Hatching of chicks is a lucrative value chain in poultry production. Fertile eggs are crude raw materials in the poultry business; they are the genesis of chickens. Hatchery operations must be treated with caution to avoid loss of investment and waste of time. These tips and more are what you would learn in this article. Read Up!
The first thing you’ll need to hatch chicks is eggs, definitely. For hatching to occur, the eggs must be fertile. Fertile eggs can be collected from hens who are housed with a rooster. Eggs sold in grocery stores are called table eggs not fertile eggs; therefore, they are not eligible for the hatching process and will not grow into baby chicks if placed in an incubator. Fertile eggs are usually gotten from breeder farms. Either way, ensure your fertilized eggs are coming from a reputable breeder farm to help reduce the risk of disease.
Before the incubation process starts, the fertilized eggs are stored for a maximum of 7 days in a cool room kept at a steady 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the fertilized eggs are placed in the warm incubator, they may develop for 21 days, with the proper incubator set-up and care. Prior to the emergence of the baby chicks, ensure the brooding section is set and enough chick starter feeds are in stock. A newly hatched chick must be placed on free-choice feeding immediately once they hatch and are placed in the brooder. Vaccination and feeding must commence immediately after stocking. The choice of chick starter feed depends on your flock goals.
How to Set Up the Egg Incubator
Fertile eggs are hatched into baby chicks using an egg incubator. An incubator is an enclosed structure wherein facilities like a fan and heater are available to keep eggs warm during the 21-day incubation period. The incubation aims to mimic the natural brooding environment of the hen. For better understanding, it is safe to say that the incubator is playing the role of the hen.
There are different types of incubator; the difference is seen in their functionality, size and at times, the price. For commercial purposes, using an incubator with some automatic features, such as egg turning (this is critical to chick development as it keeps the chick from sticking to the inside surface of the shell) and a fan to facilitate even heat distribution.
Prepare the incubator about one week before the arrival of fertilized eggs. Wash and disinfect with a 10 percent bleach solution, followed by warm soapy water and a thorough rinse to ensure you’re starting with a sanitized environment. Once the incubator is clean and dry, pre-heat it by turning it on; ensure it operates at a constant temperature and the humidity level will be maintained. Place the incubator in an area of steady ambient temperatures, with no interference or obstruction.
As the fertile eggs arrive, clean them and set in the incubator according to the incubator capacity. Setting fewer eggs, especially if the eggs were shipped, often results in one or no hatchlings. The number of chicks that hatch together is especially important for the newly hatched chicks. This is because chickens are best kept in flocks, the more the chicks the higher the chances of survival. Carefully place the eggs in the egg tray of the incubator, placing the larger end facing up and the narrow end facing down in the incubator. Set the temperature to 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit with 50-55 percent humidity.
Tips For Successful Hatching Of Chicken Eggs
#1. Select The Best Quality Fertile Eggs.
When it comes to choosing the eggs you wish to incubate, ensure that you select fertilized eggs with no imperfections from your healthiest and strongest birds. Choosing poor quality eggs that are over a week old will minimize your chances of successful hatching. You should choose eggs that are as close as possible to being perfect in shape and texture-avoid those that have lumps or bumps or thin shells, as well as overly small or large eggs.
#2. Get The Right Incubator.
The capacity you want to run in the hatchery determines the type of incubator you would get. Basically, there are some important features that must be present in your incubator; the egg setting tray, automatic egg turner, temperature, and humidity control. All these would make the hatching process easier and minimize risk.
The right temperature and humidity in the egg environment is a great prerequisite to successful hatching. Ensure you keep an eye on these two factors. The incubator usually comes with an alarm; it alerts you when the hatching temperature and or humidity has gone out of favorable range; it saves you from constant and continual checking.
Since incubators are responsible for helping to create a new life, you have to make sure that it is working as it should. In preparation for your eggs, make sure you thoroughly clean and disinfect the incubator and ensure that is fully dry before use. Ensure the incubator is well placed in your chosen location; avoid placing the incubator where directly when sunlight can interfere and most importantly, where it can be knocked or disturbed.
To enhance better performance of the incubator, turn on the incubator for about 4-7 days prior to placing the eggs inside, this allows you to observe the incubator in case of any defect or any fault from its accessories. Most importantly, it gives you a regulated temperature and humidity to welcome the eggs.
#3. Focus On The Right Temperature And Humidity
The temperature and humidity management during the hatching process is a great determining factor of the success rate of the hatching. The fertile eggs have a recommended temperature and humidity range; these parameters must be equal to the hen to enable successful hatching.
The optimal incubator temperature for a hatching egg is 37.5 degrees Celsius, and the humidity ranges between 50-55% until the last 2-3 days where it should then tune to 70-75% during the hatching process. A thermometer and hygrometer have been attached to the incubator to ensure these parameters are measured and kept at the best range.
If there is a need to increase or decrease the humidity in your incubator, adjust the vents accordingly, or add or take out water as necessary. Prevailing environmental conditions will affect both the temperature and humidity inside the incubator, ensure the incubator is kept in a fairly temperature controlled area.
#4. Egg Turning Tips
If you have observed the brooding of a hen, you would observe that the hen turns the eggs often; this feature is very important as it prevents the embryo from sticking to the shell membrane. If this happens, it could result in a deformed chick or loss of chick. A standard incubator comes with an automatic egg turning feature. Turning begins 24 hours after setting the eggs in opposite direction and at an odd number of times in a day. Turning should not be done on the last 3 days of incubation (day 19, 20, 21).
#5. Candling And Its Meaning
Candling is the act of exposing the eggs to a beam of light in a darkened area to monitor the growth and development of the embryo. Candling is done twice for chicken; first on day 5 and second on day 18. The first candling done on day 5, is meant to determine the fertility of the egg while the one done on day 18 is meant to detect the dead or living embryo. If the egg is developing normally, you would observe a dark spot with vein-like formations coming from it. Do not waste time during candling as this can affect the hatching process. Candling helps you to predetermine the hatchability rate of the eggs.
Ideally, chicken eggs take a maximum of 21 days to hatch, it ranges from 19-21 days. What this means is, it is very possible to have chicks hatch before day 21. It is not abnormal. Your anxiety begins to rise after the second candling as it is obvious then that new chicks are coming in a few days. You really need to be very careful during the last 3 days, reduce the peeping and movement around the hatchery. However, If you observe any struggling chick, do well to assist it by gently peeling off the shell off the chick, till it is stabilized.
After day 21, evacuate the chicks gently from the incubator. Vaccination is advisable during these early hours of the chicks’ life. This gives the chicks some form of immunity and defense against diseases. After successful hatching, brooding commences. This is another interesting sojourn. You can read this COMPLETE GUIDE FOR BROODING OF DAY OLD CHICKS as a guide for successfully brooding operation.