Hatch Day and Losses

Don’t count your chicks before they hatch. Right! That’s what they say. And they say that because it brings bad luck or something. And, as you may recall, I did just that a few days ago. I won’t lie, I was hoping for all eggs to magically turn into baby chicks on hatch day. same feeling Christmas morning brings to a kid’s heart. 

What can you really expect on hatch day?

…fluff balls… but first, the chick will peck until it breaks through the inner membrane (the part that separates the top air cell from the chick). If you pay close attention to it, you can see the egg rock a bit and hear the chick cheeping away. Then comes a small hole through the outside of the egg. Chicks get exhausted quickly during hatch day, so after this point, it will take a long break of a few hours. Once its batteries recharge a bit, the chick will start to unzip the egg – moving around in a circle, it will create a line in the egg until it can push itself out.

Then Christmas morning moment! You get to see this little wet and nearly bald chick and feels like a disappointment because it wasn’t what you were expecting. Not to worry – come back in a couple of hours and instant fluff ball!

It is recommended not to open the incubator to remove chicks unless all of the chicks have hatched and are fluffy or it has been 48 hours since the first chick hatched. and, just like human babies, chicks do not hatch on time on day 21 (it could be from anywhere from day 19 to 25). As you have fluff balls running around in the incubator, disturbing the peace, quickly grab all of them and close the lid quickly. If an unhatched egg has pipped internally it can get trapped due to the decrease of humidity (which happens very quickly and unfortunately, with all my care, I lost two babies from being shrink wrapped).

In some cases, intervention from you could save a chick’s life. It is important to understand that you cannot rush a chick to hatch. It needs to take its time to absorb all the egg yolk, the vascular veins to close and then it’s ready to move around. If interested, please read this very helpful post from Backyard Chickens. The author mentions the different stages of incubation, when to assist and when to take a step back and just wait for the chick to do its thing. Caution, there are pictures in the post that may be disturbing.

And even with the best of care, some chicks just don’t make it. It’s very heartbreaking, but knowing what happened and why it may have happened can alleviate the pain and be a lesson learned for next time. Here are a few things that may happen during incubation (and ways to prevent them):

  • clear/infertile eggs: there are so many variables that can cause eggs to be infertile – health withing the flock, weather (too hot or too cold), and incorrectly stored eggs. It is recommended to candle the eggs before setting them in the incubator for a better chance at hatch rate. But that doesn’t stop them from failing further, in the incubator…
  • blood rings/bacteria inside the eggs: this is caused by improper egg storage, unclean eggs and/or handling, and improper incubator temperatures. some of the bad eggs I had did have blood rings on them… To avoid blood rings, do not attempt to hatch very dirty eggs, check your incubator temperatures and run a test run for at least 48 hours before setting eggs and make sure that all things the eggs come into contact with are clean. I regret rushing through the process, but I didn’t want the eggs to get too old either and become infertile.
  • early quitters (embryo lost in the first week): this is usually caused by improper incubator temperatures (usually too high), not turning the eggs, poor ventilation or disease in the flock. To avoid having early losses, again, do a test run so you know your incubator is running at the proper temperature of 99-99.5F (even one degree higher or lower kills the embryo).
  • pipped without hatching: this is caused by low humidity in the incubator. It is recommended to keep humidity levels between 45-55% for best results. Please note that as chicks hatch, humidity spikes. Some incubators have covered holes that can be uncovered to let some humidity out without jeopardising the hatch.

But not all losses are from human error. Never beat yourself down because you can do everything right and still have losses…nobody can claim they have 100% hatching rate!
at the end of the day, we’re trying to play Mother Nature role… 

I don’t have a final count of fluffs because we are still on Day 22, but here are some pictures to make that better! So far we have 23 that hatched successfully, 2 were shrink wrapped, and 2 more pipped!

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7 Thoughts on “Hatch Day and Losses

  1. Pingback: 3LineTales – 30 days and counting – Sand In The Bikini

  2. This post is so fascinating! And adorable! I love the little fuzzballs snuggling together around the feather dusters. 🙂 And educational! And just a little bit sad, but hopeful too. It’s all new to a citified country girl like me. I hope your remaining eggs pop out all the fluffies!

  3. Very informative! I would love to try this once at least once!

    • You’ve got my support 🙂 it’s very rewarding! The losses part is saddening, but thus is farm life. My first year hatching, I had 2 full incubators going (82 eggs) and only 39 came out. I cried. A lady I talked to said it could be some many things that could have happened, one was it was January outside (rooster might not be at his prime time). She said be happy they are all healthy and you can always hatch more! Good luck if you decide to try 🙂

      • Someone told us once that livestock equals deadstock. Which sounds harsh to my citykid ears but it’s true. There is some amount of loss in the process. At least I figure this citykid was here to mourn their loss and to thank the God who gives and takes away for their life.

        I have several broody hens and I’ve been wondering if I should just let one sit with her clutch. There is one in particular I argue with daily over who gets to keep the eggs. But she is in the run with all the other hens and I haven’t researched yet how that would work, or if it even does. I’m learning so much from reading your broody hen posts! So much good info I will give them multiple readings to take it all in!

        • Yup, heard that too and it’s sad, but as you said we thank God for the opportunity and gift.

          Broody hens are awesome!! Saves you a ton of work. My next experiment will be to have a few eggs under the hen and more in the incubator and time them to hatch around the same time. This way you can shove all chicks from the incubator under the broody and she raises them for you! No heat lamps, no special treatment, no need to watch over them too much. AND she teaches them everything about being ‘chicken’ 🙂 old wives tale says it’s good luck to put odd number eggs under the broody (5-7-11). My grandma used to put even up to 19.

          Good luck! and keep me (us) updated 🙂

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