I have continued my research into high altitude hatching hoping to come up with answers about how to do it successfully.
I sent a few messages out to people I found on BYC that are hatching eggs successfully at high altitude and a few were kind enough to send me information about what they do and how they do it. It seems that there is one main thing they all agree on and that is that you must do the humidity differently at high altitude. I was doing mine by the book that came with my incubator and one of my other books. They both said to run at about 50-55% humidity for the incubation and then raise it to 75% for lockdown (the last three days). The high altitude people say that is WAY too high for this elevation and that I need to run it somewhere in between 28-45% during incubation and then 65-70% for lockdown. That is a pretty big difference!
Another thing that may or may not help increase our chances is to incubate with the eggs tip down. Our incubator has the eggs on their sides. I haven’t decided yet how much I think this matters or not and whether or not we will be trying to do this for the next hatch.
Lastly, I was told that parent stock is extremely important. It is best if the parents have hatched at high altitude and even better if they have proven they can lay eggs that hatch well at high altitude. And certain breeds thrive better at high altitude while others do not. We do not have any birds that were hatched at high altitude, and we don’t know yet if any of ours will lay eggs that hatch well up here either (we know one doesn’t). We do know that our friends’ birds (that live at this elevation but weren’t hatched here) don’t lay eggs that hatch well at high altitude because those were the eggs in the last incubation.
One of the people I found through BYC that I talked to has agreed to sell us some hatching eggs from her flock. She has been hatching at 7,300 feet for several years now and has several generations of good high-altitude hatchers. Her breeds include Colloncas, Araucanas, Ameraucanas, a Marans rooster, and a few others I can’t remember. So my eggs with be mixed breeds of those.
After the two major failures I did not think we would be hatching again very soon, but we felt we needed to jump at this opportunity to try some eggs that have been proven to succeed up here in the thin air. So we jumped at it. We will be getting the eggs and starting the hatch mid-July. We will be including some of our own eggs (now that our hens are old enough) to see how they do and the be the “control group” to test how much of it has to do with getting the humidity right and how much of it is about good high-altitude genetics (because we don’t have that but the purchased eggs do).
I must admit I am a bit nervous. But we need to keep trying if we want to be able to breed our own chickens. We must figure out how to successfully hatch at high altitude. I will definitely continue to update on how this all goes as we go for our third try at incubation.