Want a thriving Poultry Business? Focus on your INCUBATOR!
Incubating Chicken Eggs.
1. Finding an incubator.
This is the initial and most important step of incubating chicken eggs. Farmers have a wide range of options to choose from, including making their own homemade incubators. Homemade incubators are particular not as difficult to make as you may think. While constructing your own homemade incubator, just make sure to follow each of the following quick tips;
- Build the incubator so that it is able to protect the eggs inside it from predators.
- Use a source of heat that is efficient and position it in a way that will not kill the eggs while on incubation.
- Make sure the incubator walls are created with a highly insulating material. To reduce heat loss.
- Create space for enough eggs.
- Create ventilation holes within the incubator.
- Make sure you test the incubator for both humidity and temperature readings for at least 24 hours before you use it for incubating chicken eggs.
Other than going through the hustle and bustle of building a homemade incubator, you could go for commercial incubators. These are more ready-made and only require a little setting up to confirm that everything is working. With these types of incubators, a farmer is also able to choose what source of power they can use because there are solar-powered incubators, electricity-powered, and even paraffin incubators. The two types of incubators within this category are;
- Manual Incubators
- Automatic incubators
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2. Setting up your incubator.
This is the next step in the incubating process. There are some things that you must do to ensure that your newly bought or made machine is working appropriately. These are just some basic practices that must be done timely just as a way of maintaining the incubator and guaranteeing that the incubator actually works and will work throughout the period of incubation.
Wash the insides and outsides of the incubator thoroughly. Take care not to short circuit any electrical parts. Washing simply gets rid of any form of bacteria or organisms that may be inside the incubator before incubation. If your incubator parts are not directly accessible, you can mix a solution of detergent and bleach and place it in the incubator while it is running for at least 24 hours. This will completely clean the insides of your newly purchased incubator.
Place your incubator in an area that is raised and secure from predators that may seek to destroy eggs during incubation. I say this because there are some incubators that are quite easy to access and even monkeys can learn how to steal your eggs. I got that from personal experience.
For those constructing homemade incubators, construct them in a way that makes them lockable. And keep them away from direct sunlight.
- Regular Electricity.
This is generally a sensitive area. Having a machine that works like an iron running for 21 days straight in my country is crazy. Of course, you need to think about your source of power, what is directly accessible to you, and what you can afford.
Depending on whether you are incubating eggs for business or just a hobby, the source of power must be consistent in order to guarantee a successful hatch rate. For example, you cannot use a solar incubator if you rarely get sunlight in your location or during a particular season in your location, you would rather go for electric-powered incubators.
- Checking if controls are working through a test run.
Machines are what they are. Sometimes they make errors and those errors cannot be discovered unless the machine is properly tested out. Incubators are not any different. An incubator is supposed to be tested out for 24 hours before it is officially used for incubating eggs.
During this period, the farmer will be able to determine any problems that the incubator may have with regard to temperature and humidity.
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Finding fertilized eggs is the next step of incubation. Eggs for incubation should essentially be less than six days old to guarantee a successful hatch. These eggs should also be fertilized. You can appropriately make sure they are fertilized by just making sure there is a rooster around your egg-laying hens.
If you are purchasing or outsourcing fertilized eggs from a farmer, you would do well to get the eggs from a trusted farmer with who you have directly interacted before.
How to prepare your eggs for incubation.
- Store them well in an area with room temperature.
- Mark your eggs.
- Slightly incline the tray at an angle during storage.
- Clean your eggs before putting them in the incubator to prevent bacteria from creeping in.
The 21-day incubation process.
Throughout the incubation process from day one to seventeen, the following conditions must be met within the incubator.
- An optimum temperature of 37.5 degrees celsius is mandatory.
- Relative humidity of fifty to fifty-five percent.
From day eighteen, tweak the settings to;
- Relative humidity of 70 to 80 percent.
Setting your eggs in the incubator.
This is an exciting day where you get to put the eggs in the incubator. It may be your first time or you may have experience with this before. Make sure to properly clean your hands before handling any of the eggs.
The way that you position the eggs will fully depend on the design of the incubator. There are some incubators like mine that have a chamber where you just position the eggs on their sides and you are good to go. In this setting, it is best to mark the eggs so that the process of turning is easier from time to time.
For those using automatic incubators, turning and positioning the eggs will be a bit different. Just make sure to always check the controllers and keep an eye on the incubator to make sure everything is running smoothly during this day right after you place the eggs in.
Keep turning the eggs and candle the eggs for the first time.
On the seventh day, candle your eggs for the first time. For those who do not know what I am talking about, candling is simply the process of directing a concentrated source of light through an egg to determine the development of the embryo within the egg.
You can use either store-bought candlers or homemade ones. When I was starting out, I used the flashlight of my phone, so there is no particular blueprint to what you use to candle chicken eggs.
During this stage, you will find that some form of development within the eggs will show. For those that do not show, there is no need to throw them away, they will be candled in the next step.
Remember to keep turning the eggs appropriately
Keep turning the eggs and candle for the second time.
On day ten, this is when you will candle your eggs for the second time. During this stage, you will be able to determine which eggs are good, those that are quitters, and those that are infertile. Infertile eggs will clearly show absolutely no development.
At this stage, keep turning the eggs moving forward.
Stop turning the eggs.
At this stage, the eggs will be now ready to be left alone to prepare for hatching. This is the stage where the incubation conditions must be changed to be suitable for the hatching of the chicks. The relative humidity must be increased from an average of about 45 percent to 70 percent but the temperature is to remain the same.
Do not touch the eggs during this period and leave the incubator closed at all times to ensure that the conditions of the incubator are maintained at all times.
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Day twenty one
Get your brooder ready.
This is the D-day! Don’t get too anxious, just leave the incubator to run the whole day untouched. If you are lucky enough to find hatchlings in the incubator on the morning of the twenty-first day, leave them inside the incubator. This will ensure that the conditions of the incubator are maintained throughout the hatching process.
If you keep opening and removing chicks to put them in your brooder, you will cause a fluctuation in the humidity levels in the incubator. This will cause most of the other hatchlings not to hatch. A drop in the humidity will harden their shells and make them not to pip and eventually hatch.
Now that you finally have some chicks in your brooder, dip their beaks in glucose and liquid paraffin solution, keep the chicks warm and give them some chick mash or whatever feed you have available for them.
General points to consider while incubating chicken eggs.
- Always wash your hands before touching the eggs in your incubator to avoid contamination.
- Do not open the incubator for periods of more than twenty minutes. Always keep it closed to maintain the same conditions as it would have been through natural brooding.
- On day 18, stop turning all the eggs and increase the humidity inside the incubator.
- Use a little vinegar to make it easier for the chicks to pip and hatch.
- Do not worry if chicks start to hatch at day 19.
- Do not worry if chicks do not hatch at day 21, they may hatch at day 22, 23, or 24… so keep the incubator on.