When to remove unhatched eggs ? Advice and techniques



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From the laid egg to the hatched chick, the process can seem like a mystery to many, especially beginners in the industry. But there is a lot that can be gleaned from the practices and procedures of experienced professionals. We’ll provide you insight into when to remove eggs that haven’t hatched and offer advice and techniques to guide you through the process.

Understanding the incubation period

Before we delve into the specifics of when to remove unhatched eggs, it’s of utmost importance to understand the incubation period. All eggs, whether in a nest under a hen or in an incubator, typically require around 21 days to develop and hatch. This is the average time that a chick needs to fully form and emerge.

You will need to monitor the eggs carefully during this period, checking for significant changes in temperature and humidity, as these environmental factors play pivotal roles in the successful hatching of chicks. It’s also important to remember that an egg laid by a broody hen will start developing the moment it’s laid, whereas an egg in an incubator will start developing when it’s placed into the incubator.

Candling: the checking process

Around the 7th day of incubation, it’s recommended to candle the eggs. This is a process where a bright light is shone through the egg to check the embryo’s development. If the embryo is developing properly, you will see a network of blood vessels and an opaque mass which is the embryo.

Candling is usually carried out at 7, 14 and 18 days of incubation. The candling process helps you to identify dead and non-viable eggs, which should be removed to prevent bacterial growth and the potential spread to other viable eggs. The sooner these eggs are removed, the better it is for the health of the remaining embryos.

Recognising non-viable eggs

One of the main reasons to remove unhatched eggs is when they are infertile or when the embryo has died during the incubation process. If an egg has not shown signs of development during the candling process, it is likely infertile and can be removed.

If the egg shows signs that the embryo has died – such as a blood ring, a spot with no veins, or an embryo that appears to have stopped developing – it should be removed immediately. It’s essential to ensure the prompt removal of these eggs to prevent the spread of potential bacteria or disease that could affect the rest of the clutch.

When to remove unhatched eggs ?

Typically, if an egg has not hatched by day 24, it’s almost certain that it will not hatch. By this time, all viable eggs should have hatched. Before disposing of unhatched eggs, it’s prudent to candle them one last time to confirm there’s no chick inside.

In the rare case where there is a living chick inside an egg that hasn’t hatched by day 24, additional time and higher humidity might be required. However, these situations are infrequent, and often, the chick may have developmental issues.

How to remove unhatched eggs ?

The process of removing unhatched eggs should be handled with care. Always wash your hands thoroughly before handling the eggs to minimise the risk of infection. Carefully take the egg out of the incubator or nest, ensuring not to shake or drop it. Dispose of the egg in your usual waste, avoiding any contact with other animals or birds that could spread possible diseases.

In conclusion, knowing when and how to remove unhatched eggs requires a good understanding of the hatching cycle, careful observation, and prompt action. This ensures the health of the remaining chicks and the overall success of your hatch. Remember, the chick’s life starts the moment the egg is laid, and every decision you make impacts the potential life within.

The role of the hen in unhatched eggs

Firstly, understanding the role of a broody hen in the hatching process is crucial. A hen will sit on a clutch of eggs, keeping them warm and turning them periodically to ensure even distribution of heat. This period lasts for around 21 days until the chicks hatch. The hen then uses a special call to communicate with the chicks still inside the egg.

After the chicks hatch, the hen will stay with them in the nest box for a few additional days to keep them warm and safe. However, if the hen detects that an egg is not viable, she may push it out of the nest. This is an innate behavior designed to protect the health of the remaining chicks and prevent bacteria or disease from spreading.

In incubation settings, the same principles apply. Unhatched eggs should be removed after 24 days, mimicking the behavior of a broody hen. This is why it’s important to monitor the eggs and remove any that are infertile or have a deceased embryo, just like a hen would.

Feeding chicks after hatching

After the chicks hatch, it is important to transition them onto a diet best suited to their growth and development. For the first few weeks, baby chicks should be fed a high protein chick starter feed. The starter feed helps them grow and develop during this crucial stage of life.

At around 6 weeks of age, the chicks will begin to lose their downy feathers and grow their adult feathers. This is when they should transition from chick starter feed to layer feed, which contains the necessary nutrients for egg production.

Keeping a close eye on your chicks during this period will help you ensure they are developing well and eating the right diet. Any issues with feeding or growth should be addressed promptly to ensure the health of your chicks.

Managing Temperature and Humidity in the Incubator

The temperature and humidity in the eggs’ incubator play a vital role in the successful hatching of chicks. The recommended temperature in the incubator is around 37.5°C (99.5°F), and the humidity should be between 40-50% for the first 18 days, then increased to 60-70% for the last three days.

The air cell inside the egg, which expands as the chick develops, is a good indicator of whether the humidity level is correct. If the air cell is too big, the humidity is too low. If it is too small, the humidity is too high.

Monitoring the temperature and humidity regularly and making necessary adjustments will help ensure the best hatching conditions.

In summary, successfully hatching eggs involves understanding the incubation period, the role of the broody hen, and the importance of candling to monitor development. Properly managing the temperature and humidity in the incubator, removing non-viable eggs, and correctly feeding the chicks post-hatching are all critical steps in the process.

Remember, each egg in your nest box or incubator has the potential to become a healthy chick. With careful observation and prompt action, you can maximise the success of your hatch and ensure the health and well-being of your future flock.

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