Avoiding a “Failure to Hatch” Situation

Whether your eggs are under the hen or in an incubator, we all experience the same bewilderment when our eggs don’t hatch and continue to ask ourselves.. why?

The biggest and most common culprit for a failed hatch is, of course, that your eggs were not fertile at the time of laying. To get the best fertility, always buy from a reputable source that can guarantee their fertility rate. Hatching eggs are at their best fertility in days 1-5, but will remain hatchable until day 21. Candling eggs is an age-old practice that can help us determine whether or not our eggs have potential. To do this, as you approach day 14 of incubation, shine a bright light behind and through the eggs. Do this by holding an Egg Candler or a bright flashlight right up to the egg and shine the light through the egg, not onto the shell. If your room is dark enough, you should be able to see the outline of a chick and a soft pink glow. This silhouette and the sight of veins that cover the inside surface of the egg indicate that the egg is indeed fertile. No craggy lines or just a dark egg is a sign that you’ve got a “bad egg, ” and you should remove it promptly to reduce potential contamination of the viable eggs.

If you have purchased your eggs and transported them, including through the USPS, it’s a good idea to allow the eggs to stand, pointy side down, for up to 24 hours at room temperature to allow the air-sac in the egg to reconstitute. A broken or otherwise incomplete air sac will starve your hatchling of much-needed oxygen during the incubation process and will likely lead to failure to hatch.

Another reason why your eggs might not hatch is simply the incorrect moisture levels. The shell of an egg has a porous surface, meaning it has microscopic holes that allow water to pass through. Whether being incubated or not, egg shells allow the egg to dry out slowly. If the humidity level is set too high, the egg will not dry fast enough will lead to complications and loss. If the moisture levels are set too low, the membrane inside the shell itself becomes too dry and brittle; it will become tough and too challenging to break through. Not enough humidity can cause small development and frail birds as well. Be sure to check our resource page by clicking here: Incubation Instructions to ensure your temperatures and humidity levels are set within the guidelines if incubating.

Of course, eggs that become too hot to too cold during the development process will fail as well, so be sure to keep your incubator set correctly or your broody hen comfortable as necessary. A gentle hand will go a long way, as well, because cracked or damaged eggs are sure to flounder. Be extra careful when handling eggs and never ” help” the chick hatch. An egg cracked too soon will kill a hatching chick almost immediately.

So, you’ve done all that you can, and your broody hen still cannot get those eggs to hatch? You can provide your broody hen with “foster” chicks to raise. A quick purchase of day-old chicks from your favorite poultry resource ( Purely Poultry, of course) is in order. Gently replace the old eggs with the new babies, a couple at a time, after dark when your hen is sleepy and calm. Broody hens will gladly accept the new babies as if they are her own.  Feed and water can be provided right there in the nesting area, if you wish, but be sure to feed them both the chick starter, however, as chicks should not have laying mash.

Opening any unhatched eggs and checking for partially developed embryos or other clues is a logical step to help you troubleshoot where your hatching when awry. Just be sure to do it outside to keep your house from smelling like rotten eggs and never open the eggs too soon. We may never be able to identify exactly why our eggs don’t hatch, but after this article, we know what is NOT the reason for our reproductive woes.

For all of your incubation needs, visit www.PurelyPoultry.com and click on Supplies.  Our best Incubation Kit is located here. And if you’re hatching quail, don’t forget your quail rails, to hold those tiny little eggs.