Why Don’t All Incubated Eggs Hatch?

Why Don’t All Incubated Eggs Hatch?

Why doesn’t every incubated egg hatch? 

 

It can be so disappointing. You’ve just nurtured your clutch of a dozen or two eggs for nearly 3 weeks, but then, on hatch day, not all of your eggs have hatched. 

 

 

Despite your best efforts, it breaks your heart, and you can’t help but second-guess your decision to raise chicks. 

 

While it’s impossible to truly know the exact reason, there are many factors that can result in a less than stellar hatch rate.

 

In this article, you’ll discover a “checklist” of reasons – and you can use them to determine where you might have gone wrong.

 

Today, I’ll provide some insight into the question “Why doesn’t every incubated egg hatch?” 

 

A short list of why every incubated egg doesn’t hatch:

 

  1. Wrong Temperature and/or Humidity
  2. Chicks Run out of Air
  3. Chicks Run out of Energy
  4. There’s a Genetic Issue
  5. Wrong Position to Pip
  6. “Shrink wrapping”
  7. Hatched Chicks Cause Trauma

 

Unhatched Eggs Are Very Common

Whether you incubated eggs in an incubator or they’re hatched by a hen, it’s really common to lose some chicks before they enter the world.

 

A lot of owners get upset when this happens, and think that they did something wrong. While it’s possible you influenced a poor hatch rate, a lot of times, you probably didn’t.

 

Many times, eggs don’t hatch due to factors outside your control. 

 

So, if you get a poor hatch rate, don’t beat yourself up. Just look at the reasons we discuss below, and see if any of them might be relevant to your most recent hatch.

 

Wrong Temperature/Humidity

The first reason could be that the conditions inside the incubator or under the hen weren’t ideal. This comes down to temperature and humidity. 

 

It takes about 21 days for eggs to hatch. When you incubate eggs, or when a hen hatches chicks, the eggs need a fairly consistent temperature of 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit (37.5 degrees Celsius) and a humidity level of around 50%. It’s ok to have slightly less humidity during the first 18 days of incubation and a slightly higher degree of humidity during the last three or four days of incubation (ideally, 50% to 60% humidity). 

 

The first 18 days, you should turn your eggs three of three or five times a day – odd numbers of turns. 

 

Then the last three to four days, until they actually hatch, they have to just sit in one place. This helps the chick prepare itself for birth. During this time, you need that consistent temperature and humidity levels to be hatched. 

 

When a large portion of the eggs don’t hatch, it’s sometimes because the temperature isn’t consistent or correct. In most incubators, a temperature remains constant, especially if you use something like an automatic forced air incubator

 

So, if you know your incubator temperature is spot on, then more likely, the humidity isn’t correct. 

 

Chicks Run out of Air

It’s something that’s more common than people realize: When inside the egg, chicks can run out of air during the last day or two of incubation.

 

When the chick is starting to hatch, it twists itself into position to peck through the egg and pip and zip. It has to pip through the inner membrane before it starts to pip out of the eggshell. 

 

During this time, it can run out of oxygen. There’s only a set amount of oxygen in the egg and it can run out of air while it’s trying to hatch. This is fairly common. 

 

In these cases, if you know that it’s alive, but it’s not going well (if chirping gets fainter, or it’s been a day or so and the chick still hasn’t broken out of the shell) – it’s not getting enough air or the hatching isn’t going well, you’re not sure why – you can always try drilling a hole into that air cell. 

 

It’s probably something only an experienced professional should do, but it is an option if you think that you know there’s not going to be enough air for your chicken. 

 

Chicks Run Out of Energy

In a same sort of vein, the chick can run out of energy to be born. When they’re hatching, they have to break through the inner membrane of the shell (pipping), and then they create a break in the shell where they can actually push the eggshell out and enter the world (zipping). 

 

During this process, they sometimes they run out of energy, they can’t finish it, and then they die. 

 

In my experience, this is less common than a temperature or humidity issue, but it can happen, and it probably happens more often than we realize. 

 

There’s a Genetic Issue

Another reason eggs don’t always hatch is because the chicken just isn’t developing normally. 

 

The scenario works like this: The chick makes it to the final few days of the hatch. You do your final candling and you see that it’s in there, it’s moving, it’s alive. But then it never hatches. 

