Our first Adventure in Incubating

Well, I found a chicken breeder in our area who does a lovely job of breeding some wonderful rare and pretty birds. Among them are, the swedish flower hens or blommehöns in Sweden.

They really are quite pretty birds, resembling a landscape of wildflowers, hence how they got their name. These were just one of the breeds that caught my attention. There is also Blue Wheaton / Wheaton Ameraucanas, Blue Copper Marans, and Olive Eggers that we incubated to hatch.

All of which I was extremely excited about doing for our first time.

Out of these four breeds we did: 8 eggs of the Swedish Flower Hens, 6 Ameraucanas, 6 eggs of the Blue Copper Marans, and 4 eggs of the Olive Eggers.

I decided to do only 4 of the Olive Eggers just for fun and I did the Blue Copper Marans as just an added bonus for some lovely dark eggs, as our MaranX chickens we have now only one of them lays a darker egg.
The two I’m really excited about are the Swedish Flower and the Ameraucanas…very pretty birds and the blue eggs from the later I really couldn’t resist.

This led me to have to go and find an incubator! We did contemplate wether to make one ourselves, as most affordable ones seem to come as a styrofoam box with a bit of electrical work to it (and you know how amazing tim is at doing things), but we decided to buy one as this is our first time doing it, and better to go with one I am able to look up information on the use of if need be. I settled on buying the Hova-bator 1602N without the bells and whistles, so no automatic egg turner or fan in this one for me, at least for now.

Incubating can be tricky business, but really is very simple at the same time. A few main rules to follow and you should be good. Over time, of course, one will get better at it…Knowing what to look for and being “one” with your incubator certainly will help boost your success rate. Basic rules to follow:

  • Be sure to have the proper temperature and humidity to suit your incubator and climate. Try to have this as steady as possible, and make sure to run your incubator 24-48 hours PRIOR to setting your eggs to make sure things are running smoothly, no one wants cooked eggs!
  • Turn your eggs every day an uneven number, usually this is either 3 or 5 times in a day. The thing to ensure is that the eggs never stay on the same side for two nights in a row, otherwise the embryo could stick to one side resulting in problems at hatch and development.
  • Weigh your eggs prior to setting and every 3-4 days thereafter. I weighed day 1 before setting, day 3, 7, 10, 14 and 18. I also did some candling on those days, this helped me to check for infertile eggs (leave until day 10 at least), embryo development / movement, etc. Of course candling dark eggs like the Marans are not usually done as the dark shell prevents you from seeing much, but I did candle them on day 14 and 18 with some success to see if there is more space taken up than usual with some veining occurring. It was a little reassuring. NOTE: some people do not weigh at all, I just preferred this method to help ensure proper humidity with moisture loss.
  • Never candle between days 10-14 as this can disrupt the embryo’s development.
  • I followed the basic rule for temperature and humidity. Since I was using a still-air incubator (no fan) these require a slightly higher temperature range. I kept the incubator between 100-101.5F and humidity generally between 40-50 %. I had the humidity closer to 50% at the beginning stages and lowered it closer to 40-45% from day 10 to day 18.
  • Make sure to have the LOWEST end of the air bubble upwards at lockdown, this will be the place most likely to be pipped by the chick. We had about 4 chicks who pipped the wrong end – 3 hatched out okay, one did not make it. The trouble with pipping the wrong end is that this can lead to the chick suffocating itself before it even has a chance to zip (when it starts to chip the egg shell…sort of like a zipper)
  • On day 18, this is when your lockdown occurs. It is under recommendation that you boost your humidity up to 60-70% to ensure a moist membrane in the shell to help with the hatching. The highest I was able to bring ours up to was 50-51%, later as the chicks began to hatch the humidity boosted up to 60-65%. At this time, you do not open the incubator at all. This continues until hatching is finished. Typically day 21, but can go as far as day 24. Our chicks hatched days 22-23.

These were the general rules that I followed. Though, I suggest your invest some time and do a little more research for yourself and your incubator to really know what it is that is required of you and specifics that perhaps you’ll need to abide by. I found backyard chickens to be a really great and helpful resource. For weighing, I found Poultry Keeper to be the best understood for me.

Out of our 24 eggs that we set, we ended up with 12 chicks to hatch. At lockdown we had put 17 eggs in, as we had removed 7 previously due to being infertile or halted development. A total of 50% is really not considered a very good hatch-rate, but it was our first time and we are pretty pleased with our chicks!

I found with the hova-bator 1602N, keeping the humidity up and the temperature even to be fairly easy. Of course, we did not have the automatic egg turner which would stop us from having to open the incubator as frequently, or the fan which helps even the temperature through the entire space (so not hot or cold spots about) which then could possibly have given us a better hatch rate.
I know some incubators can do real big spikes and drops for the temperature and ours stayed pretty consistently around 100-101 F, forgiving the moments when we opened it; Though it recovered quite quickly back up to temperature.

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This was our set up. 24 eggs (we moved them around at each turn…outside then centre, outside, etc.) The thermometer and hygrometer, thermometer and with them both sitting on top of small mason jars. I was adding water into one of the channels of the tray that came with the incubator. Some prefer soaked sponges.

I would advise to make sure and test your thermometer (at least one of them) to be sure it is reading properly. Some can be very off and mess up entire hatches that way!

Here are our little chicks that hatched September 15th and 16th. These photos were taken on the 17th. They are now just over a week old, and hopefully soon to be moved into our brooder we have kept in our unheated shop. I will share information about our brooder in another post…I believe this one is long enough already! 😉

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Top left: 4 Swedish flower hens, 4 blue copper marans, 2 olive eggers, and bottom right is our 2 ameraucanas.

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One thought on “Our first Adventure in Incubating

  1. Pingback: Coop #2 | The Gone Wild Farmhouse

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