Incubation Procedures

Important Incubation Procedures to Follow:

  • Storing Eggs for Maximum Hatchability: The correct way of storing fertilized eggs before incubation begins.
  • Incubator:
    • Locate the incubator in a room with a constant temperature, away from drafts and direct sunlight.
    • Sanitize the incubator.
    • Ensure that the humidifier and wet bulb wick are in working order.
  • Eggs:
    • Wash hands before touching eggs. Keep germs, dirt and oil away from incubating eggs.
    • Only incubate egg species with similar incubation lengths at the same time in one incubator.
    • The small end of the egg should not be higher than the large end.
    • Turn eggs at least five times a day until the last 3 days before hatch. The result of incomplete or insufficient egg rotation is that chick organs stick to the sides of the shells. Chicks are born with their intestines outside their bodies.
    • Special Note about Duck / Goose Eggs: Dave Holderread in his book, ‘Storey’s Guide to RAISING DUCKS” recommends that duck / goose eggs be sprayed or sprinkled with warm water to prevent the egg membranes from drying out and becoming tough during the hatch (potentially resulting in “dead-in-shells). He recommends spraying or sprinkling these eggs with warm water (about 100 degree Fahrenheit) once each day from day 4 to 26. In nature, the hen will get off the eggs and into the water at least once a day to feed and drink. She will then return to the nest and continue to brood the eggs with her wet plumage – naturally wetting down the eggs.
    • Do not turn for the final 3 to 4 days.Interesting facts:
      • As the embryo develops, the egg loses water by transpiration through the chorioallentoic membrane. This loss of water – together with the loss of yolk fats used by the embryo – cause the egg to be lighter at hatching. This is the basis of the “egg floating test” which is used to assess the stage of incubation.
      • The egg shell is thinner at the time of hatching because the chick has absorbed most of the calcium from the inner shell lining.
      Provide a cloth or rough paper surface upon which chicks can walk.
    • Embryo Development and Internal Processes (explains what happens inside the developing egg)
    • Incubated Eggs won’t hatch – Potential Causes and SolutionsPhoto Series: From Egg to Parrot – Amazing series of photos of candled eggs – from Day 1 through Hatching
  • Keep a daily record of incubator data.
  • Temperature: In general: check temperature daily and keep it at 99.5 degrees F to 100 degrees F.
  • Humidity and Ventilation:
    • General recommendations:
      • Humidity:
        • 45 to 50% for the incubation periodincrease to 70% for hatching
      • Ventilation:
        • Increase ventilation during the last one-third of the incubation period.
    Incubation Humidity and Ventilation (Detailed information about humidity level requirements of the different bird species as well as during the different stages of embryo development – throughout the incubation process up to hatching) …

The below test pinpoints the incubation stage of the egg, if unknown.

  • If the eggs are cool to touch, incubation has either not commenced yet or the eggs have been abandoned.
  • If the eggs are warm, one can assess the stage of development by placing the eggs into a pail of water. Please refer to below illustration.

NOTE: This is a popular science project and quite accurate, but not recommended for breeders, as any significant temperature change the egg is exposed to is likely to hurt the developing chick.

Egg Flotation Chart

In-depth information on egg incubation, step-by-step instruction – important technical specifications to follow (pdf format)

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