After laying, collection of eggs for hatching should be done with a lot of care not to break. Feacal material should be scrapped off gently. To improve the egg fertility, a ratio of cork to hens should be 1:8. After collecting eggs, place them in trays at a temperature between 55F- 60F and recommended relative temperature is 75%-80%. Most literature recommend placing the egg with small/pointed end facing down.
Incubate eggs to hen that shows signs of broodiness. The hen incubates on its own eggs or mixed. The number of eggs incubated by hens depends on; size of the hen, size of eggs and mothering ability.
Provide a nest in an isolated part of the room/house. Dust the hen and nest with veremia powder to keep off parasites. Provide enough food and water to the hen. Hens always go for sand bathing and sand from time to time.
It requires an incubator and a solid house. Eggs to be placed in an incubator should be;
- Fertile – carry out egg candling where you place an egg above light of a very powerful torch. If the egg is opaque then it’s fertile.
- Should be clean (scrap off fecal material and do not wash the egg) and weight between 55g-60g.
- Should not be previously stored more than 14 days at temperatures between 100C-130C. High temperatures lower hatchability.
Conditions necessary for artificial incubation
- Temperatures- optimum temperatures for the first week are 37C to 38.2C . Before placing eggs in your incubator, turn it on for at least 12-24 hours to verify a temperature of 99.5°F (37.2°C).
- High temperatures >400C lead to hatching chicks with crooked toes and beaks while low temperatures below 370C leads to abnormal chicks reflected to twisted necks.
- Relative humidity- ideal humidity ranges from 65%-85%. Very low humidity <50% production of small chicks which will get stuck in the shells and very high humidity leads to control of pollurum disease, lower production and production of marshy chicks.
- Ventilation- it provides gaseous exchange between the eggs.
- Egg turning- egg turning is done at least 4 times within 24hours. It’s clockwise and clockwise and helps in distributing temperatures within the eggs.
- Egg testing- carry out egg testing by doing egg candling during the 4th and 12th day to help in accessing embryo growth and also identify dead embryo. If the egg appears so dark at the centre then the embryo is dead.
- Hygiene- fumigate the incubator with 1% formalin after every hatch.
Other Considerations for Successful Incubation
- Choose the cleanest eggs you can. Washing hatching eggs is not recommended because each egg is coated with the natural ‘bloom’ which works to keep air and bacteria out – very important when you’re hatching eggs. If need be, flick any dirt or poop spots off with your fingernail or a rough cloth, but remember that any dirt on the eggs will introduce bacteria to your incubator.
- DON’T choose extremely small eggs, or eggs from a brand new layer. A small egg might not allow enough space for the embryo to develop correctly. It’s generally thought that a better hatch will result using eggs from hens that have been laying for at least a few months, and preferably a year.
- DON’T put the incubator where it can be knocked over or fiddled with by kids or pets. Hatching eggs are very fragile and should be handled or jostled as little as possible.
- DON’T use eggs older than 2 weeks. Eggs retain good fertility for about 7-10 days, then it drops dramatically. A good rule of thumb is: The earlier the eggs are incubated, the better.. Eggs stored for one day will hatch better than fresh laid eggs placed immediately in an incubator. The storage of hatching eggs from one to five days generally results in maximum hatchability. A lot of commercial farms set eggs once a week
- DO store eggs with the pointy end down at a 45 degree angle. While you’re collecting eggs to hatch, store them this way so that the yolk remains centered within the shell. Turning the stored eggs a few times a day side to side can also help your hatch rate, because that prevents the yolk from sticking to the shell.
How to place eggs in an incubator
- Put eggs in an incubator small end down with the big end up. This is because the chick turns along the axis 7 days before hatching and head faces up. The chick is then able to access the air cell and get enough oxygen.
- Eggs hatch after 21 days of incubation if all the conditions are maximally provided.
- Chicks can be removed from the incubator when they are completely dry. They may be left in the incubator for up to 24 hours or so. Remove chicks from the incubator just once a day as to avoid escape of warm and moist air