 

That could be due to something as simple as it just didn’t have the right build to be born. Maybe the heart didn’t develop correctly, or maybe the lungs didn’t. Ultimately, some part of the bird just didn’t develop correctly and in a final few days, when they had to pip free, they just couldn’t because the body just wouldn’t let it. 

 

Wrong Position to Pip

Chicks sometimes can’t get into the right position to actually break through the inner membrane or the eggshell itself. Quite a few times we’ve autopsied the eggs that didn’t hatch, and we see that the chick never got into the right position. 

 

We’ve also seen chicks that have half-pipped or are struggling to get out of the egg. We help them pick through the outer shell. If we hadn’t done that, the chicken never would have hatched because it wasn’t in the right position to actually break through the eggshell. 

 

There’s really nothing you can do to avoid this.

Shrink Wrapping

Another reason that not all the eggs in a clutch will hatch is because of shrink wrapping. This goes back to the humidity issue. 

 

Shrink wrapping is when the inner membrane gets stuck to the chick, and because of this, the chick can’t move. 

 

Usually, the chick starts to break through the shell, but a sudden humidity drop (if you open the incubator, for example), causes that inner membrane to dry out, and stick to the down. The chick then can’t move and complete the hatching process.

 

It’s like if you shrink wrap a piece of meat: the membrane covers the entire piece of meat, and nothing can get in and nothing can get out. 

 

Shrink wrapping can could happen before it pips, during pipping, or after pipping. We’ve actually seen it happen in all three stages. This is tied to the humidity issue because during those last few days, the humidity level in the incubator should be a higher: 50 to 60%. 

 

Hatched Chicks Cause Trauma

This isn’t something a lot of chicken owners talk about, but I’ve found it to be pretty common.

 

After hatching, newborn chicks jostle and roll the other eggs so much, that they break the unhatched egg. 

 

Why does this happen? Well, newborn chicks can’t walk very well, and they’re freaked out because they just entered the world and don’t know what’s going on. They hear noises, everything they see is new, and they’re very, very confused – so they flop everywhere. 

 

All this flopping around cracks the unhatched eggs, which causes trauma to the embryo that’s in there. The embryo then dies, and never hatches. 

 

While it’s never clear WHY a chick doesn’t hatch, if you see that there’s cracked eggs with fully developed (but dead) chicks inside, then it’s possible all the jostling from other chicks contributed to it.

 

I hope this article answers the question “why doesn’t every incubated egg hatch.” So, the next time your clutch doesn’t have a 100% hatch rate, you can look at this list, and maybe narrow it down to a single reason.

 

Raise Araucana Chickens For BEAUTIFUL BLUE EGGS!

Raise Araucana Chickens For BEAUTIFUL BLUE EGGS!

Who doesn’t love a great blue egg laying breed like Araucana chickens?

 

Blue eggs are one of those fun perks of owning backyard chickens….but not all blue egg layers are the same. (Even though they’re easily confused and mis-marketed).

 

If you’ve been wondering what this super cool (and rare) breed of chicken is about, then read below to learn all about Araucanas, including their particular breed characteristics and how to spot the real deal from their closely related kin, Ameraucanas, Easter Eggers, and Cream Legbars!

Breed Characteristics

Araucanas are a chicken breed native to Chile and have distinctive tufts of feathers (called peduncles) that protrude near their ears.

 

The tufts are present at birth (so if your Araucana doesn’t have them as chicks, they won’t develop them), and chickens can have no tufts, or just single tuft, or two tufts. Two tufts are considered ideal for the breed.

 

Araucanas are rumpless (meaning they don’t have tail bones like most chicken breeds)) with small pea combs. They’re possibly the only chicken breed native to the Americas, and the name Araucana comes from the Araucania region of Chile.

 

Araucanas are commonly confused with Ameraucanas, a breed developed in the United States in the 1970s, based on the Araucana breed, but they are two distinct breeds. The name Ameraucana is a cross between American and Araucana.

 

Adult males weigh about 5 pounds while hens lay about 4 pounds, making them one of the smaller breeds of chickens.

 

It’s important to remember that if you’re looking to raise purebred Araucanas, to buy chickens that adhere to the traditional characteristics of the breed.

 

They should lay blue eggs, be recognized colors, exhibit the tufts, and be rumpless. You can use these characteristics to be sure the chickens you’re buying are truly the correct breed.

