Nursery reference guide

reading time: 4 Session minutes

By Jennifer Sartell In this incubation guide, I will take you through common terms, temperatures, times, and humidity levels for common and diverse backyard poultry.

Oftentimes, when people new to hatching research how to go about this process, seasoned breeders throw in terms not everyone is probably familiar with. We hope this serves as a quick reference to demystify the process.

For the most part, the hatching process is the same for every type of bird. In nature, the brooding bird sits on its eggs and provides warmth and moisture. This firm connection starts the life process inside the eggshell. With the help of an artificial brooder, humans can mimic the conditions nature has instilled in birds, and quite easily at that.

Below is a list of terms commonly used in the incubation process.

sitter – A device that simulates incubating birds by providing a controlled environment to keep eggs warm and at the appropriate humidity levels for incubation until the day they hatch.

Temperature – The hatching temperature for most poultry is 95.5 – 100 degrees

Radius conversion – This is used in incubators that rotate eggs with a rolling system. The turning radius refers to the relationship between the circumference of the egg and the distance the egg rotates. This ensures that the mechanism turns the egg 180 degrees. The correct grade should be listed in your operator’s manual.

rotation interval The time between egg turns. Most eggs must be turned at least 4 times per day, but mechanical turners can be programmed to turn every 45 minutes to an hour. Check the operator’s manual for instructions.

moisture Humidity is the level of humidity inside the incubator. Most species need about 55-60% for most of the incubation period. In the last few days before hatching the humidity should be increased to 65-68%.

Humidity An instrument for measuring the humidity in the air. Some incubators are equipped with these to ensure proper humidity levels during incubation. It can also be purchased separately.

complete closure Refers to the 2 to 3 days prior to hatching day when egg turnover stops and humidity levels rise. The incubator must not be opened while closed.

candles – The process of using a concentrated light source, such as a flashlight beam in a dark room to shine through the eggshell and see the shadow of the developing chick inside.

Point – The first break of the eggshell made by the chick upon hatching.

egg age- A rigid attachment/nobin on the upper end of the chick’s beak to help it hatch. As the chick grows, the egg tooth falls out, usually within the first week.

Hinge crack In a normal hatch, the chick will create a hinge crack that splits the egg in half around the egg’s equator. The ovule is usually held together by a bit of membrane forming a hinge. The chick will press down on both halves of the hinge until it is completely penetrated.

membrane It is important that the membrane lining the eggshell stays moist during the hatching. This rubbery film can begin to dry out and shrink the chick making it impossible to hatch.

fluff After hatching, the chicks must remain in the incubator until they hatch. This means that all of their feathers have dried up. The incubator is often too humid for this to happen. Chicks that do not dry out can be transferred to a brooder with a temperature of 95 to 100 degrees.

classify The incubation period moisture Temperature Lock start Lock moisture
Big bird 21 days 50-55% 99.5 F The nineteenth day 65%
Pance 21 days 50-55% 99.5 F The nineteenth day 65%
Game 21 days 50-55% 99.5 F The nineteenth day 65%
Big bird 28-29 days 55% 99.5 F Day 26 65%
Bantam 26 days 55% 99.5 F Day 24 65%
Muscovy 33-35 days 55% 99.5 F Day 34 65%
Guinea 28 days 50-55% 99.5 F Day 26 60-65%
Turkey 28 days 55% 98.6 – 99.5 Fahrenheit Day 25 65%
Geese 28-32 days 50-55% 99.5 F Day 27 65%
Bobwhite 22-23 days 60% 99.5 F Day 20 75%
button 16 days 50% 99-100 F Fourteenth day 60%
coturnix 16-18 45% 99.5 F Fourteenth day 65%

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