may have a successful hatch, here are some things to consider of what could have gone wrong with a bad hatch and what you may do differently for the next incubation process.
Let’s start with the Flock.
Your hens should be in good condition. The first eggs of young pullets can be used for hatching however it is not recommended. Your hens should be fed a balanced layer feed. Happy and healthy hens lay healthy eggs.
It is recommended to use young cockerels. Avoid using immature males, for their sperm count can be low, and really old males can also have abnormal sperm, resulting in infertility. It is recommended to have 1 male per 10-12 females to ensure good fertility.
- You want your hatching eggs to have a smooth and strong shell. Your hatching eggs should be evenly shaped and of normal size.
- Hatching eggs can be stored up to 10 days. It is not recommended to keep them after that time period because the hatch rate will decrease. The area where they are to be stored should be between the temperatures of 55-65 degrees and approximately 75% humidity.
- Do not use eggs from hens that appear to be sick or have been recently wormed or medicated.
- Avoid dirty or soiled eggs for they can cause contamination in the incubator resulting in a low hatch rate.
- I recommend purchasing your eggs from a reputable hatchery. If you purchase hatching eggs and have them shipped, let the eggs settle for at least 12 hours, with the fat end up, before putting them into the incubator.
Make sure you wash your hands before handling the eggs. Avoid using hand sanitizer before handling the eggs. Simply wash your hands with hand soap and dry completely before handling. The incubator and rotation tray should also be cleaned in between hatches. It is recommended to use a 1:10 bleach/water solution for cleaning.
Set up your incubator and let it run for a minimum of 24 hours prior to setting your eggs. This gives time to reach the proper temperature and humidity.
- Temperature: 99-101 degrees
- Humidity: Days 1-18 humidity levels should be between 45-50% and Days 19-21 increase the humidity to 65-70%
- Rotation Tray (if it has one): make sure it is working before placing the eggs in the tray. Eggs should be placed in the rotation tray, pointy/narrow end down with the larger end of the egg facing up. If you do not have a rotation tray, it is recommended to rotate your eggs every 8 hrs. It may be helpful to make a mark on the egg so you can track your rotations.
- Lockdown: The incubator should be what is considered as the lockdown on Day 18. This means you should increase your humidity and you should not open the incubator until your chicks have hatched and are ready to be moved into the brooder.
- Location: Your incubator should be stored in an area that has a stable temperature. It should be placed out of direct sunlight. Your incubator should be placed in an area where it cannot be hit or disturbed. Even the slightest movement in the incubator can affect the temperature or humidity which would then affect your hatch rate.
Candle your eggs often. When candling your eggs, you will first want to look for signs of blood vessels. They will appear red and look like thin lines, like spider webs. As the chick continues to grow it will appear like a dark circle and will start forming into the shape of a chick. You will be able to see movement within the last 4-5 days of the incubation process. Candling is the best method to know that your eggs are fertilized and that they are progressing in growth.
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