A video summary of what an "egg incubator lockdown" means


Welcome to today's Chicken Chat. In this session, we'll be looking at what "egg incubator lockdown" actually means, and what the tasks are that you'll need to keep on top of if your eggs are to successfully come to hatch.

Incubator lockdown process

So, day 18 is the day when we lock the incubator down for hatch. And a lot of people who are new to hatching have asked me what exactly "lockdown" means - and it's really not that difficult.

When I first started incubating and hatching, I had absolutely no idea what it meant, but there's really just a few steps that you need to take on day 18, at the end of day 18, to make sure that the chicks have as good a chance of hatch as possible. So, this table has now changed from how it's been over the last 18 days, and all my candling equipment has been put away. And the reason for that is that we now need to leave the eggs where they are without disturbing them at all between now and hatch. The reason for that is really simple.

It's just because the chick is now getting into position to hatch, and if we disturb it in any way then we're going to confuse its position. So we need to leave the chick where it is. We don't candle now, and we also take the automatic turner off the incubator (if you've had one). And if I just very quickly take off the top of the incubator, you can see that the other thing that's changed is that the eggs are no longer standing upright.

So these eggs are now lying down in the incubator, and that's the right position for hatch. They're also lying on a non-slip surface. I buy a non-slip shelf liner. You will have to discard it at the end of incubation anyway because they're a kind of very thin, rubbery surface, and they tend to absorb bacteria, so it's never a good idea to reuse them.

Cut it to size, put it in the bottom of the pan, and lie the eggs on it. The reason for doing that is simply that when chicks first hatch, they're quite wobbly on their legs, they kind of stumble around a bit, and what you don't want to happen is you don't want their legs to splay out to the side. Now a splayed leg or spraddle leg is actually quite easy to deal with as long as it's dealt with very quickly, but really, you don't want to have that happening if you can avoid it. So, just make a non-slip surface for the bottom of the pan, and the chicks will be more than happy in that.

Temperature and Humidity Adjustments

Okay, one of the other things that's happened is that the temperature for hatching stays exactly the same. It can actually afford to drop by a degree or two, but I'm keeping it at 37.5 which is 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

But the really important thing is that the humidity level must be raised. So at the moment, it's gone just a little bit higher than it should do at 66. I've set it to stay at 65 degrees between now and hatch. So, it'll even itself out in a few minutes, that'll be fine, and I'm not going to worry about one degree of difference.

So set the incubator on day 18 or at the end of day 18 to 65% humidity.

Finally, in terms of the incubator, we need to make sure that the vent, the air vent, is kept as well open as possible now, because as the chicks start to come to hatch, they need more and more oxygen. So for the whole of incubation, this vent in the Octagon 20 has been pushed either over to the side, or for most of it, just kept there in the middle. But for hatch from the end of day 18, I'm opening it completely so that the chicks have enough oxygen.

Preparing for Chicks' Arrival

The one other difference there is now is that I've also taken out my little Brinsea Mini Advance incubator here, which I love. I really love this incubator. It's very, very good for kids because it's very easy to see chicks hatching. I haven't put any eggs in this one because what I intend to do is use it as a first brooder for the chicks when they come out of hatch.

Now, chicks coming out of hatch are very wet when they first crack through the egg, and they need to dry off and become soft and fluffy - the kind of cute little chicks that you see on pictures all the time - before they can go into the brooder. They must be fluffed up before they go in. What we don't want is for chicks to become so wet that they become chilled and die, and that happens very easily. It's only happened to me once but I learned a lesson from it.

The lesson I learned from it was that I couldn't increase the temperature enough in the incubator to get the chick dried off, and it just died. So I now always have this little incubator on hand, and the chicks go into it and they become fluffed up very quickly. So, that's it. There's nothing mystical or magical about incubator lockdowns.

Recap of Major Tasks

You just need to be sure that you keep on top of the four major tasks. Let's recap what they are. Don't turn or candle the eggs between now and hatch day. This makes sure that the chicks can get into the proper position in order to be able to hatch successfully.

Secondly, lie the eggs flat and on a non-slip surface. This is to make sure that when the chicks do hatch, they don't slip on the incubator floor, with the danger of spraddle leg being the result. Number three, keep the temperature as it has been for the whole of incubation, that is, at 37.5 degrees Centigrade or 99.5

Fahrenheit. But increase the humidity levels to 65% and make sure that humidity remains at 65% for the final days until hatch. And fourthly, make sure that if you have air vents on your incubator, they're kept open between now and hatch day, so that your chicks are sure of getting enough oxygen.

Final Preparations and Warnings

And finally, don't be tempted to open the incubator lid to see what's going on.

Opening the lid will make sure that the incubator humidity drops very quickly, and a low humidity will mean that chicks will not be able to hatch properly. If you do feel you need to take chicks out of the incubator while others are still hatching, do so very quickly. Ask someone else if possible to raise the lid for you, snatch the chick out quickly, and close the lid as quickly as possible. If you find that the humidity level has dropped, then again, take a piece of kitchen paper, run it under some warm water, scrunch it up, squeeze it out, and put it into the incubator until your humidity levels have risen again.


So, that's it. Thank you for watching this session of Chicken Chat, and if you'd like more information about incubating and hatching chicken eggs, then please do follow the links which you'll find in the description right underneath this video.

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