Incubating for the first time

Any tips? I am using the 1588 hova bator incubator.


  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,210 admin
    edited March 2021

    How exciting! There are always tips. ;)

    What are you hatching? Chickens (standard or bantam), ducks, turkey, guinea fowl or quail? This changes things a bit. Ducks are only different in incubation time & humidity needs. I will go over the standard for large fowl (regular sized chickens).

    Have you been checking for fertility before collecting? Do that first. I can pm you a picture if you want to know how to identify the target looking blastocyst.

    Feed your mature birds a higher protien diet/breeder ration for the strongest, healthiest chicks. This is done for a few weeks prior to collecting. Not everyone does this step, so don't panic if you haven't done this.

    Only save normal looking eggs. Don't use eggs that are double yolkers, mis-shapen, thin shelled (easily seen when candling), too large or too small.

    Save up to one week of eggs (2 at the most...but 7 is best) and store in a place that is cool, about 13°C is good. Tilt these twice a day to keep the yolks from sticking. Humidity should be higher in this area to reduce loss of moisture (indicated by an enlarged air cell).

    Clean your incubator well. I use Dettol (a hospital disinfectant) mixed in water. I wipe it down & rinse. Never let your electrical equipment get wet.

    If your incubator has a wafer (2 disks), it is good to have a spare on hand. Make sure that your sensors have fresh batteries if they are run on battery power.

    Calibrate your thermometer.

    Run your incubator for at least one day to bring the temp up to where it needs to be (99.5°F) and your humidity is stable.

    Candle the eggs before setting. Look for hairline cracks, & detached air cells. Dispose of those eggs. Dirty ones are best not set.

    Ideally, leave eggs unwashed to preserve the bloom. If you must clean them, either gently scuff the dirty area with a sponge or lightly run a bit of warm water on the area & clean with the sponge. Dry. I do this just before setting.

    Mark one side with an X, the opposite side with an O.

    Record type of breed, date set, how many set, hatch date, humidity & temp (in room & inside the incubator), times turned (notes each time with temp, humidity), side up each turn (X & O), notes. You can pm me for a chart. It is not my work, so I won't post it publically.

    Make sure that your thermometer is measuring the temperature at the top of the egg, not the bottom.

    A turner can overheat the top of the eggs. If you use one, big end of egg should be up. I lay the eggs on their side, on an upside down teflon coated cookie cooking rack over the mesh to keep the eggs from rolling around & touching.

    If you have trouble regulating temperature (common in styrofoam), throw a warm fluffy towel over top.

    Still air incubators can have hot spots & cool spots. I use 2 thermometers in mine at opposite corners even though mine is a forced air (with fan).

    Water surface is more important than depth of water for evaporation (creating humidity). I place clean (new) sponges into the water catch pans before setting eggs.

    Keep your humidity at 50% for the first 5-7 days, then reduce it until lockdown at the beginning of Day 18. Then bump it up to 60-70% and reduce temp by 1°F.

    Turn 3x/day if manual. Don't ever completely roll them as this can break the chalaza (the white rope holding the yolk stable).

    Candle very little. Three times or even two in your 21 days is plenty. If you have a lot of eggs, you can do some and come back later when the temp & humidity is stable & do the rest. I candle at 7 days, 12 days and 17. Research what a clear egg, a mass & a blood ring is. These are bad. A spider is fantastic. Movement is awesome. Find pictures. Learn those well. Remember, if you aren't sure, leave the egg for a day or so and candle again. Sometimes a lack of movement can be a sleeping chick.

    If there is a lot of moisture on the windows, your humidity is too high. The air cells can start to collect water & when a chick internally pips, it could drown. I have not had that problem, but others have.

    Eggs that will explode will most likely do so after 12 days. I have not had any explode yet. I have been lucky. I had a couple weepy ones and some light ones...those are touchy like a grenade. Pick those up in a sandwich bag to lessen mess should they explode.

    Lockdown is day 18. Make sure hat you take the Turner out before laying the eggs on their side. When you candle for the last time, place the eggs on their side & make sure that the air cell is biggest at the top side. I am not sure how to clearly state this, but it will help them hatch. Also at this point, adjust the temp down & humidity up. DO NOT OPEN THE INCUBATOR FOR ANY REASON. This is very hard. This is where you learn patience.

    I use a bendy straw to add water, though the vents to the water pans during lockdown.

    When chicks hatch, the humidity will shoot up. Don't panic.

