Incubation Trials

Starting our Incubating Journey

Our incubating eggs experience has been nothing but educational. It has had its highs and lows, but we have enjoyed the learning experience it provided for us and our kids. We started our incubating eggs story with a cheapish incubator from Amazon. It had decent reviews and that’s usually a pretty good indicator for a solid product. This time wasn’t the case, and I’ll get to that in a minute.

The incubator was self-rotating and 24 capacity. We got enough chicken eggs to fill each spot, turned it on, and let it go. We added water every so often to adjust the humidity and patiently watched over our eggs. Chicken eggs incubate for 28 days. This put our hatch date the week of Thanksgiving 2018. Three days before hatch day we put the eggs on lockdown. This means we turned off the egg turner is, and the lid of the incubator is to remain closed. Thanksgiving day morning we awoke to pips! Pips are the first little crack the chicks make in the egg to get air. We left the chicks to work on getting out of their eggs. We had places to be and people to see since it was a holiday, so we went on with our day.

When we arrived back at home, to our surprise nothing much had changed. None of the chicks had made it out of their eggs. We knew that sometimes it takes a while for them to get out. So we checked the humidity on the top of the incubator and went to bed. 

Hatching Day

The next morning we discovered the unexpected. Only one chick had made it out of its egg. The others that had pipped hadn’t made much more progress. The one chick that had made it out of its egg looked healthy. We left the chick in the incubator to finish drying. We also wanted the chick that was already out to encourage the rest of the eggs to finish hatching.

The healthy chick had found its way over to where the fan inside the incubator was located. The fan had a grill over it but the spaces were far enough apart for the chick to get it’s wing feathers through. While the chick was flopping around inside the incubator, it had managed to get it’s wing through the cover over the fan. The fan had started clipping the tips of the chicks wings off. Once we noticed this we removed the chick from the incubator. 

Our Worst Nightmare

Then we decided the other chicks were not getting out fast enough and maybe needed assistance. We opened the incubator and carefully peeled away some eggshell so the chicks could break free easier. When doing this we took care not to rip the egg open, this can hurt the chick or damage it absorbing the rest of the yolk if it hadn’t yet. 

We freed a handful of chicks and let them dry in the incubator. Then we noticed the chicks were not quite right. The chicks were lethargic, some had splay leg, and a couple were unable to control their movements which caused them to continuously distress chirp. We fashioned braces for the chicks with splayed leg and tried our best to brace the chicks who were having a hard time controlling their movements. We lost most of the chicks. The first chick that hatched itself and one other that had a mild case of splay leg were the only two who survived. Our first hatch was emotionally exhausting. If hatching your own eggs went like this every time it certainly wasn’t something we were going to continue to do ourselves.

Troubleshooting

We started troubleshooting what went wrong. Temperature has a lot to do with the chick development, we had checked the thermometer on the incubator, and we kept the incubator closed to keep the temperature steady. One thing we didn’t do was check the incubator to see if it was functioning properly.

We turned the incubator back on and set it like we had it for the incubation period. We stuck an accurate lab thermometer inside to see if we would get another temperature. When we checked the thermometer we placed inside it read 5 degrees higher than what the machine was reading. This meant the temperature was above what it should have been for a successful incubation. 

Of the two chicks that survived, one had a case of splay leg so we named the chick Wobble. The other we named Puppy. Puppy’s name came from Tim’s mom, who first thought a picture I sent her of the chick was a picture of a puppy. Since only two chicks survived we had to order a few day old chicks so we had an actual flock. So our first time incubating was not successful.

Day old chicks we ordered to make up our flock

Trying Again

We decided we wanted to try incubating our own eggs again, so we bought a new incubator. Our egg production needed some expanding so we got a colored egg layers assortment. We tested the incubator to make sure it was functioning properly and then added the next batch of eggs. Our hatch was about a 50% success rate.

After what we thought was a successful hatch, we decided to try turkey eggs. Again, the hatch had about a 50% successful hatch rate. After the turkeys we tried duck eggs. The day the eggs were to start hatching started off slow. We had a pip, and then another. By day two we had two ducklings out of their eggs. Then day three passed, and day four. We had no activity. We passed the time period that the eggs should have hatched if they were going to.

More Troubleshooting

With only two ducks hatching we started brainstorming why we had such a bad hatch. We had been candling the eggs and many of them had developed pretty far along. We then remembered a night that the power had gone out for a couple hours. It must have been off long enough for the eggs to cool off to terminate.

Loosing our Flock

We took a break from incubating for a while. Fall came and the weather started to cool down. We grew our chicken flock with day-old pullets and a few rescues. Then, tragedy struck and we started losing birds left and right. We decided to set a few eggs back from our favorite rooster hosted group. We started 20 eggs in the incubator.

Our Leghorn Rooster

Then tragedy struck again, and our favorite rooster was gone. Leaving behind feathers scattered along the field. We had a rough start to winter. We lost around 50% of our flock, and we were pretty down about it. Eventually, the predators stopped or we got them under control at least and our remaining birds seemed safe.

Chicken feathers scattered through the field, after predator attack

Growing Again

Then, hatching day! Our rooster had left a legacy. 18 out of 20 eggs hatched! It was a great hatch and the chicks were all very healthy. It took a lot of trials to get through learning how to incubate eggs, and we are far from the end. Now we look forward to incubating eggs and also having the eggs come from our flock makes it just a little bit sweeter.

Leghorn Hybrid Chicks