 

There’s definitely characteristics that differentiate Araucanas, Ameraucanas, Easter Eggers, and Cream Legbars! As always, it’s best to seek out a reputable breeder (more information on this at the end of this article.)

araucana laying different colored eggs

Araucana exhibiting tufts

 

Ameraucana who also displays the tufts:

Colors

Both full sized Araucana chickens and bantam breeds are recognized, and recognized color varieties in the United States include black breasted red, silver duckwing, golden duckwing, black, and white.

 

The bantam variety also include buff as a recognized color.

 

Eggs laid per year and color

Araucanas lay blue eggs, and on average they lay 260 eggs annually. The blue laying gene is a genetic anomaly possibly caused by a retrovirus or way back in the evolution of the Araucana breed. (You can tell of an Araucana egg is truly a blue egg by looking at the interior of the shell.)

 

Raising Araucana Chicks

They can be a bit tricky to hatch yourself, and according to the Araucana Club of America “Where most breeds get hatch rates of 90%; Araucana breeders get successful hatches (double tufted & rumpless) of anywhere from 55% to 25%, including the posthatch period.”

 

You can hatch Araucana eggs yourself (just be sure to buy fresh ones and store the hatching eggs correctly before incubating them). Raising chicks isn’t any different than raising other breeds.

 

What its like owning Araucana chickens

Araucanas are a fun chicken breed to own and despite their smaller size, they can lay nice big eggs.

 

Not all Araucanas enjoy a lot of human attention, so it’s important to spend time with them frequently when they’re chicks and spend a lot of time feeding them treats if you want lap chickens.

 

They don’t require special feed, are docile, and the hens don’t get aggressive during brooding.

 

Where you buy Araucanas

You can buy Araucanas at most major hatcheries however you should also seek a reputable breeder to ensure you’re getting true Araucanas and not Ameraucana or Easter Egger chickens.

 

You can buy hatching eggs, baby chicks, and started chickens. For a full list of Araucana breeders, you can visit the Araucana Club of America at http://www.araucana.net/breeders/.

 

For more information about Araucanas in the United States at Araucana Club of America.

 

Image of Araucana: By User:Anne Cushing – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24475773

Store Chicken Hatching Eggs Like A Pro + Top 3 Mistakes You Need To Avoid

Store Chicken Hatching Eggs Like A Pro + Top 3 Mistakes You Need To Avoid

If you have hens and roosters, chances are you’re wondering how to store chicken hatching eggs so you can raise your own chickens.

 

At least, that was the first question I asked myself as soon as I realized I would have fertile eggs for hatching.

 

(Looking for an incubator recommendation? Here’s my favorite!)

 

The first time we hatched chicks on our homestead, it was a great day – we could increase our flock (and our food supply), develop our own line of healthy hens, and watch as the chicks grew into healthy adults. Fun!

 

I’m sure you will want to start incubating your own chicken eggs also – and it starts with storing them properly.

 

In this article, I’m going to show you how to store your chicken eggs so they’re in the best shape possible for incubation – yes, how you store the eggs does impact whether they are likely to hatch or not.

 

If you want to learn how to hatch chicken eggs, I have a detailed article on that here. And I’m going to assume you have both hens and roosters – without the rooster, your chicken eggs won’t be fertile.

 

Before we get started, though, there’s a couple things to keep in mind:

 

Tip #1: Avoid washing the chicken eggs

As you probably know, when eggs are laid, they have something called the “bloom” on them. This extra layer keeps bacteria and other nasties out of the egg, protecting the precious oocyte from harm.

 

It’s important to not wash your hatching eggs – you’ll remove the bloom, and potentially expose the chick embryo to bacteria, crushing your hopes of hearing peeping and getting to watch them zip into life.

 

Tip #2: Stay away from eggs that have abnormal shapes

Abnormally-shaped eggs are good for eating in most cases (there are some exceptions like lash eggs), but they won’t really give you a good result when it comes to hatching.

 

Excessively big eggs might contain double yolks (these rarely hatch because there’s not enough room in the shell for both embryos in most cases) or even another whole egg.

 

Chicken eggs with a lumpy shell might not have a big enough air sac or an air sac that’s too large. Bottom line: You only want to incubate eggs that are a regular egg shape.

 

Tip #3: Stay away from cracked eggs.

Yes, you can glue a crack back together, and it might hatch. But make things easy on yourself – only incubate uncracked eggs.