    Once a chick pips internally, you can sometimes hear peeps. Once it pips externally, you should hear peeps.

    Before both of these, sometime during day 18 or 19, you will see the eggs rock. The chick is positioning its body & putting its head under its wing for a proper hatch. Once it is ready, the neck will spasm, causing the egg tooth part of the beak to hit the eggshell.

    A hatch can be extended, depending on age of the egg at set. Late chicks can be okay, but sometimes they are the weaker ones and may not make it out of the shell. It is hard not to help. You are better off not to, as what most people find is that these are weak chicks that will have a deformity and won't live past 3 days (if you are lucky) no matter what you do.

    Your chicks can stay in the incubator up to 24 hours with no problem. Make sure that you have their brooder area, complete with heat plate/heat mat, food and water (with electrolytes/1 Tbsp. live ACV:1 gal. water) ready when you lockdown. That is what I do anyway. Then it is waiting for your fluff butts. Make sure that it isn't drafty.

    Once hatched, you will have to watch for past butt. Get a little piece of washcloth and warm water to wipe this down very gently, or have lukewarm water running over the poopy area while you wipe. Pat dry. Do not get the whole chick wet! Just the poopy spot.

    There are more tips, I'm sure, but this is what I can think of at the moment.

    Have fun!

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Nice! What breeds are you hatching?

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,210 admin
    edited March 2021

    @COWLOVINGIRL My styrofoam incubator has 2 red plugs. Keeping these out let's more room humidity in as well as fresh air which is necessary. I generally keep one in as I found that works for me.

    These help in the regulation of both the humidity and fresh air.

    If you are interested in trying the method of "dry" incubation, you can look it up on there was an article posted there on 1/10/12. Bill Worrell wrote the piece.

    I sent you pictures of my documents by pm. These are picture form. You will want to create your own. With the first records one, I need to take the time to rearrange the columns the way I prefer to write them down. I would also like more room for notes.

    COWLOVINGIRL Posts: 954 ✭✭✭✭

    @Denise Grant I am hatching americauna!

    COWLOVINGIRL Posts: 954 ✭✭✭✭

    @LaurieLovesLearning Thank you so much for all the info! Sorry I didn't respond to this sooner. I am so busy these days with spring projects! One question I have on turning. How do I turn the eggs without an egg turner? What exactly is egg turning?

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,210 admin

    @COWLOVINGIRL The purpose of turning eggs is so that the yolk doesn't become fixed in place, fused to the membrane. You need it to be able to move around to the topside of the egg, when you turn it, where it naturally sits.

    Without an egg turner, your eggs will be on their side. You mark the eggs, X on one side, O on the other side. If you have X on the upper side, you turn it over with your hand so O is facing upwards. You do the same O to X the next time. This gives the egg a half turn and is done ideally 3×/day. You don't want to do X to X though or O to O, as it may break the chalza (the membrane "rope" inside the egg that holds the yolk somewhat stable).

    I use an upside down teflon coated (easier to clean) cookie rack in my incubator to keep the eggs from rolling around. I can also keep the eggs from touching, which is preferable to keep bacteria from transferring from egg to egg should one go bad.

    Some people put in a layer of felt under the eggs at lockdown for easier clean up of the incubator. I don't bother with that. No matter what is done, you have a mess to clean up anyway.

    I have read that turning by hand is good as it gives the eggs as slight cooling down period in their day. The egg temperature, when eggs are upright in a turner can get too warm at the top of the egg because it is closer to the element. On its side, there isn't as much of a concern. Also, you don't have to go to the bother of removing the turner at lockdown.

    If you hatch similar colored eggs from different flocks (like 2 flocks of the same breed) and you want to keep them separate at hatch, you can make little boxes of hardware cloth to put the eggs in. I found that they needed lids. You also need to give room for the chicks to move around. You place the eggs in these at lockdown. I found that a nylon mesh grocery bag is nice for this purpose and cuts down on gunk clean up. I would prefer a zip type to a string pull though and this might be found in a mesh delicates laundry bag. You need to tie the bags or the little fluff butts will find their way out.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited March 2021

    @COWLOVINGIRL I love americaunas. Both the egg color and the chickens

    This is the first year I have not had chicks. I may hatch some in the fall. I kind of miss not having them but I had decisions to make about chickens and too much to do this spring on the property.

    @LaurieLovesLearning Great description on egg turning and incubation practices. I need to get an incubator.