Hatching Eggs with an Incubator
There are many types of incubators on the market from small manually operated ones to larger fully automatic models. Rule of thumb is that the bigger the model the more reliable the temperature control and humidity levels.
Prices can range from under £100 up to several thousand, so it is worth looking around. If you are just starting out, then a basic model taking approximately 20-24 hatching eggs is a good starting point. The incubator doesn’t have to be full of eggs to work.
There are many books and articles printed on how to incubate eggs, but here are some important facts
a) Eggs for incubation should have been stored in a cool (not cold) place for no more than 10 days, older eggs are less fertile
b) Eggs should be clean, if necessary they can be washed in sterile solution, (either egg wash or something like Miltons) Water should be slightly warmer than the egg to stop migration of bacteria through the shell.
c) Unless you are only hatching one breed, write on the shell the breed, where they came from and if known date of hatch, but certainly date incubation started. Use a soft pencil for this.
d) If your incubator has an auto turn facility ensure it is working as ideally eggs need to be turned 3 times a day. If it is a manual one, then give yourself a memory jog to remember to do this.
e) Humidity is a very contentious subject and a matter of trial and error. Ideally humidity should be set at approximately 45% during the incubation period, but many people run their incubators with no added water at this time, with just as good a hatch rate.
f) Incubation time for chickens is 21 days, although many of the smaller bantams will hatch at day 19-20. Stop turning at day 18 and increase the humidity to around 60%, this is to stop the internal membrane in the egg from drying out as the chick starts to hatch. This membrane dries out very quickly and can easily stop a chick from getting out the shell.
g) Once all the eggs have hatched leave the chicks alone until they are dry and fluffy, then move them to the brooder with a heat source. They will need to remain under heat for up to 6 weeks in the summer and substantially longer in cooler weather before they can moved on to an unheated house and run.
This article was supplied to My Chicken House by Joy Thorpe of Mullberry Mill Stud, Suffolk who is listed in our Poultry Suppliers and Breeders Directory.
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