 

Storing fertile eggs

Start by collecting eggs no more than 10 days before the incubation process (the fresher, the better), and keep them out of an area that’s too hot or too cool (room temperature is best) and away from the sun. The last thing you want is too much heat to kick start the incubation process.

 

If you live in a hot area (for example, if it’s over 100 degrees every day in the summer), you’ll want to collect your eggs frequently.

 

I’ve had readers send me photos of eggs they had left in their coop for too many days – and indeed, the embryos in the eggs had started to develop. It’s gross, and you don’t want to deal with that.

 

Store chicken hatching eggs

 

Another common question I get is “how long can eggs sit out before incubating?” I personally don’t incubate eggs that are older than 10 days, and I prefer eggs that are no older than 7 days.

 

Keep eggs in cartons – pointy side down

Keep your chicken hatching eggs in cartons like these (or like this if you want a reuseable one) to keep them safe and clean, and be sure to store them with the pointed end down. This will protect the air sac and make sure the yolk stays where it should, which is critical for your chicken embryos to grow into chicks.

Store Chicken Hatching Eggs Like A Pro With These Tips!

 

Turn your eggs consistently

This is to prevent the embryo from sticking to the internal membrane. Hens turn their eggs seveal gimes a day; you can do it 2-3, and just be sure to do it gently.

 

That’s pretty much the skinny on storing chicken eggs for hatching!

I’d like to hear from you!

How do you store chicken hatching eggs? What are your best tips? Leave a comment below!

How to Hatch Chicken Eggs (Even Without Incubators)

How to Hatch Chicken Eggs (Even Without Incubators)

Fluffy chicks are the best and learning how to hatch chicken eggs (and hatch eggs at home without an incubator) is a ton of fun!

 

Letting Mother Nature (who knows how to incubate chicken eggs perfectly) do her thing is always best, but if your hens aren’t broody (wanting to sit on eggs) or if you want to maintain a precise environment for your hatching eggs, incubating them is a good option.

 

If you want to know how to hatch chicken eggs without an incubator, we’ll cover that, too.


Buy Now

 

wpid-img1046.jpgFirst things first. It usually takes 21 days for a chicken egg to fully incubate. A day is the full 24 hours after you put the egg in the incubator, so I write the next day’s date on the egg to remind myself what day I started incubating. So, if I put eggs in the incubator on January 18, I write 1/19 on the egg. I tend to see external pipping (when the chick starts to break the egg) on day 19, but it can take up to 28 days in some cases. (Full disclosure: I’ve never personally had an egg take that long to hatch but it reportedly happens on occasion). I use a Little Giant Still Air incubator that I bought locally for about $50. I’ve had a good hatch rate with it, it’s easy to figure out, and it’s a great starter incubator. It’s important to run it for 24 hours before you put eggs in to ensure the temperature is correct and stays steady.

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These eggs were fresh and were fertile.

1. Choosing eggs to incubate. Don’t incubate eggs older than 10 days, and eggs no older than 7 days are best. If you come across a bunch of eggs you’re not sure about, and want a test, put the egg gently in water and do an egg float test.

If you’re saving eggs for a few days before putting them in the incubator, store them at room temperature. I use an old egg carton, and I store them pointy side down. This is to protect the air bubble at the fat end. More on that later.

Do not refrigerate them. (note: if it’s winter, the sooner you gather the eggs the better, but if they’re cold for a couple hours, it’s ok. Bring them back to room temp before incubating). Put only unbroken eggs in your incubator.

You can make sure they don’t have any cracks by candling them before you put them in the incubator. (If you’re wondering how to hatch eggs from the grocery store, you can’t because they’re not fertile. If you don’t have any chickens, or if you don’t have a rooster, you can check out Craigslist and see if anyone’s selling hatching eggs near you).

(Hint: Keep small hands away from the incubator! While this might seem intuitive, if you’re an obsessive temperature and humidity checker like me, you can inadvertently place the incubator in a place where children can get inside. And you might just find an omelette on your floor. Not fun for anyone (ok maybe for your kids).

2. Maintain a temperature between 100°-102° with a still air incubator and 99-99.5 with a forced air incubator. Your goal is to keep the temperature inside the egg as close to 99.5° as possible. Since you can’t actually take the temperature inside the egg, the best you can do is maintain a slightly higher temp outside the egg.

