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Just a Little Background!
I just want to start off letting you know that if it was not for our youngest son, Mason, we probably would have never hatched our recent batch of chicks and ducklings! He has such a strong interest with the animals on the farm that he begged, and I mean BEGGED for weeks to set it up! Well, because he was so interested in it, we finally agreed as long as he would help!
He was so helpful during the entire process! He checked the temperature and humidity level every day, multiple times a day!
If you are like us, we love to make things super simple around here! Especially as we continue to grow our farm! Which is why, if you watch our YouTube videos, Steven is always coming up with ways to use automatic watering systems, automatic feeders, and cool inventions to help out!
What You Need!
This is the Incubator that we have used each time! It works great by showing your temperature and humidity level. The best thing about this incubator is you have the option to purchase an automatic egg turner with it! Obviously we are all about making our lives easier so this was a great purchase that has worked really helped with the simplicity of incubating eggs!
A wise husband once told me that I always needed to trust, but VERIFY! This is the main reason we purchased this to put inside the incubator! We just wanted to verify that the incubator was reading correctly!
This is my FAVORITE part about incubating eggs! This candler shows you the life inside the egg! It is the same as a sonogram on your baby!!
Setting Up Your Incubator!
The most important thing to remember is ALWAYS set your incubator up with no eggs for about 24-48 hours just to ensure you are maintaining a constant temperature and humidity level. The best temperature that works great for the growth of chicken and duck eggs is between 95 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. We kept ours maintained at about 99.5 degrees. The trickiest part is maintaining your humidity level in the very beginning. You want to stay within 50-65% humidity up until 5 days of your hatching date when you will want to increase it to 70%. Depending on the area you live in, I would start out with a small amount of water in the bottom watering pan and slowly increase until you are within that perfect range! I am going to only talk about information for chicken and duck eggs since we haven’t had any experience with other eggs just quite yet!
We definitely had a couple of learning experiences this past time of incubating eggs that I hope will help you to not make the same mistakes! At least we know how to fix it if they ever happen again!
How Long Does It Take?
The chicken eggs are in the incubator for about 21 days and the duck eggs grow for around 28 days. Most people want to add all their eggs in at once so they can all hatch around the exact same day. One awesome thing to know about your eggs is they can actually be out of the incubator for up to 7 whole days and still grow life! We decided to gather 15 duck eggs over a weeks time period and for some reason, we only chose 5 eggs since we had the rest for breakfast that morning!
Adding Your Eggs!
This is the easiest part! Just set your eggs, pointed side down, into your egg turner. I made sure to write the dates that I put the eggs into the incubator with a fine point sharpie just to help me remember! If you decided to not use the egg turner, that’s okay! You will just have one extra step you will have to do. When we first had the eggs out of the turner, we not only wrote the date but we also wrote an “X” on one side and an “O” on the other to help us keep up with turning the eggs by hand which needs to be done about 4 times a day. This is a crucial part in the growth process of your birds. Rotating the eggs helps the bird that is growing inside to not stay in the same position for too long to ensure that we can grow in the middle of the egg. Its really neat to know that God gave animals this knowledge to ensure they can hatch their own offspring without help in the wild!
One of the things that we learned during this recent hatch that makes us not like the egg turner is if you put an egg right next to the motor, when it rocks towards the motor, it actually crushes and cracks the egg. Even though you don’t want that to happen, there is an easy way to fix it! As long as the membrane didn’t get busted, which ours didn’t , just take some scotch tape to put over the top of the crack! The next thing you need to look our for now to ensure this egg can hatch, is watching for the hatching! Once they start trying to make their way out, you may need to remove the tape like we did to allow it to escape with minimal extra work!
Before putting your eggs into the incubator, make sure that you clean any dirt or grime on the shell off to help prevent the spread of diseases to any of your eggs!
Once your eggs are in the incubator, it is just a matter of waiting!! Which was the hardest part for us because we were so excited to watch new life be born on our farm!! Before anyone touches the eggs, make sure to always wash your hands to ensure that you don’t pass any bacteria into the eggs due to their outer shell being so porous. To ensure that all your eggs have life, on day 10 of being in the incubator, you can start to candle them and actually see movement as well as their veins! By this time, if you don’t see any movement, you can be sure to toss those eggs because no growth is showing. One small note to add, duck eggs are a lot more messy than chicken eggs! They tend to even smell worse!!
Hatching Your Eggs!
The next step to take care of your precious eggs is 3 days before their hatch date, remove the egg turner and leave the eggs in the incubator. This is where we made another crucial mistake. We removed the eggs once they started to hatch rather than 3 days before.
Once we started to see their pip holes, which are small cracks or holes that are made by your birds preparing to hatch, we kept removing the lid to check on them which ended up letting too much humidity out. This ended up drying the eggs membranes up and on the last chick we had hatching, we ended up having to help out! One important note I want to make about helping out a chick is you want to make sure that you have coconut oil nearby because this really helped to moisten the membrane back. While helping the chick, if you see active blood vessels, make sure you stop and leave the egg be because the chick is still absorbing the blood and nutrients it needs! If you accidentally break a vessel, make sure you apply pressure immediately because this can cause your bird to bleed out. If this happens, give your bird a break and to rest so that you don’t use all its energy it needs for after hatching. Even though we made that mistake, all of our chicks hatched but for some reason we only had 6 duck eggs hatch! We noticed that ducks tend to have a higher mortality rate in hatching than our chicken eggs do.
Within 24 hours after the first pip hole your chick will end up hatching. During this period,, is when God shows his amazing and perfect work! While the chick or duckling is working its way out, its body is actually absorbing all of the blood that was in the veins you seen earlier while candling! Once that little bird is out of its shell, it already has the knowledge to eat the small yolk/membrane that is left behind in the shell! When they do this, it actually sustains them to survive in the incubator for another 24-48 hours AFTER the last chick/duckling has hatched! Another thing to keep in mind, while your birds are hatching, your humidity will end up rising pretty quickly due to the birds being wet in the incubator. If your humidity gets above 70%, that is okay. The main thing is to keep it at least above 65% to prevent any eggs from drying out.
The day we noticed our birds were starting their hatching process, we started to prepare our brooder. So we were still in the process of building/fixing the original brooder that we had started and never finished (Video Here). We decided to use a small tote that we had around the house. We just added a small layer of hay on the bottom and just a small feeder and water bowl for them. When you supply water to your new birds, make sure it isn’t very deep so that they won’t drown. Some people actually add small, clean rocks to the bottom so that it helps them to not drown.
Since our chicks hatched a whole week before the ducks, we had them in here alone but eventually when it was time we added the ducks here with them! Which is super convenient so you don’t have to keep them separated!
Now that you have your birds in their cozy new home, you just need to focus on their heat lamp! It is very crucial that they stay warm during their first couple months of life! It is good to keep a heat lamp in their area until they are fully feathered. You should start the heat lamp out at 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit underneath. One thing we have found that has been super helpful in Texas heat is to make sure they have PLENTY of room to move away from the heat lamp so that they don’t over heat. Each week, you can lower the temperature by 5 degrees.
This infrared thermometer was the best thing we could have found to measure the temperatures inside their brooder!
It is truly amazing to see God’s work in the hatching of our birds! We are super excited that we even got it on video! (click here) Now, that you have your chicks all set up, you just get to enjoy them and watch them grow! It’s really neat to see how fast the ducks grow compared to the chicks!
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