Hatching Egg Issues: Possible Causes And Corrections
Published September 5, 2022
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. During the 21 days of anticipation, we wonder how many will hatch and are we doing everything correctly. 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 hatching issues.
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 could possibly rot and explode during incubation, which will contaminate 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 them in the incubator.
Duck eggs that may be too dirty to use in an incubator.
Temperature, Humidity, and Ventilation
When setting up your incubator, it is recommended to monitor the temperature and humidity for a couple days prior to setting your eggs inside for any fluctuations. The temperature of the incubator must be between 99-100 degrees Fahrenheit. The target humidity range is 55-60% relative humidity. 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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. For the hatching beginner or just to brush up on your knowledge check out our Guide to Incubating and Hatching Chicken eggs.
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