POULTRY FACT SHEET NO. 33
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION - UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
July 1999

COMMON INCUBATION PROBLEMS:  CAUSES AND REMEDIES

R. A. Ernst, F.A. Bradley, M.E. Delany, U.K. Abbott and R.M. Craig
Animal Science Department, University of California, Davis, CA 95616

Observation:   Excessive infertility for species

PROBLEM

CAUSES

REMEDIES

True infertility [Definition]
Poor insemination technique Inseminate more frequently at proper depth with good semen
Hens not inseminated, wrong male to female ratio Inseminate hens; replace males; use more males
Preferential mating in pen matings Mate hen with different male
Male sterility Change males
Males not mating Check for disease, nutrition problems, foot problems and social dominance of females
Males too old Use young males; reinforce natural with artificial insemination if old, valuable males must be used

Observation:  Over 3% dead 1st 3 days of incubation

PROBLEMS

CAUSES

REMEDIES

Pre-oviposital death [Definition]

  

Inbred strains Avoid excessive inbreeding; use young males
Parthenogenesis in turkeys Do not use as breeders, toms and/or hens showing high incidence of parthenogenesis
Fertile, no development (FND) [Definition] Eggs stored at too low temperature Store hatching eggs properly (550F to 680F) see PFS No. 22
Eggs stored too long Store chicken, pheasant, duck, goose and quail eggs no longer than one week; turkey and partridge eggs no longer than two weeks
Eggs washed at too high temperatures Dry clean eggs; eliminate dirties; lower temperatures of wash water slightly; produce clean eggs
Positive development (PD) [Definition] Poor collection schedule during hot or cold weather When temperature in house or nest box exceeds 80 F, collect eggs several times during the day
Blastoderm without embryo (BWE) [Definition] Improper storage temperature Store eggs properly (55 F to 68 F) see PFS No. 22
Cystic embryos [Definition] Eggs stored too long Store chicken, pheasant, duck, goose and quail eggs no longer than one week; turkey and partridge eggs no longer than two weeks
Rough handling or shipping procedures Careful handling from time eggs are gathered until chicks or poults are hatched
Diseased flock (e.g. mycoplasmas, Newcastle disease) Inspect flock for general and specific health conditions
Aged or abnormal spermatozoa Check insemination technique; use young males
Eggs from inbred flock Some losses are unavoidable with inbreeding; change males and/or introduce new genetic stock
Improper egg storage temperature or pre-incubation temperature Do not allow eggs to pre-incubate; use correct setter temperature (99.5 F); check egg storage temperature
Eggs from hens housed above 5,000 feet Avoid high altitude

Observation:  Over .5% Dead day 4 to transfer

PROBLEMS

CAUSES

REMEDIES

Many dead embryos Improper temperature Check thermometer for accuracy
Unknown power failure If power fails open machine until power is restored
Improper turning Turn eggs three or more times each day
Eggs from inbred stocks Avoid excessive inbreeding
Poor ventilation of hatchery or incubator Provide proper air exchange
Disease or infected eggs Use eggs from disease-free flocks; Do not wash eggs in cold water

Observation:  Over 8% dead after transfer

PROBLEMS

CAUSES

REMEDIES

Embryos dying before pipping Low temperature incubating conditions; humidity too high. Maintain 99.5 F dry-bulb, 86 F wet-bulb temperature in fan ventilated setter
Infected eggs Do not wash eggs in cold water; set only nest clean eggs
Poor nutrition of breeder flock Check breeder diet; nearly all known vitamins and minerals, if absent or in short supply, can cause late mortality and poor chick quality
Certain genetic lethals Use vigorous strains
Embryos weak and fail to  pip or pip weakly

Vitamin E deficiency

Use fresh feed or supplement Vitamin E in water
Many pips stuck to shell Hatcher humidity too low Maintain 90 F wet-bulb temperature after pipping begins
Excessive residual albumen caused by high humidity and/or low temperature incubation Check thermometers and thermostats; monitor temperature and humidity
Chicks pipped and dead Disease Use disease free stock
Overheating in hatcher; low hatcher humidity Check hatcher temperature and humidity
Nutritional deficiency Feed balanced diet
Malpositions [Definition] Eggs set small-end up Position eggs properly in trays (large end up or horizontal)
Chicks hatch too early, are thin and noisy Temperature too high during incubation period Check thermometer; 1 F in excess of 99.5 F will cause approximately 24-hour earlier hatch
Chicks hatch late, are soft and lethargic Temperature too low and humidity too high during incubation period Check thermometer; 1 F below 99.5 F will cause late hatch
Old eggs Set only fresh eggs; allow extra time for hatch by setting old eggs early
Sudden losses at any time Improper fumigation Do not fumigate between 24 and 96 hours of incubation.
Mercury spilled in incubator or hatcher Check for broken thermometer or thermostat; clean up all spilled mercury immediately
Power or equipment failure or overheating Check incubator temperature at least twice daily; refer to owners manual for proper maintenance procedure