Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Shrink Wrapped or Sticky Chicks? Why Chicks Have Difficulty Hatching



By Chrissy in CA

Hatching eggs isn’t always as easy as setting eggs in an incubator, waiting 21 days, and waking up to chicks on the twenty-first morning. There are a few things that can go wrong – especially in less-expensive incubators. Humidity and temperature issues can cause chicks to become “shrink wrapped” or to be overly-sticky at hatch.


The highest risk of shrink wrapping is after the eggs have externally pipped, have already been in lock down with high humidity... and then the incubator is opened for some reason. If the ambient humidity in the room is lower and the temp is cooler than the humidity and temp are inside of the incubator, (which is often the case) then opening an incubator lets a rush of cool, dry air into the incubator that exchanges with/replaces the warm moist air in the incubator, and does this inside the eggs as well. That is what dries out and shrinks the membranes. The membranes were moist, and then quickly lost moisture and shrank when the cold dry air rushed in. This is why incubator instructions always clearly state not to open the incubator until the hatch is completely over. 

Shrink wrapping can also happen to eggs that have only internally pipped, but is a little less likely and less damaging since the air and humidity can't exchange as quickly thru an un-pipped shell. This is why we can get away with waiting to lock down eggs until they have internal pipped and we can also candle prior to lock down without doing damage. Personally, I wait until I see internal pips before locking down... I have never had any shrink wrapping issues doing this.


High temps can also cause shrink wrapping, especially in forced air incubators with fans when there is not enough humidity in the incubator. Moisture is continually being lost at a time when the chick needs a little extra moisture to keep the membrane from becoming leathery/tough, when the chick needs to stay slick enough to spin in the eggs and also when the extra moisture is needed to keep the shell a little softer.

Sticky chicks are usually caused by overly high humidity during incubation that did not allow the chick to grow as large as it should have or let the egg lose enough moisture as the chick developed, so at hatch time those chicks are coated with more liquid (albumen) than they should be. A sticky chick's movement is restricted, but the stronger chicks usually manage to hatch ok (just extra sticky). The weak chicks will expire trying to hatch because they just don't have the strength. if they can't spin, and can't zip, they expire. Sometimes that extra sticky liquid can clog the chick's nostrils (aka drowning the chick), and the sticky liquid can also cause the opening of the internally pipped membrane to glue down onto the chick's nostril shortly after they have pipped internally, suffocating it.

(This chick was "sticky" at hatch, but is now a healthy, happy pullet.)

This is why it is important to know your incubator – practice managing the temperature and humidity prior to trying to hatch chicks. If you are experiencing losses at hatch, chances are it has to do with one of the above factors. Invest in a good hygrometer (or 2) and good thermometer(s) to keep inside your incubator – checking them regularly throughout incubation and hatch should alert you to any issues.

To hatch chicks, an incubator should remain at about 99.5 °F for all 21 days. Many people use a “dry incubation” method where humidity levels are kept lower (16% - 40%) up until the eggs internally pip, while other people keep their humidity a bit higher (40%-50%) throughout incubation.

At lockdown or after the chicks have internally pipped, humidity should be raised to about 65% and the incubator should not be opened until the last chick has hatched... or they'll chop your fingers off with a light saber...

(Just kidding! But I did think this picture was cute - the reflection of my flashlight used for candling gave the appearance my chicks were Jedi knights.)

Hope this helps, and happy hatching!

Chrissy in CA -
(Photos and lame humor by Leigh) 

*

18 comments:

  1. Thanks for the tips! I had some go past 21 days. Apparently my peeking at day 23 did them in...Shrink-wrapped. Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chances are that if they hadn't hatched by day 23, your peeking at them was not the reason they didn't make it. Generally they need to be at least externally pipped by day 21 and if they have not progressed in 12 hours after pipping, they may need assistance.
      We all lose some chicks in the incubator now and then. It wasn't your fault.
      Leigh

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  2. I have 20 eggs in incubator and only 2 hatched. My humidity and temp are correct. Im not sure whats going on :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have you candled the eggs to look for signs of life? If they all developed but died, do a few eggtopsies to see if they internally pipped (broke through the membrane). If they internally pipped but then died, the humidity may have been a bit too high and they may have drown in the unevaporated moisture in the egg.
      I'm sorry this hatch didn't go well.