I’ll admit it. Occasionally I’ve let the incubator get too hot, especially when I was first starting out. It got as high as 113° one day while I was out running errands, and I swore I killed all the chicks. I had an 80% hatch rate, which means I’m either incredibly lucky or small, short changes in temperature do not necessarily mean disaster. By all means, keep your temperature between 100°-102°, but if the worse happens, don’t panic and assume all is lost.

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Busy chicks in their brooder, checking things out.

3. Keep your humidity between 40-50% days 1-18, then increase to 50%-60% on days 18-21. Humidity is important, especially in the last days of incubation. If the humidity is too low, you run the chance of your chicks getting “shrink-wrapped”, and unable to break out of the egg. The last thing anyone wants is to get super excited for hatch day, only to have fewer eggs hatch because the chicks died. I keep a digital thermometer in the incubator that measures both temperature and humidity. It’s been a lifesaver (literally) and it keeps me from guessing. I try to adjust the temperature by opening and closing the vents instead of turning the dial. It’s a slower and less dramatic change.

4. Turn your eggs at least 3 times a day from days 1-18, then don’t turn them at all on days 18-21. Turning your eggs an odd number of times each day is important for embryo development. In nature, a hen turns her eggs constantly. Don’t turn your eggs after day 18 – let the chick orient itself to break the shell and hatch. Remember the air bubble I mentioned? When the chick is being born, it “pips” (breaks) into that air bubble, then pips into the external world. To help the chick hatch, keep the incubator shut (we call this time “lockdown”) and don’t open it unless necessary.

5. Candle your eggs starting on day 7. If you have darker eggs, you might have to wait until day 10, but you definitely want to candle them at some point. Candling an egg just means looking at the inside by shining a light through the egg. You should see veins and eventually a chick moving in there (which is the coolest thing ever, aside from seeing a human in the womb). If by day 10, you only see the yolk (looks like a shadow and the rest of the egg clear), then the egg either wasn’t fertile or the embryo never developed. Eggs that don’t develop need to be removed.

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A new chick just born! The light keeps him from getting cold.

6. Once they’re born, move the chicks to the brooder. Congrats! You made it to day 21, and now you have baby chicks. You can leave chicks in the incubator up to 3 days. When you move them to the brooder (I do it the day after they’re born, once they can stand and walk ok), make sure your brooder is at least 95° but not too hot or the chicks will overheat (you’ll know if they start panting). I usually keep mine 95° – 100°.

Newborn chicks have a harder time regulating their own temperature, so I keep a thermometer in the brooder too. I use straw in my brooder because we have it on hand. Some people use wood chips; if you use wood chips, use larger ones so the chicks don’t try to eat the finer shavings.

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I gave these chicks a probiotic the same day they were born, and they’ve grown up very healthy.

7. Give your chicks a probiotic in their water. I used to think probiotics were a useless trend, but after losing some newborn chicks inexplicably, I gave them a try on a friend’s recommendation, and every one since (knock on wood) has been very healthy. All you do is add it to their water, and I heavily recommend them. The probiotics help establish good gut flora and aid in helping the chicks poop correctly, and avoid pasty butt (pasty butt is when a chick’s feces dry and cover their vent, and they’re no longer able to poop correctly). Pasty butt is a #1 killer of newborn chicks.

What if you’re off-grid? If you’re interested in how to incubate chicken eggs with a heat lamp, or how to hatch eggs at home without an incubator, or how to incubate chicken eggs without electricity, for example if you’re off-grid, as long as the temperature in the incubator is at these levels, you’re doing ok. Make sure whatever you’re using as an incubator is able to consistently maintain these temperatures. Newspaper makes a good insulator, as do styrofoam ice coolers (that you buy at the grocery store). The styrofoam will be less of a fire hazard and easier to maintain the temperature. You will also need a cover for your homemade incubator, as well as a way to turn the eggs easily without disrupting the temperature or humidity.

You can always let the hen incubate the eggs for you if you’re off grid. Silkies are a good choice, since the breed tends to go broody.

If you want to improve the quality of your chicken eggs for hatching, give the girls a calcium supplement, such as crushed egg shells (mine go NUTS for these) or oyster shells. The added calcium increases the strength of the shells.

Hatching eggs really is that easy! If all your eggs don’t hatch, don’t worry. A 80% hatch rate is normal, and if your first hatch yields a 50% hatch rate, you’re doing great! Have fun, watching the chicks grow up is a blast!

Want to see a chick being born? Check out my video! http://youtu.be/dg5nXWU0n9k