Once the eggs are in the incubator there isn’t a lot to do, but monitor your temperature and humidity level. If you do not have an egg turner you will need to turn your eggs several times a day, a least three times a day at even intervals. You can certainly turn them more but remember to make sure you turn them an odd number of times at equal intervals. Remember to mark your eggs (with pencil) with an “X” and an “O” to help you track your turning.
Another thing to check is the smell. If an egg goes bad it can contaminant the entire batch. So every day I smell the eggs, if an egg is bad, you will know it, without a doubt. If you leave a bad egg in the incubator it may explode and that is a bad situation. Not only will you have a nasty mess on you hands but it is possible and very probable that the rest of you eggs will be contaminated.
The humidity level is also important to maintain. Before you open your incubator note the humidity level, if it is low, you need to add water. I say to check the humidity levels before you open it because as soon as you open the incubator the humidity level will change.
Every day I wet the sponges and add water to the built it trays. If you have a still air incubator you will not need to add as much water as you would with a forced air incubator.
I check my temperature several times a day. As I walk by I peek in and as long as my temperature is within the desired range I leave it along. If I notice that the temperature is approaching either limit I cover or uncover the incubator with my towel. Sometimes it is a matter of covering half of the incubator, sometimes I need to uncover it completely. Just don’t cover the air hole. I do not adjust the temperature knob. The Little Giant incubators and similar incubators (Styrofoam) are severely affected by the environment they are in, so especially in the spring months when the temperature fluctuate drastically, it is important to pay attention to the incubator temperature.
Candle at Day 7, 14 & 21
Candling eggs is the fun part. It is reassuring to see the growth of the tiny bird inside. Hatching eggs in an incubator can seem like a long process one that can easily feel like you are failing. Three or four weeks may not seem like a long time to create a life but when you are in the middle of it and have no idea if things are going well, it may seem like forever especially when something happens to make you doubt the hatchability of your little clutch of eggs.
Something to remember is candling eggs is not an exact science. It is easy to be wrong. I always prefer to assume that an egg is good and I am wrong, there is no worse feeling than to open up an egg you thought was bad to find a perfectly developing chick inside. It can not be undone so be careful in your egg culling.
There is not a lot to see on day seven. Basically, you are just checking for fertility. An unfertilized will be clear. Sometimes you will see a small crack that is not visible to the naked eye. This does not mean the egg is not viable, sometimes the egg will hatch with no problems, with no actions taken, some people will repair the crack with wax or school glue. There is really no way to know if these repairs improve the chances of the egg hatching. If you candle your eggs and see that there is a crack in the egg, you can attempt to repair it if you choose to but don’t throw it out yet, give it a week and see what you can see.
On my first candling I had one egg that was not fertile and one that had a crack. I kept both. On day 10, I candled again. Not something I would normally do, I will explain why I did it in a moment, but I was very certain both eggs were not viable, so I discarded them.
Not long into this incubation period, about day four, something happened with my incubator. I don’t know what but after being gone all day I came home to a very cool incubator.. 88 degrees. I was very upset. I don’t know long it had been at that temperature or how it got that way. But I knew they were all dead, I just knew it. However I was praying I was wrong. So I continued on.
On day seven, I candled the eggs as planned. I marked the line to show the progress. On day 10, I candled them again because I was paranoid I had killed them all, this was not a planned candling. I normally only candle at the week markers, it was clear at this time the two eggs in question were not going to hatch, but as far as the others, I couldn’t see a change so it was a waste of time and just added to my concern.
However, on day 14, when I candled there was growth on almost all the eggs. Had I gone with my instinct I would have thrown them all out.
This far into the incubation period there is not a lot that can be seen. Sometimes you can see movement, that is exciting, but most of the time you just see a dark egg with an air pocket at the pointy end.
While candling can be revealing , it is no guarantee that these eggs will hatch. Never count you chickens (or turkeys) before they hatch. I am writing this blog as I go, so the next turkey post will be on hatch day. There may be a happy ending, but maybe not. We will see… Together.
Read Turkey Hatch PART 3