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  3. Have 60 quail eggs on 23 days already no.1 hatched on day 18 no. 2 on day 20. No more hatching, but today found live chicks in them one with yolk absorbed and one not. They had tough power outages and cold corners. Will leave them another 2 days😭

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I"m very sorry. If they haven't hatched by now, it is clear they will not be able to on their own. :(

      Delete
  4. I have a sticky chick that pipped and partially unzipped. After about 24 hours of no progress I helped peel the shell away and it was able to push out of the membrane. Seems feisty and strong, but still very sticky. there are pieces of shell stuck to it. It isnt fluffing up at all. Do you think it is advisable to try to rinse it with warm water and then stick it back in the incubator to dry? I'm an experienced Hatcher but this is my first go around with this brand new incubator and I'm afraid there are some kinks. I've never had a sticky chick like this and I would rather not lose it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes - wash it off under warm water and use some mild dish detergent (regular blue Dawn if you're in the US) if there are stubborn parts.
      It is not uncommon for these chicks to have curled feet as a result of getting stuck. Be prepared to tape them in the first 24 hours if necessary.

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  5. We have a newly hatched chick that dried out during hatching. It seems that there is membrane stuck to its back. It is winter here and cold. I have read giving them a warm bath or moistening it can help. I am just concerned about the cold. If we dont intervene will it come off on its own?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It may come off on it's own, but it is usually best to wash the chick gently in warm water. Keep it nice and and warm until it dries.

      Delete
  6. hi
    i have four eggs in a incubater.i candled them yesterday.yesterday was day 21.i couldnt see any movement,but it was fully developed. today that is day 22 i candled them. in three eggs i could see a little bit of movement.so i water candled them.three eggs were moving on their own but one egg sinked.i dont know if its shrink wrapped or not.my incubater is a forced air one and the tempreture is 37.5C and the humidity is perfect.after the first 18 days,i raised the humity.
    plz help me if i should poke a hole in the air cell or help it.i cant see pipping or hear peeping.
    plz help me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you are certain you saw movement, put them back in the incubator and leave them alone for another day or two. Sometimes eggs can hatch late if the temperature in the incubator was a little cooler than it should have been.

      Delete
  7. I am new at hatching. I just finished my 2nd hatch of ducklings. My biggest issue is that of both hatches, only one duckling hatched without needing assistance.
    The first time I had to assist all but one and they were healthy and strong after helping them. I hatched out eggs from my own ducka.
    One my second round, I had hatched purchased some of my eggs & also eggs that were bought & shipped in the coldest storm in history, they were either way too small (like new layer size) or very oblong and they had detached air cells from being shipped upright and very cold. Out of 12, 7 hatched. Seller is replacing the eggs but I still decided to try to hatch them rather than throw them away and to learn. 3-4 did not pip but did drown in the shells and were full of goo, clear sticky liquid that you spoke of above. I did save one like that before it was too late.

    Long story short, ALL the eggs were shrink wrapped. I don't know what I'm doing wrong or if my incubator is the issue. I see the first external pip and then NOTHING. 24 hrs later nothing. The ducklings seem too big to zip or the membrane is white dry, starts to brown and they can't move.

    I use an auto turner, days 1-24 I set at 37.5c and 50-55 humidity,
    I do a cool off for 10 minutes and spray them and put back in days 10-24

    Day 25 take off turner, lay down and lower tempt to 36.9 and raise humidity to 70-75

    I'm using a humidity pump so I don't have to add water every day.

    Should I not spray water during cool down times? (Told to spray by a youtube video).

    Is my humidity too high at the end? Not high enough? I'm so frustrated. I still have a high hatch rate bit only with assisting all of them and it would be nice if they'd hatch as they are meant to. I rasd so many different things online. Please help me. Thank you!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry for your hatching troubles. When the ducklings internally pip and then drown because there's too much liquid or gooey stuff, it can indicate too much humidity prior to lockdown.
      When ducklings or chicks are truly shrink wrapped, generally the membrane will look like thin, dry paper. It will be so dry that it will be stuck to the baby bird and may need to be soaked to get it off.
      I am wondering if your troubles may be related to too much humidity and liquid inside the shells?

      Delete
    2. I am having this trouble with my turkey eggs. I even started doing dry hatches. My humidity stays between 22 and 26 percent and then I upped at lockdown. They make it to lockdown and never pip, internally or externally and when I break open they are sticky. How could my humidity during incubation be too high then??

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    3. As for your turkey eggs, there are many possibilities. We do want the humidity to be at around 65% for lockdown. What kind of incubator are you using?

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  8. I’m on day 23 canceled eggs they are breathing but not moving much and haven’t pipped Should I assist them??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If it were me, I would not. Sounds more like the incubation temperatures were a bit cool and it took longer for the chicks to develop. Give them more time.

      Delete

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