This is not an April Fool’s post. No, really. Those who know me know that I have no sense of humor at all. 😉 That’s not true, but April Fool’s Day is not my thing. Anyhow…
I’ve spent the last week messing with my incubator and practicing for the real thing. I may have mentioned that I bought a Genesis 1588 Hova Bator with an automatic turner. It is made of Styrofoam, holds 42 eggs, has a built-in thermostat that keeps the inside temperature at about 100 degrees, and has a fan to move that warm air around. There are plastic troughs below the floor grate. I heeded some BYC advice and ran a piece of aquarium tubing from the trough, through the grate, and out a vent hole so that I can use an oral syringe to inject warm water to maintain humidity without having to open the incubator. The automatic turner slowly tilts the eggs from side to side so that the yolk does not stick to one side and I don’t have to turn the eggs several times a day manually.
I’ve read a lot about humidity during incubation, which seems to be a key issue. The main recommendation is to maintain 50% humidity during the first 18 days. Others say to keep it much lower, around 35% . The issue is that eggs need to lose 11-15% of their weight in water during incubation, leaving an enlarged air sac. When the chick finally hatches on day 21, it first punctures the thin membrane into this sac to take its first breath of air before the arduous task of breaking through the shell. If the humidity has been too high, this sac will be filled with liquid, and the fully-formed chick will drown. We do not want this to happen.
So, for my test incubation, I weighed 6 infertile grocery store eggs before setting them into the incubator, and I tried to keep humidity around 35%. It is difficult to regulate and varied wildly, but when I weighed them after 2 days, they had lost more than the 1.39% (12.5% weight loss / 18 days = 0.694% per day x 2 days = appx. 1.39%) that they should have. Also, I was having to put in water twice a day, which was too much work. I read a bit more and figured out to cover part of the water trough, limiting surface area and, thus, evaporation, and I aimed for 40% humidity. I succeeded in keeping the humidity at 38%-47% for several days, adding water just once a day, and that seemed to create the proper speed of moisture loss. So, that’s my best guess. We’ll see.
I also practiced candling the eggs with a small flashlight purchased at WalMart ($20, 144 lumens). It seems to work well. Just tonight, I am practicing lockdown. During the last three days, days 18-21, you push up the humidity to about 65% to help the membrane loosen from the chicks. You take the eggs out of the turner so that hatching chicks are not hurt by the machine, and to maintain the same temperature, you place the eggs in egg cartons, keeping them at the same level off of the floor. It seems that some chicks “pip” or try to break out of the wrong end and die, so others just leave the eggs on the floor of the incubator. I cut up some cartons and will prop the eggs up on them instead, hoping to get the benefits of both the carton and floor methods. I guess we’ll see.
I had ordered two sets of eggs. One order consisted of six Easter Eggers, six Welsummers, and six Speckled Sussex eggs. I received those eggs yesterday, along with two extra Welsummers and an extra Speckled Sussex. All eggs were unbroken, and they are currently resting from shipping in my bathtub. (They need to keep cool, and that is the coolest place in the house, so no one is allowed to bathe until these eggs are set…) I ordered 10+ Barnevelders from a seller on eBay and was most excited to receive those, but… no eggs yet. There is no shipping information on eBay, and I need to set my eggs tomorrow. I am hoping that they miraculously arrive tomorrow, but they will not have time to settle from shipping, which is bad to begin with. Worse, I doubt they have even been shipped, so I’ve sent a message to the seller asking for my money back. Sigh. You win some, you lose some, my dad always says. At least I have 21 pretty eggs to set tomorrow! I am participating in a fun hatch-along on BYC, and our eggs will hatch the day before Easter. I am having a great time with all of this, and I can’t wait to have some little fluffy chickens!