Help! Did I kill my developing chick!?

by Cari
(Ohio)

I am attempting to hatch eggs in the incubator for the first time. I know this is not a good time of year to order eggs through the mail, but I wanted to try anyways, so I ordered some from Florida which had to ship across the country to Ohio in 90 degree temps.

The eggs arrived pretty dirty, but I read they shouldn't be washed, so I put the eggs in the incubator, candled on day 5, and 2 looked black inside so I opened them and they were rotten.

Candled on day 11 and 2 eggs were weeping and smelled awful. Performed eggtopsies and there was only what resembled a black prune inside each egg - what I presume was a decomposed embryo.

Candled on day 13, one egg had a little crusted yellow residue on the bottom, which smelled rotten and I assumed had been weeping which meant it was bad.

I didn't realize the batteries in my flashlight were dying since I had been looking at brown and blue eggs which are very hard to see inside anyways.

So when I candled this particular egg with the yellow crusty residue I only could see a saddle shaped air cell, no veining or anything else. So I assumed it was bad and cracked it open to find a beautiful chick with vibrant yolk and red veining. It looked like a perfectly viable chick to me and did not smell at all. So I am afraid I killed a perfectly healthy chick!

The more I think about it, i am wondering if I accidentally placed the egg in the same spot in the turner where I had removed a bad weeping egg the prior time I candled, so maybe the residue was from the other bad egg? I feel horrible. :( So my questions for you...

1. Could an egg weep, have some crusty residue on the outside but the chick still be healthy and survive and hatch?

2. At day 13 should the chick have been moving when I cracked it open?

3. How long would it live upon opening the egg? Is it instant death?

4. Could it have already been dead and still have such a vibrant intact circulatory system? It seems like it wouldn't still look so perfect if it was already dead.

Thank you for your help!

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Bacteria in incubated eggs.
by: Cath

Hi Cari,

You're right that it's not an ideal time to hatch in the summer, and in such high temperatures, but it's not unheard of so don't beat yourself up about that.

It obviously depends a lot on how the eggs were packaged and sent as to whether they'd survive or not. It sounds to me like your eggs were not protected well enough from the heat.

Eggs sent by post are also notoriously difficult to hatch, because they tend to get bumped and jolted by the postal system, so air cells become detached and quite often the egg does not develop, or develops but dies early. That's what's happened to at least one of your eggs - the saddle shape is a detached air cell.

Dirty eggs are also a real problem. So many people who are not registered as providers send eggs that are dirty and sometimes have been sitting round the coop for days. Not ideal.

I do, actually, wash any eggs I am going to hatch - very gently - if they're a little dirty, or else if they're really dirty I discard them altogether. Once a dirty egg goes into the incubator the danger is the bacteria increase in the warm, humid conditions and as the eggs become more porous during incubation, they take on the bacteria, become infected and die.

The eggs that were clearly bad fell into this category, I'm afraid.

There's an article here about how to choose hatching eggs. It's difficult if you're doing it by post but the reputable hatcheries or breeders would never send dirty eggs.

To answer your specific questions:

1. If an egg has even a tiny crack and started to weep, it is unlikely to be a successful hatch. It's possible to patch over the crack with (for example) candle wax, but it's unusual for it to work.

If there is already a problem with bacteria in the incubator, it won't happen. The crack is an ideal place for bacteria to enter.

2. A chick at Day 13 does have a heartbeat, which is what makes it look like it's moving when you candle. But it's not yet viable as a living chick so no, it would not have been moving.

3. If an egg is opened at any point during incubation, the chick will die straight away.

4. It may be that the chick was already dead - if there was a crack and weeping, almost certainly so. It would take a little more time for the embryo to start decomposing, which is what gives the bad smell.

So my advice here would be to clean your incubator really thoroughly before you hatch again, and get eggs from a reputable supplier - if you can, someone near to where you live to you can collect in person and see the flock in their surroundings.

Oh and - think about joining my hatching club which opens in the Spring!

I hope that's helpful.

Cath.

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