Progress yesterday was slow, so when I woke up at 1 a.m. this morning, I made a beeline to the incubator to see if any of the pipped eggs had zipped. None had, though a couple had enlarged the initial pip so I could see little beaks moving inside and hear chirping.
When I checked the relative humidity (RH), I was horrified – it was down to 31%, which is far too low for hatching (ideally, it should be more like 65%+, so chicks can successfully exit the shell). It had been holding steady at around 63% since lockdown. Prevailing incubation wisdom dictates that you do everything possible not to open the incubator after lockdown to avoid losing humidity, but I decided that it was worth the risk to add more water to bring up the RH. Chicks have difficulty getting themselves out of a shell with a hardened membrane, so this was potentially a life or death situation.
I filled a bottle with warm water, carefully removed the incubator top and even more carefully, lifted out the egg tray. Despite my best efforts, the eggs did roll a tiny bit. Egads! The water had completely evaporated from the interior channels, which explained the low reading. I refilled the channels and ensured the wicking paper towels were wet as quickly as possible and put everything back into place…carefully. No one wants to accidentally drop an egg (or a full egg tray!) at this point. Fortunately, the temperature and the humidity came back up very quickly – RH was holding at around 70%. I monitored the readings for another hour and a half, and at last check, one black chick had hatched and chirped loudly at the light. Progress!!
I’ll keep monitoring the hatching periodically through the wee hours. Fortunately, I have some good homesteading books to keep me company.
6:05 AM: now there are 3 – 2 black and one brown chick
8:45 AM: 2 more eggs have zipped – chicks should emerge soon
9:15 AM: a chick emerged from one of the zipped eggs – 4 total now
11:07 AM: 6 chicks are out
1:20 PM: it’s getting more difficult to see with the empty shells and active chicks, but a couple of large pips are visible
3:03 PM: appears that roughly half of the eggs have hatched
6:22 PM: a couple more eggs have pipped
They’re still hatching and may continue into tomorrow. More updates to come!