The moisture inside an incubator is the most critical thing that requires correct maintenance together with temperature.
How important is humidity when incubating eggs? Poor humidity in an incubator can result to an interrupted hatching or damaged eggs. Embryos may fail to form or worse, they may even die if the incubator has the wrong level of humidity.
The eggs may still hatch yet the chicks will sustain certain deformities and die in the end. This article gives you an overview of humidity, the role it plays in incubating eggs, and some tips for maintaining the correct level of humidity for eggs.
Humidity in Incubator – What is It, Anyway?
In general, humidity refers to the water vapor amount found in the air. This plays a crucial role in the survival of both plants and animals.
During egg incubation, humidity control can prevent excessive loss of moisture in the egg.
Humidity is the hardest to control variable when it comes to egg hatching, which is why this is also the most commonly misunderstood.
Poultry industry experts still debate as to what is the right level of humidity required to hatch eggs. However, most agrees that this should decrease less than 25% or more than 60% between setting and 3 days prior to hatching. There is the so-called lockdown period or the last 3 days before hatching.
During this time, the level of humidity must go up to 70% to 80%. This increased humidity can help the chicks to prevent being stuck to the membrane found right in the eggshell once they start breaking out and hatching.
You can measure the humidity level in two ways and it is important to understand how these two differ. Relative humidity is the first one expressed in the form of percentage.
Relative humidity is the measure of the vapor amount present in the air compared to the highest amount that the air can absorb at that specific temperature. It is for this reason that relative humidity is being expressed in percentage.
It means that when it comes to incubation temperature, air found in the incubator has half of the possible volume of water vapor. Percentage relative humidity level decreases once temperature increases without additional water provided.
The second method for measuring humidity is with the use of wet bulb temperature. This is the temperature of a thermometer with its bulb surrounded by moist cotton wick.
Evaporated water will cool the bulb down in relation to humidity just as how you feel cold after taking a shower. It is important to note the difference between air temperature and wet bulb temperature. Wet bulbs do not work that well in conditions with almost static air.
Effects of Excessive Humidity in Incubator
There are several factors that can make the humidity too high inside an incubator. The surrounding environment is the first one. The humidity in the place where the incubator is located has a direct effect on the incubator.
You can use a hygrometer or psychrometer to check the surrounding environment’s humidity. You can quickly access the humidity level daily through search engines including the Google weather report. Also, there are some apps you may use for tracking humidity every hour.
It is also very important that you keep an eye on humidity inside the hatching device. If you want to know what kind of hygrometer to buy check this article I wrote, where I compare a couple of good hygrometers for your incubator.
Egg shells are porous by nature like the skin with pores. Water passes through the pores so every egg dry out as if it releases water from inside.
The level of humidity determines the amount of the water loss in eggs. Therefore, if humidity is very high, eggs dry out easily with low level of humidity.
Basically, eggs have airspace at the round end where you typically crack it once you peel it.
This kind of airspace may get bigger once eggs lose more water. Airspace plays a huge role in the development of the chicks since it’s where it breathes. Also, it enables the chicks to develop and move in so it could position itself to the hatching place.
Thus, if humidity level is very high, airspace won’t be big enough for chicks to move and breathe. As results, chicks would have difficulty breaking out of the shells due to little space. Chicks may die because of lack of air and it might get weaker since it won’t be able to move out of the shell.
How to Maintain the Humidity Level in the Incubator?
There’s a simple way on how to measure relative humidity indirectly and look at the direct effect on eggs. This process weighs the eggs for monitoring water loss during incubation period.
Majority of birds have to lose around 13 to 15 percent of their weight from the time they’re set in the incubator to hatching. It’s also possible to check if the rate of water loss is very high due to high level of humidity or too low due to low level of humidity. You should take average weights and compare this to the expected weights.
Take average weights every 3-4 days and record them. If the average weight of the eggs is much lower than expected, you have to boost the level of humidity. You may intervene immediately the process of incubation as you notice for deviations in the weight of the eggs. The main goal is reaching the perfect weight loss when hatching day comes.
Reducing Humidity in Incubator
High level of humidity in incubator may have harmful effects on chick and egg development. The easiest and simplest way to reduce humidity is to open the ventilation of the incubator. After that, get rid of the water from the incubator.
If your poultry is situated in a humid area, air is highly humid as well. In this case, you will have to purchase dehumidifiers for your incubation room or put dehumidifying materials in incubator. Paper towels and rice are best natural dehumidifiers.
The right humidity level in incubator with the right level of temperature dictates the success of egg hatching. If you’re into poultry business, it’s worth investing equipment and time to monitor the level of humidity particular of the last and first days of incubation.