The use of egg incubator is the key advancement in artificial incubation. It aims to recreate the natural incubation condition a mother hen provides for the chicks. It also paved the way to mass chicks’ production and fast growth of poultry industry. Chicken egg incubators quicken the chicks’ development and life cycle to a hen or a rooster. However, since artificial incubation is from man-made heat using machines, there are chances of over temperature phenomenon which affects chicks’ negatively.
The over-temperature phenomenon when incubating chicken eggs
Incorrect temperature or humidity levels when incubating chicken eggs causes harm to the chicks. According to studies, the optimal temperature should be 37ºC to 38ºC for domestic poultry. Improper temperature means it is either too low or too high than the prescribed temperature.
Another factor is the drastic change in temperature levels. For example, if heat spikes suddenly, regardless of how long the duration is, it would still affect the eggs. The common cause of temperature spike and drop is a power outage.
Lundy research states four temperature levels that are dangerous to the eggs’ development. First is the zone of cold injury at -2°C/28.4°F where ice crystals can develop inside the egg, killing it immediately. Then the Zone of suspended development (-2°C – 27°C/28.4 – 80.6°F) where the embryo does not begin to develop. Next is the Zone of disproportionate development (27 – 35°C/80.6 – 95°F) where embryo’s parts develop on different phases. Meaning chick’s beak may develop late than its feet.
The next two zones will be the cause of over temperature phenomenon. Zone of hatching potential (35 – 40.5°C/104.9 – 84.5°F), there is still possible that the eggs would hatch. However, it is expected that the chicks would have abnormalities and deformities like the following:
- Chicken hatched too early ( 2 days or 3 days early )
- Chick pipped but not hatching
- Hatch chicken blow bubble
- Membrane stuck to chick/ chick hatched but still attached to the egg
- Newly hatched chick not fluffy, hair sticky
- Chick hatched with intestines out
- Chicks dying between day 10 – 18
The most fatal over temperature zone is the Zone of heat injury (above 40.5°C/104.9°F). In this case, there is no chance that an embryo would live. However, if the embryos are already old (6 days old above) they can survive high-temperature exposure for a few hours.
The main reason why over temperature is harmful to eggs is heat causes evaporation. Eggs have natural water content inside that it gets through its egg shell’s pores. It eggshell is like its skin or nostril where air and water enter and exits. Overheating the eggs result to increase water loss or the embryo’s dehydration. Water is the embryo’s source of nutrients so without water, it is expected that chicks are malnourished and deformed.
Why overheat happen when incubating?
There are many causes of overheat. It can be due to human error, chicken egg incubator machine error or changes in the environment:
- Set the wrong temp in the incubator- Human errors are inevitable in setting temperature. The person-in-charge may not know how to use the incubator or he got confused or does not know the difference between Fahrenheit and Celsius.
- Environmental temperature is too high- Weather today is truly unpredictable due to global warming. If the environment’s temperature rises, the incubator’s temp should be lowered to avoid overheat.
- Chicken eggs to the hatching stage heat very much
- Technical or mechanical problems with Incubators- Technology is only good if it’s working. If the incubator suddenly breaks down, it would immediately affect the embryo’s growth and development.
How to solve the over temperature when incubating?
Prevention is still better than cure. Here we give you some tips to avoid over temperature when incubating eggs:
- Reduce 0.2°C if more than 1/2 quantity of egg prepare hatching
- Reduce 0.1°C if less than 1/2 quantity of egg prepare hatching
- Monitor the incubator’s temperature on a regular basis
- Train the person-in-charge of the incubation well.
- Conduct a regular maintenance check in egg incubators to avoid sudden machine damage.
- Keep an updated weather report to track temperature patterns so you can adjust the chicken egg incubator’s temperature readily.