WHAT IF THE EGGS DON'T HATCH?
Quality of the eggs:
The eggs may not be fertile.
The embryo may have failed to develop causing early death.
The chick may be abnormal, weak or diseased and die before hatching.
Some breeds carry lethal genes that can kill chicks before they hatch.
Durham Hens only sell eggs with a hatch rate of an 80% or higher. We constantly monitor this in our hatchery as we incubate all eggs that are not sold.
We send out hundreds of eggs by post every week. Most of these hatch successfully and we have many repeat customers. Occasionally when eggs have been through the postal system, they fail to hatch for various reasons but other causes are more likely - see below.
Inexperienced broody hen:
Some hens instinctively go broody and want to hatch eggs. This does not mean that they will be good broody hens or good mums. Some are rough with the eggs when turning them and can accidentally break them. Ensure the nest area is soft and that eggs cannot roll out. Some leave the eggs for too long and they get chilled; this can prolong the incubation time by a day or two or kill the foetus if left too long. Some will actually push eggs out of the nest so they become chilled. Very rarely, a hen may even attack or kill the newly hatched chicks. If you see a hen acting violently, take the chicks away and place them under a heat lamp or electric hen immediately.
Temperature: This is the most important factor in ensuring a good hatch. Incubators should be checked with a medical thermometer (the type used to take your body temperature) as these are the most accurate you can buy at a reasonable price. We have a calibrated thermometer for monitoring our incubators at Durham Hens.
Humidity: If the chicks have pipped but did not manage to get out of the shell, the humidity (the amount of water in the air) may be too low. If the air is too dry, the shell is harder for the chick to break through and the membrane inside the egg can stick to the chick, preventing it from moving and getting out.
Turning: If the eggs are not turned frequently enough, the chicks may be weak or dead in shell.
This is a very basic guide to hatching fertile eggs at home based on our experience at Durham Hens of incubating our eggs and dealing with customer enquiries. Hatching is a complex process and there are excellent books written on the subject if you would like to delve further.
For advice on rearing chicks, please see our REARING GUIDE.
If you have any concerns about your newly hatched chicks, please see our HEN HEALTH page.