Causes of chicken hatching problems
first trial hatch in the Brinsea
Mini Advance incubator
was better than I'd expected but worse than I'd hoped. Four
eggs out of seven pipped, two chicks hatched, and one survived. Although it was
emotionally tough, I chose to autopsy all of the dead eggs in hopes of
improving my hatch rate for next time.
- One chick was speared by
another's claw as it tried to hatch. The dead chick was hatching
about half an hour later than its sibling and had just reached the
stage where it was beginning to push the mostly detached egg top aside
when its precocious sibling clambered over top of it and stuck its foot
inside the crack. In a way, this is a crazy fluke, but the
experience also makes me think that it might be smart to have somewhere
else for newly hatched chicks to fluff out rather than on top of their
hatching siblings. Since I've read that it's best not to move
chicks to the brooder until they're fully fluffed out, that means a
spare incubator or other enclosed, warm space.
- Another chick started pipping,
but only seemed able to push small chips out of its shell. (I've
enlarged the hole after death to see in.) I don't know whether
was abnormally hard or the chick was abnormally weak. I'd read
not to help chicks out of the shell, so I stood back, and the chick
eventually perished (perhaps in part because an earlier hatched chick
(not the same one as above) rolled the egg over so that the hole was
face-down on the ground.) Since the chick died anway, I wonder if
I wouldn't have been better off helping this obviously struggling
chick? On the other hand, it might have come out weak and had to
be culled anyway.
- Three eggs had nearly full-formed chicks
inside but they didn't manage (or, apparently, even try) to pip.
Some sources suggest that late stage dead in shell chicks are signs of
incorrect humidity, often too high. I didn't keep track of the
size of the air pocket over time by candling, but I may try that next
time around to help me keep the humidity in the right range.
- Finally, one chick
hatched on day 22 but died less than a day later. Chicks that
hatch late and are "soft" are indications of the average incubation
temperature being lower than optimal, and temperature was definitely
the spot where I did the worst job during incubation. Air
temperature in the kitchen fluctuated between 45 degrees and 85 degrees
and the incubator's high and low temperature alarms went off several
The good news is that
all of the eggs were viable and made it nearly to hatching time, which
means our rooster and hens are all fertile. And watching
the first chick hatch
was quite an experience --- well worth the price of the incubator by
itself! Hopefully I can fix my mistakes and have more living
chicks next time.
Our first chick took to the chicken waterer when it was
even less than a day old.
Since writing this post, I've experimented
much more with incubation. I developed a dichotomous key that
makes it easy to figure out exactly what went wrong (and how to prevent
the problem from reoccurring). Learn more about troubleshooting
the hatch in my 99 cent ebook.
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Chicken: Incubation Handbook walks beginners through perfecting the
incubating and hatching process
so they can enjoy the exhilaration of the hatch without the angst of
dead chicks. 92 full color photos bring incubation to life, while
charts, diagrams, and tables provide the hard data you need to
accomplish a hatch rate of 85% or more.