When is it safe to open the incubator?

A chick hatching in an incubator

Opening the incubator will let out all of the warm moist air that is contained inside the machine and doing it at the wrong time will cause hatching problems.

Below: Taking the lid off an incubator at the wrong time can kill chicks in the shell.

It is safe to open the lid of the incubator from when you set the eggs to when you lock down the incubator for hatching.

Can you open incubator during hatching?

You should not open the incubator during lock-down when the eggs are pipping and hatching as it will cause the membranes to shrink and trap the chick.

Your eggs should all pip within 24 hours of each other and at most a hatch should not take more than 36 hours from the first chicks to the last.

What happens if you open the lid of the egg incubator?

When you take the lid off the incubator all the warm moist air is let out immediately. This is not a problem early in the incubation cycle but once the eggs have pipped you make yourself a whole lot of problems by opening the incubator.

All the membranes that enclose the chicks dry out in a flash and trap the chicks inside the eggs.

A dried out membrane means the chick will not emerge without help. The membrane becomes very leathery and stiff rather than pliable and the chick will not be able to break through it. When the membranes are moist and pliable the chick is able to tear them.

Below: A shrink wrapped chick, unable to hatch on it's own.

At best this means you will have to assist it in hatching. At worst it will mean that the chick will die in the egg. This shrink wrapping of chicks can happen fast. Taking the lid off the incubator for half a minute during lock-down is enough time to ruin the hatch.

If you regularly have poor hatch rates here is a list of all the things that go wrong before, during and after incubation.

What to do if you opened the incubator during lock-down:

There are a few precautions you can take if you have to open the incubator during hatching:

  1. Have a warm wet towel ready to cover the eggs.
  2. Spray the eggs with a mist of water before you put the lid back on.
  3. Leave the incubator open for the minimum time possible.

It is safe to open up when you are sure that no more chicks are hatching. Opening the incubator at that point will cause humidity to drop immediately which can dry out the membrane of any chicks who have begun to pip.

Part of the selection process involves choosing eggs that hatch at the same time. The hens do it. They leave eggs in the nest ensuring the 21 day cycle through to the next generation. Allowing late hatches will leave you with a strain of chickens were the eggs hatch at 23 days.

Chicks can chill fast. Move to a brooder that is running at temperature.

The next stage - Moving chicks to the brooder.