Hatching Egg Issues: Possible Causes And Corrections

When cabin fever sets in, we tend to look forward to the days when the sun is shining and new life is emerging around every corner. It’s this time each year when the trusty old incubator comes out to set some eggs for hatching. The 21 days of anticipation: how many will hatch, did we do everything right? Some hatching years are better than others. When the day comes to expect hatching and nothing happens you begin to go over in your head any possible error. You may never know what went wrong when diagnosing egg hatching failures, but here are the most common causes of of issues.

Hatching Egg Failure Cause/Correction Blog

Hatching Eggs

When selecting eggs for incubation be sure to avoid malformed or abnormally large eggs. In addition, soiled or dirty eggs should not be used as they can contaminate or spread germs in the incubator. Clean eggs should be chosen since any attempt to clean soiled eggs will remove the natural bloom that protects the egg from bacteria. Once eggs have been chosen, carefully store them at room temperature for no more than 10 days before setting in the incubator.

Hatching Egg Failure Cause/Correction Blog

Temperature/Humidity/Ventilation

When setting up your incubator, it is recommended to monitor the temperature/humidity for a couple days for any fluctuations before setting the eggs. The temperature of the incubator must be between 99-100 degrees Fahrenheit. Humidity levels are important to prevent excessive loss of egg moisture. Low humidity levels will cause the eggs to lose too much weight and the air space will be larger than ideal. This larger air space will result in smaller/weaker chicks that will struggle to hatch on their own. Most often these chicks die just before or after hatching.

Egg Turning

Eggs not being turned often enough or incorrectly would result in the embryo sticking to the shell membrane and die. The eggs must be turned 4-6 times daily until the last 3 days (lockdown period) or use an automatic egg turner in your incubator.

Incubator Management

Opening the incubator while the chicks are hatching. Improper setup resulting in incorrect incubator settings. The incubator was not cleaned well enough from the last hatch resulting in bacteria growth.  

Hatching Egg Failure Cause/Correction Blog

Dead Embryos at Early Stage

When there are dead embryos at the early stage of the incubation process, this can be the result of inadequate temperature/humidity. The embryo could have been malpositioned or received an infection from bacteria or fungi.  

Late Hatching or Not Hatching Uniformly 

Late hatching can happen when the temperature of the incubator is too low. This can reduce the hatch rate of the eggs placed. Old or improperly stored eggs can also cause late hatching.  

Early Hatching

Early hatching can be the result of having a temperature too high during the incubation process. In cases like this there is often a reduced hatch rate and sometimes the chicks hatch with physical deformities. 

Hatching Egg Failure Cause/Correction Blog
Crippled or Malformed Chicks

Crippled or malformed chicks are usually the result when the temperature of the incubator is too high and the humidity is too low. Inadequate egg setting position or turning can also cause crippled chicks. 

Hatching Egg Failure Cause/Correction Blog

Abnormal, Weak or Small Chicks

High temperatures, small eggs, insufficient humidity and ventilation can cause abnormal, weak or small chicks.  

Chicks Pip The Shell But Died Without Hatching

With insufficient moisture or ventilation, chicks may pip the shell but die without hatching. Improper setting of the eggs or opening the incubator too much can also cause the embryo to be malpositioned.  

Take notes during the hatching process to assist you in troubleshooting any errors to improve the outcome next time. Each day you can document changes you see while incubating with this Hatching Egg Tracker  

For the hatching beginner or just to brush up on your knowledge check out our Guide to Incubating and Hatching Chicken eggs.

Happy Hatching!

Download Hatching Egg Freebie

We’ve created a hatching egg tracker to help you keep track of things like egg quantity, breed, candling checks, lockdown, and the date they hatch! Perfect for at home hatching or to use in the classroom. Download your own hatching egg tracker today!

Hatching Egg Tracker | Meyer Hatchery

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