Incubation Troubleshooting Guide

When things don’t go quite according to plan (which can and does happen when incubating poultry artificially) try using this incubation trouble shooting guide to work out what went wrong. This guide is a general guide and covers all poultry although we are using chicks / chickens as an example.

After candling, although it can be a smelly job, it is advisable to crack open eggs you are unsure about to get a better look at what went wrong.

Problem Possible Cause(s) Remedies
Eggs clear. No growth or blood in egg or small growth / blood when opened. Male sterile or not mating.
  • Check age of male. Shouldn’t be too young or too old.
  • Be selective, select for high hatchability.
  • Ensure the season is right and you see mating.
Unsuccessful mating
  • Check feathers around vent area are not too thick on both cockerel and hen. Some breeds like Orpingtons can be trimmed to get success.
  • Use Artificial Insemination (AI)
Poor nutrition or inadequate water.
  • Feed birds specialist breeder pellets and provide fresh greens / free range. Add vitamins to fresh water (as directed on the bottle or packet) and ensure there is always an adequate supply of water.
Birds overcrowded.
  • Allow more space.
Eggs stored for too long or stored at the incorrect temperature.
  • Set eggs ideally within a week as fertility falls off gradually.
  • Store ideally at close to 12°C / 55°F and 65% R.H.
Eggs shaken or dropped – such as going through the postal system.
  • Try to collect eggs in person, or try another batch of eggs or a different delivery service.
Temperature of incubator too high or low
  • Check incubator settings. Check thermometers are correct. Maintain correct temperature.
Hereditary poor hatchability.
  • Select a strain with a good hatchability.
Flock in poor condition / incorrect feeding.
  • Feed birds specialist breeder pellets and provide fresh greens / free range. Add vitamins to fresh water (as directed on the bottle or packet) and ensure there is always an adequate supply of water.
Eggs chilled or overheated before collection.
  • Collect fresh eggs and store ideally at close to 12°C / 55°F and 65% RH
Chicks died before fully developing Ventilation inadequate.
  • Provide sufficient ventilation according to incubator manufacturer’s instructions.
Temperature of incubator too high or low.
  • Check incubator settings. Check thermometers are correct. Maintain correct temperature.
Incorrect or inadequate turning.
  • Ensure eggs are turned automatically or turn manually 3 times a day minimum.
Chicks fully formed but dead in shell, no pipping. On opening eggs, sometimes unabsorbed yolk can be seen. Disease or flock in poor condition.
  • Treat disease and improve flock condition.
Eggs chilled or overheated before collection.
  • Collect fresh eggs and store ideally at close to 12°C / 55°F and 65% RH
Low average humidity over the incubation cycle.
  • Check hygrometer accuracy. Maintain correct humidity in incubator throughout incubation and hatching cycle.
Temperature of incubator too high or low.
  • Check incubator settings. Check thermometers are correct. Maintain correct temperature.
Incorrect or inadequate turning.
  • Ensure eggs are turned automatically or turn manually 3 times a day minimum.
Chicks fully formed but dead in shell, chicks pip shell but don’t make it out. Low average humidity over the incubation cycle.
  • Check hygrometer accuracy. Maintain correct humidity in incubator throughout incubation and hatching cycle.
Low average temperature.
  • Check incubator settings. Check thermometers are correct. Maintain correct temperature.
Ventilation inadequate.
  • Provide sufficient ventilation according to incubator manufacturer’s instructions.
Temperature too high for a short period of time.
  • Check incubator settings. Check thermometers are correct. Maintain correct temperature.

 

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Tim Daniels

Tim is the founder of the poultrykeeper website and lives in Bedfordshire, UK. He keeps Light Sussex large fowl, Silkie bantams and hybrid layers for eggs, Abacot Ranger ducks, Brecon Buff geese and some quail.

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