Incubating Eggs, part 1

Back in September we bought our first two sets of breeding chickens, Ameraucanas and Minorcas. I have been “patiently” waiting to actually start hatching those eggs. Well, that time has finally come!

The only eggs we have ever hatched were hatched by a broody hen, so all I had to do was give her eggs and check back 21 days later. Amazingly we had a 100% hatch rate on those eggs. Sadly she was not the best mom and by 3 months we only had one chick left… Perceval the Jerk rooster.

So once we purchased our breeders I began researching the best way to hatch eggs in an incubator. There is lots of slightly conflicting information out there. The only consistent information I could find was: experience will teach you what works the best. This is not the information I wanted. But let’s be real, it is true.

I should mention that the temperature should ideally be between 99-100 degrees depending on if you use a forced air or still air incubator. The conflicting information has to do with the humidity levels. Some say keep it high, other low, other day try dry incubation. Checking the weight of the eggs and the size of the air sack seems to be the best judge of humidity level.

I finally gave up trying to find the “perfect” information and bought an incubator, set it up and watched the temperature and humidity for a few days. So far Ive learned we live in a super, super humid area (because my hair couldn’t have told me that) and I have to use the smallest water trough in the incubator. The instructions said to start with the biggest trough as that is the normal one people need, I assume those people also don’t have frizzy hair issues, lucky.

I chose the GQF 1588 Genesis Hova-Bator Incubator by GQF. It got good reviews on both Amazon and chicken websites. It also has a large window, so we can watch and see how things are going. I splurged and got and an automated egg turner. Half the time I don’t know what day it is, so there is no way I’d remember to turn eggs at least three times a day. I went with the Little Giant Farm & Ag Miller Manufacturing 6300 Automatic Egg Turner because people said it was sturdy and easier than others to clean. We will see how this hatching season goes before I make any judgements myself.

I am still a little paranoid, but Friday we put our first eggs in as a test run. They say 80-90% hatch rate is good, I would be happy with 50%, thats a lie, I’d be happy if any hatched!

Thursday will be day seven and I can candle the eggs to see if we have any developments, until then there is nothing I can do.

Given my controlling nature, this is a huge leap of faith for me. On a chicken forum, someone summed it up perfectly, “hatching is NOT a science – it’s part art and part nature, part miracle.” So for now I just get to sit back and wait.

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