Definitions according to Judy:
Candling – After a few days in the incubator, eggs can be “candled” to see how they’re progressing. There are mechanical devices that can do this but a good bright flashlight works for me. I simply hold the larger egg up to the light and except in the darkest of eggs, I can see what’s happening. After about 7 days, in viable eggs, you should see some “veins” showing inside the egg, and maybe a mass, which is the embryo. These eggs I keep. Some eggs will remain clear – nothing happening. Some will show a mass that started to develop and is floating around doing nothing. Some will show a “blood ring” which is usually a red line running around the inside of the egg, which means there is not going to be a baby from this egg.
There can be all kinds of reasons for an egg not to hatch. It can be anything from just not getting fertilized, either due to a hen or the rooster being too old, the egg being too old or improperly handled, or the incubator temp getting too hot or too cold. If I were hatching my own eggs and consistently having low hatch rates, I’d do some research into why they weren’t hatching but since I’m getting eggs from other sources and have no idea about what went on before I got the eggs, as long as some of them are hatching, I’m not going to get concerned.
Once I start candling the eggs and seeing what’s going on inside the shell, it’s so hard to leave them alone. I want to look inside every egg every day and that’s not good. When looking inside some of the lighter eggs, I can actually see the baby chick “pulsing” from its heart beating! I can sometimes see the shape of the beak or the legs and can see movement within the egg.
Turning/Lockdown – It takes chicken eggs 21 days to hatch. According to what I’ve read, the eggs are turned (1) so they don’t settle against the shell and stick to the inside of the shell or (2) to keep them from getting too hot on one side. The mama hen turns the eggs herself but in the incubator, either we have to turn them by hand or place the eggs in an egg turner, which does the turning for us.
The eggs shown above are in the turner. See how they’re leaning to the left? Every so often . . I don’t even know if it’s minutes or hours, the little gizmo moves a bit. They never lean so far that they fall out. On Day 18, or 3 – 5 days before the anticipated hatch date, the eggs need to stop turning. At this point, the baby bird is getting into position for pecking himself out of the shell.
Temperature – Yep . . plain old temperature. The ideal temp inside the incubator is 99.5º to 99.9º. The styrofoam inexpensive incubators that I use are subject to fluctuation. During the day, if I’m outside most of the day, I would set the thermostat in the house to about 76º but at night, I put it down to 72º. That 4 degree difference also results in 4 degree difference in the Little Giant incubator that just has a setting and not a thermostat. During the spring, when we don’t need either a/c or heat, our inside temps could get up to 78º inside and if I’m not in the house, I didn’t worry about it but at night, our inside temps might drop down to 62º. With the incubator going, I had to maintain a fairly constant temp in the house in order to keep a fairly constant temp in the Little Giant. The Hovabator has a thermostat so I didn’t have to worry so much with it. [[[
Humidity – We all know what humidity is but for eggs in incubators, depending on where you get your information, there are all kinds of numbers recommended for humidity levels. On days 1 – 17, I keep the humidity at about 40 to 45%. On day 18, I bump it up to 75 to 80%. During the first 17 days, the humidity levels keep the eggs from losing humidity through the porous shells. During the hatching days, the higher humidity keeps the membrane soft and pliable and allows the baby to get out. If the humidity level isn’t high enough, the membrane can get very tough and the baby cannot get through it.
So now that you know everything I know about hatching babies . . Thursday was the day to put the eggs on lockdown . . stop the turning, get the humidity up.
As I was moving the eggs, I heard chirping. I thought that could mean there would be an early bird hatching! Sure enough, yesterday morning I awoke to a bright eyed little chick. He was already dry so he must’ve hatched not long after I went to bed.
He’s one of Wilbur’s offspring. Wilbur is a Dominique. Throughout the day yesterday, there were eggs hatching. As of this morning, we have 11, probably 5 are from my own chickens (Wilbur and his clan), 2 Buff Lace Polish, 1 Ameraucana, 2 Cochin2, and 1 Welsummer.
This little guy is a Buff Lace Polish that had just hatched. We’ve had dark brown or black chickens hatching and it was nice to see a little blonde.
They’re so funny to watch when they first hatch out.
Can you imagine what they think? They’ve been all squished inside that dark egg, oblivious to the world around them, and all of a sudden, they’re in a whole new world with humans talking baby talk to them, other baby chicks chirping, lights, and a dog barking.
I wonder how many will hatch today.