The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Incubation 101

Yellow chicksI feel like our four incubator runs this year have equated to a semester of Incubation 101, which would make this last hatch the final exam.  Good thing I get to write a blog post full of pictures instead of a term paper!

We hatched 14 very perky chicks out of 24 eggs this time around.  A 58% hatch rate from mail order eggs is above average, so I'll give myself a B+ based on pure math.

Now that the normal progression of pipping to unzipping to hatching is firmly ingrained in my memory, I barely worried about the incubation process (although I have to admit I woke up to peer into the incubator with the flashlight when the chicks all started popping out of their shells in the middle of the night.)  I helped one chick a bit prematurely, then waited a long time to help another chick who might have needed assistance (but who hatched on his own eventually), and yet both of those troublesome chicks are now indistinguisable from their brethren.  I guess that's a B on grasping the gestalt of the hatch.

Hatch rate by locationNow that I've settled on an incubator that really does the job, I can start learning the ideosyncracies of my equipment.  For example, is it coincidental that eggs in the center of the incubator tray are less likely to hatch than those on the edges and tend to hatch later?  I only kept data on egg location for two hatches and both showed the same trend, but I just don't have enough data points to know for sure.  And if that is indeed the case, what could I do about it to improve my hatch rate --- move eggs around in the incubator every few days, perhaps?

And I wonder why the majority of my eggs always seem to hatch on day 22 instead of the stereotypical day 21.  Should I be running the incubator a bit hotter than 99.6 even though it's a forced air model?  Or am I just counting wrong --- is the day I turn on the heat considered day 0 instead of day 1?

I guess I'll learn these more advanced tricks in Incubation 202, offered spring 2012.  If you want to brush up on your early incubation skills, you might be interested in checking out my other chicken incubation posts on our chicken blog.

Our chicken waterer keeps the flock healthy from the day they hatch with POOP-free water.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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even if its forced air, heat will radiate from the heating element through materials. if the heating element is top center, put aluminum foil above (or below if the heating element is in the bottom) your center eggs. this should block the radiant heat, but will have no effect on convective heat.
Comment by david L Mon Aug 22 11:38:43 2011
David --- It's comments like this that keep us blogging --- thank you! Awesome advice, and a problem I hadn't even considered. I think I may take Mark's advice and move a thermometer around the incubator while it's running for a while and see if I can distinguish hot spots, then try to make an aluminum foil umbrella and see if that helps.
Comment by anna Mon Aug 22 19:01:40 2011

Baby chicks Like late summer snowflakes Each one so unique.

Comment by Maggie Mon Aug 22 19:32:47 2011
...each one nearly indistinguishable!
Comment by anna Tue Aug 23 14:14:51 2011
In the picture they look more unique than indistinguishable.
Comment by Maggie Wed Aug 24 07:01:34 2011

profile counter myspace

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