If you’re reading this post, then it’s likely you’re a beginner learning how to increase humidity in the chicken incubator. Now, incubators come in different models such as those with automatic humidity controls and those that depend on the old-fashioned way. Since you’re reading this, I assume you’re using an old model that doesn’t have automatic humidity control.
Now, why is it important to manage the level of humidity in an incubator? You see, in nature, the mother bird does a great job of keeping the condition of the eggs perfect for the chicks to grow. Two of these conditions are temperature and humidity.
When it comes to the incubator, both of these conditions must be considered for the fragile embryo to grow. While temperature is quite easy to control, humidity can be a bit tricky leaving most people scratching their heads. So, with that said, this short guide will discuss how to control the relative humidity level inside an incubator.
Relationship Between Temperature and Humidity
Just as we’ve mentioned earlier, temperature and humidity are two of the most critical factors that control the growth of an embryo while inside an incubator. You see, air can absorb water in the form of water vapor. However, the amount of water that air can hold depends on the temperature rise. Therefore, as temperature rises, the amount of water that air can hold also rises. This maximum amount of water that air can hold at a given temperature is called saturation.
But, as temperatures decrease, the amount of water that air can hold also reduces. That’s because air will face difficulty in holding excess water. This is the reason why dew forms on the grass in summer mornings. Although the temperatures are high during the day, they decrease as you approach morning making it hard for air to hold the excess water vapor.
So, Why is Humidity Important in an Incubator?
First and foremost, you need to understand the relationship between temperature and moisture when it comes to incubators. You see, when an egg is inside the incubator, it needs a precise balance of temperature and relative humidity.
When an egg is laid inside an incubator, it contains several fluids one of which is moisture. As the incubation process continues, the egg losses some of the moisture through its porous shell. The humidity lost depends on the level of the relative humidity inside the incubator.
What is risky or rather tricky in the incubation process is the amount of moisture an egg loses which can either lead to success or failure when it comes to the hatching phase. You see, as the egg losses humidity, an air cell is formed, which tells when the chick will hatch.
For instance, if there’s excess humidity inside the incubator, the egg will lose little water thus reducing the size of the air cell. This will cause the chick to drown when piping through the shell due to trouble breathing. This will leave the chick stuck inside the egg with its beak protruding.
On the other hand, if the relative humidity is too low, the egg cell will be too large. Now, since the chick is too small and too weak, it will be unable to crack the large shell during the piping phase. This again will leave you with a dead chick.
How Do You Control Humidity in an Incubator?
If you’re using an automatic incubator for eggs, then you don’t have to worry much. All you need is to place the eggs inside the incubator and wait for three weeks for the chicks to hatch. But, when it comes to the manual way, things can get a little bit tricky.
How to Adjust the Temperature
Here, you must control the temperature and the humidity levels manually. Regarding the temperature, it’s important to maintain a steady temperature range of 100°F for a forced-air incubator and 102°F for a still-air incubator. During this time, make sure that you place the bulb of the thermometer at the same height as the tops of the eggs. This is to ensure that you get accurate readings.
Once the temperature has stabilized, maintain a steady temperature range of 97° to 102°F. According to most experts, it’s better to underheat the incubator than overheat it. Overheating the incubator by increasing the temperature slightly to above 103°F for several hours can seriously affect the embryos causing the eggs not to hatch.
How to Adjust the Humidity Level
Maintaining the temperature inside an incubator is very easy. The hardest test comes in when controlling the level of relative humidity. Now, unlike temperature, there’s no optimal humidity level when it comes to embryo growth. Some people prefer to keep the humidity high above 50% while others prefer to keep it relatively low (at 25%) for the first three weeks then raise it to around 55-75% for the final three days.
However, to get the best results, you should learn how to candle the eggs right from the first week. To do that, you need to check the development of the air cell more frequently. When candling the eggs, you should mark the eggshells with a pencil to see how they lose water. For optimal growth, the volume of the air cell should increase by 4% during the first week, 9% during the second week, and about 13-14% in the third week.
Now, what should you do if the air cell is too small or too big? If the air cells are too small, then you need to lower the humidity level immediately. If they’re too big, then you need to increase it. So, how do you increase the humidity inside an incubator?
The easiest way to increase the level of humidity inside an incubator is by adding more water into the incubator. Here, you can decide to place a trough or a petri dish of water somewhere inside the incubator. By doing this, there will be increased evaporation, which will raise the humidity levels. Another method you can consider is to close the incubator entirely to prevent humid air from escaping once it’s open.
What about when you need to lower the humidity? Well, one easy method you can consider is to open the ventilation holes to allow a normal exchange of air. Here, oxygen will be allowed in while carbon dioxide will be forced out. Also, the humid air inside the incubator will be replaced with fresher less humid air from the outside. In case you don’t wish to open the incubator for too long, you can consider adding rice or paper towels inside the incubator to lower the humidity.
So, there you have it. But, just before we conclude, let’s discuss something regarding the last three days of the incubation process. Now, these last days are called the hatching phase. During this phase, you’ll expect to see the eggs shifting on their own signaling the chicks are almost ready to hatch.
Therefore, to make this final phase as successful as possible, you need to increase the level of humidity steadily to around 65%. In case you need to add water inside the incubator to increase humidity, make sure that you open and close the door as quickly as possible to prevent humidity from escaping. Also, make sure that you add warm water to avoid lowering the humidity level.
So, with that said, we believe that this short guide has offered some value when it comes to increasing the humidity level inside an incubator.
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Hello, I am John Reid. I have been raising chickens for the last 15 years. I have got my experience from my father. My father is the owner of a large chicken farm. This is our family business that has been continuing for over 35 years. I am very interested in backyard chickens and I know how to take care of them. You can learn more About Us here. Happy Reading!!