There is nothing more enjoyable that hatching your own birds. I have over the years hatched hundreds and i'm still fascinated by the whole process. the first birds that you hatch are special, and give you a great felling of achievement. I thing that hatching your own young is something that every one should experience at least once. Incubation is a very in depth subject with many things to consider. My aim here is to provide an in site and hopefully help you on your way.
STORAGE OF EGGS
If you have brought your eggs from a breeder then the chances are that you will not need to store them as your incubator should be running before you collect the eggs. However if you are collecting eggs from your own birds them then the storage of them is just as important as the rest of the process. It is important that the eggs are collected fresh each morning and any soiled ones are cleaned. Once this has been done the eggs should be place point down in a egg tray. The eggs need to be point downs as the air sack will rise and may break up the yolk as it does so. Although there is not point at which an egg will fail to hatch the longer they are stored the less chance you have. I like to try and get all my eggs into the incubator before they are 10 days old. I store all my hatching eggs in the fridge and have never had any problems. however its important that they a allowed at leat 12 hours to come up to room temperature before being placed into the incubator
TYPE OF INCUBATOR
The best type of incubator is of course a broody hen. They know the exact temperature the right amount of humidity and also the correct number of turns that the eggs need. However they do have their down side. They never seem to be broody when you need them to be, they can only hatch a certain number of eggs and once they go brood they stop laying. It is for these reason that the incubator is in great demand
Incubators come in many shapes and sizes and can hold from 3 eggs to 1000's of eggs. There are there are three main types manual, semi- automatic and automatic. These are then broken down into two groups, still air or fan assisted. The sort you choose will depend upon how often it will be used, how much you have to spend on one and also on the number of eggs you intended to hatch. You don't need to spend vast amounts but remember price does reflect machines operating performance
Still air incubators give out heat via an heating eliminate and relies on natural air follow to circulate the air. Still air is generally only used in small incubators as they do not provide an even distribution of heat. As a result the temperature can be different throughout the incubator.
Fan assisted or forced air are provide heat in the same way but also have a small fan included. The fan helps to circulate the heat around all of the incubator. This provides a more even temperature as a result are more accurate.
Manual is as the name suggests a machine that provides heated compartment taut will hold the eggs. The eggs then have to be turned by hand at least 3 times a day individually. these machines can be still or fan assisted and will only normally hold up to a 100 eggs. It will be this variety that most beginners will start with.
Semi-Automatic provides the heat the same as the manual however this type provides the facility to turn all the eggs at the same time. This is normally provided in the form of a leave which rotates the eggs. You still have to remember to turn them!
Automatic This virtually does everything for you, the eggs are turned every hour by an electric motor. These are perhaps the easiest options however they are more expensive.
Once you have choosen the type of incubator that meets your needs you must find the best place to put it. Ideally this should be in a place that is free from draft and does not have extreme temperature changes from day to night. The incubator should not be subjected to direct sun light or freezing conditions. The ideal place is a spare room with the central heating turned off
THIS IS A SMALL AND BASIC INCUBATOR, BUT VERY EFFETIVE
SETTING THE EGGS
Before the eggs are placed in the incubator it is important that that they are allowed to rest in the same room as the incubator for 24 hours whist this is happening the incubator should be switch on to ensure that the correct temperature is being maintained please see chart below. Once you are sure that all is well the eggs can be placed in. It is important that all eggs are clean as the incubator is the perfect place for bacteria to breed. If you are turning the eggs manual it's a good idea to place a O on one side and an X on the other this way you will be able to keep a note of which way they have been turned and how many times. I have placed the one i use on this site so please feel free to print it off or create your own.
On the floor of the incubator i place a piece of hessian, This is a natural material that allows the birds to grip as they hatch. This prevents the birds from slipping and getting splayed legs.
Humidity is a very important factor in successful incubation, too little and the birds will get stuck inside the shell and to much will result in the birds drowning as the beak into the air sack. As a general rule i don't add water for the first 15 days and then aim to run the incubator at around 45-50% humidity. It is however important to follow the manufactory guide lines as each incubator can be different.
After about a week the eggs should be candled, this is done by holding them to a bright light. If the eggs are fertile you should be able to see a spidering effect of the blood cells. If they are not fertile they should be removed.
Eggs should be turned at least 3 times a day however the more the better, it is important however to turn them on odd numbers each day for example 3,5,7 ect. This will make sure that each night they are lying a different side up. It is important that this is noted on your chart.
After a week of incubation i like to leave the lid of and allow the eggs to cool for about half an hour each day. This seems to improve the hatch rate of the eggs as it would represent the natural incubation process of the mother leaving to feed each day. At day 24 for ducks and 17 for chickens the eggs no longer require turning as it is at this stage that the young bird inside is getting into its final position that will allow it to break free of the egg. Also at this stage you must make sure that humidity remains high in the incubator
Hessian should be placed on the floor of the incubator to prevent birds from slipping, causing splayed legs.
Candling is a simple yet very important part of incubation and its important that it is carried at regular stages to ensure that the egg is still alive inside. Candling involves holding the egg up to a strong light so that you can see inside. The traditional way of doing this was to use as the name suggest a candle. Now a days most people tend to use a simple hand held torch. the first time to candle is at around 7 days by this time the embryo will have started to develop and you should in a fertile egg be able to see blood vessels. i then like to check mine once a week to see how they are doing. At each stage any dead ones will be clear to see as they will appear as a blood ring inside the egg and should be removed so as to stop infection spreading to the other eggs. Whilst candling it is also important that the size of the air sack is getting larger. If after 14 days the air sack looks the same as at 7 days t5hen the amount of humidity needs to be lowed. More young will die from eggs that have been kept to humid than one that have been incubated a little on the dry side.
1) Set the incubator at the correct temperature and allow to run for 24 hours.
2) If hatching eggs have travelled allow them 24 hours to rest in one position.
3) Make sure that the eggs are clean before putting in the incubator.
4) Don't add water for the first 15 days and then run at around 45-50%.
5) Candle eggs after a week to check fertility.
6) Turn the eggs at least 3 times a day.
7) Make sure that the water is topped up the day before hatching.
Incubation can be a matter of trial and error as there are so many variables involved, the end result is very rewarding and I would encourage every one to have a go.
If you have any questions please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be pleased to help.