We have completed the third incubation of 2014 and we have confirmed, yet again, that we don’t have as much control over the process of an egg turning into a chick as we would like to think we do. We ran the two incubators again, just like last time, and they both kept the same temperature and humidity as they did before (read the comparison of the two bators here). Everything seemed to be moving along just exactly the same,with no issues at all, until the hatch started, and then everything was different, in a good way, and then in a not as good way. But even though they hatched so differently, we were surprised to see that number-wise, it was pretty similar to our previous incubations.
Let’s back up a second to the reason for the hatch. We had some friends that wanted to buy as many chicks as we could possibly hatch at one time. They completely understood that we can’t guarantee anything with a hatch, and were willing to take whatever we could sell them at the end, whether it was 3 chicks or 80. We saw this as a chance to learn more about incubating, make some money, and sell some friends locally hatched chicks from naturally raised stock. In order to try to hatch the most possible, we used both the Top Hatch bator and the Hovabator and filled them almost to capacity (the hens couldn’t quite produce the full capacity for us in the 10 day period). So there were 80 eggs set to start with. By far the most we have ever set at one time.
On day 7, we candled the eggs, finding that there were 75 fertile eggs out of the 80. 94% fertility!!! We were thrilled. Everything proceeded as it had last hatch. ***Please note: the humidity percentages that I list in this post are for high-altitude hatching. The Hovabator held right at about 100F with a humidity of 42% needing a water refill every other day or so. The Top Hatch held at about 99F and it’s humidity ranged from about 30-45% and it needed more attention to keep its humidity stable. On day 18 we candled and did lock-down. Our candling found similar early death results as last time, the Top Hatch had a higher rate of early death (at 38%) than the Hovabator did (at 16%). We went into lockdown with 55 eggs alive and well. I did notice at this point that when we candled, the eggs from the Top Hatch seemed to be a bit behind the eggs from the Hovabator. They weren’t quite filling the egg all the way to the tip. But they still looked fine, and just maybe a day behind.
We locked down the bators. The Hovabator held right around 69% and the Top Hatch ranged from 65-68%.
Day 19 we had our first pip in the Hovabator. The second, third, fourth and fifth pips followed very quickly. It was strange because normally our hatches start out slower than that. But it all was going well, so no complaints! Within about 12 hours the first 5 chicks were out and we had many more pips. The strange thing was that they were all in the Hovabator. I remembered that the Top Hatch bator eggs seemed a little behind, so I figured that they would start pipping within a day and there was no need to worry. The Hovabaotr hatched beautifully, and fast. Within 48 hours it was finished hatching and 29 out of the 32 eggs in it hatched!!! We were on cloud nine because we have NEVER had that high of a hatch percentage (91% hatch of full term eggs, 76% hatch of fertile eggs – in that one bator). At the same time, we were starting to get worried about the other bator. Still not even one pip and we were quickly closing in on day 22. I kept telling myself that some people say their hatches don’t even start until day 23 sometimes.
By the time day 22 started we had our first pip in the Top Hatch and the family had come and picked up the first 29 chicks that had hatched and were dry and strong and ready to go.
The Top Hatch bator eggs then proceeded to very slowly hatch spread over a 4 day period (all the way to day 26). Only ten of them hatched (out of 23), and the last two to hatch were very weak and ended up dying. After the hatch we did eggtopsies on the rest, most of which were full term, proper position, but no signs of trying to hatch at all. It was very strange. We have no idea why the Top Hatch did poorly, nor why it started so late and took so long. We have no idea why the Hovabator did so great either. Both ran almost exactly like they did before, and yet we had such very different results.
Interestingly, while the results on each individual bator were very different, our results on the incubation as a whole were very similar to our previous successful hatches. Here are the stats on all of our hatches:
Hatch #3 of 2014 (the one we just completed)
- Fertility: 94%
- Hatch of Fertile: 52%
Hatch under Broody Hen, Eve – 2014
- Fertility: 100%
- Hatch of Fertile: 67%
Hatch #2 of 2014
- Fertility: 87%
- Hatch of Fertile 51%
Hatch #1 of 2014 (had humidity issues with this one)
- Fertility: 88%
- Hatch of Fertile: 37%
Hatch #1 under Broody Hen, Banana – 2014
- Fertility: 80%
- Hatch of Fertile: 63%
- Fertility: 96%
- Hatch of Fertile: 52%
So we are left with more questions than answers, really, as far as incubating goes. And like I said before, I think the answer is that we have less control than we think we do.
But we are very happy with the hatch and still consider it a very successful one overall. And the family who bought the chicks is very happy to have their 37 chicks. They are all strong and doing well (only those last two died out of 39 chicks). And man, the color variety this time was awesome! It will be fun to visit them in 4 months and see how the colors turned out as adults.
It seems that every incubation will offer more surprises and more unknowns. Always an adventure!