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Effects of a power outage on the incubator

Newly hatched chickHow much will a power outage affect your incubator?  Is it worth keeping the eggs going after the juice comes back on, or should you pull the plug and start over?

We had a two to three hour loss of power during the second week our incubator was running, and we did see a slightly lower hatch rate, but not enough that I feel we should have just started over.  During our first hatch of the season (same incubator, same parents), we had 90% viable eggs, 95% hatch rate of those viable eggs, and a 94% survival rate to four weeks.  In contrast, the set of eggs that lived through the outage had 95% viability, 80% Chick camhatch rate, and 94% survival (to one week).  (See my 99 cent ebook, Permaculture Chicken: Incubation Handbook for more information on calculating these rates and improving your hatch.)

How long eggs can survive in the incubator without power depends on a variety of factors.  Length of time the power is out is an obvious one, and so is air temperature in the room --- shorter outages and warmer rooms cause less of an impact.  If you're around during the outage (we weren't), you can close all the vents, add a hot water bottle if you have one, and wrap the incubator up in a Two day old chicksblanket to conserve heat, which will mitigate the outage to some extent.

Another factor to consider is age of the eggs.  The further along your chicks are in their development, the less likely they will be negatively affected by a power outage.  As embryos develop, they begin to produce a bit of heat by themselves, which warms the inside of the incubator slightly.

Have you left the incubator running after a power outage?  I'd be curious to hear how Week old chicklong your power was out and what percent of the eggs survived to hatch.

Our chicken waterer got the surviving chicks off to a healthy start with clean water.

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We have a Brinsea Advanced incubator and it includes an automated cool down feature that allows the eggs to cool down once every 24 hours. The documentation that came with the incubator claims that a study done shows that a cool down period that mimics the hen getting off the nest to go eat and get water actually INCREASED the hatch rate. It didn't reference the study done.
Comment by Heath early Monday morning, May 7th, 2012

Heath --- Our Brinsea Octagon Advance doesn't have that feature --- I wonder what kind of Brinsea Advanced incubator you have? How long does their cool down period last?

I've read varying reports on whether the cool down cycle every day helps or hurts or does nothing. You'd think we'd be able to scientifically prove it one way or the other, so it's odd that I see so much conflicting advice.

Comment by anna at teatime on Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

We have the Mini Advanced model that will do 7 egg and turns the eggs. The manual has a chart for setting your cool down period by the type of egg you're trying to hatch. Our duck eggs call for 180 minute cool down period.

They have a PDF available at http://www.brinsea.com/pdffiles/MiniAdvancePlusUS.pdf

Comment by Heath Tuesday evening, May 8th, 2012

Thanks for the followup! I've excerpted the relevant passage below:

Bird breeders have known for many decades that eggs can be cooled for limited periods of time during incubation without causing problems but recent research has shown that hatch rates can increase significantly as a result of cooling. This research was carried out with poultry but it is generally accepted that the benefits can apply to waterfowl too. Cooling is an entirely natural process as most birds will get off the nest at least once a day and leave the eggs unheated for a significant time. From Brinsea’s 35 year experience, the best hatch rates are always achieved when the incubator can best mimic the natural nest conditions.

The precise details of which days and what cooling period each day should be used for best effect are not known but Brinsea have assessed the available research and recommend the following daily cooling periods from day 7 through to 2 days before they are due to hatch (the same point that automatic turning would normally be stopped). Smaller poultry, waterfowl and game bird eggs: 2 hours each day Larger species eggs (e.g. duck and goose): 3 hours each day

My analysis is that it sounds like they don't have any data. But the 2 hour figure does seem to suggest that a short power outage should be no problem.

Comment by anna Monday afternoon, May 14th, 2012

Anna, I thought you might be interested to hear our ducks in that incubator have begun hatching. So far two have hatched and all of the others have begun to peck their way out.


Comment by Heath at lunch time on Sunday, June 3rd, 2012
Heath --- How exciting! Thanks for sharing!
Comment by anna early Wednesday morning, June 6th, 2012
We had a 24 hr. outage at day 14 of incubating chicken eggs. I covered the incubator with blankets, and warmed it in the sun during the day until it reached 100 degrees. On day 21 the eggs are chirping and beginning to hatch.
Comment by Virginia mid-morning Saturday, July 7th, 2012
Virginia --- That's so good to hear! I hope you have a great hatch!
Comment by anna early Tuesday morning, July 10th, 2012
Like in the subject, when my eggs were at day 14, we had a power outage from around 5 p.m. to 12. for five hours i put a blanket on top of the incubator but was so worried. Then the day after it was supposed to hatch, the power went out for an hour. Then next day the chick hatched. (only 1 egg was fertile) I use a hovabator, the only problem was was that my chick hatched 2 days late. Good thing i didn't throw them out.
Comment by Anonymous terribly early Wednesday morning, January 2nd, 2013
I have just come in to find my children have knocked the plug out of the wall, plugged it back in and the temp was at 26.5 C and humidity up at 95%! I am estimating that it was off for about 5 hours. I am on day 23 with a mix of 4 types of duck breeds and chickens. The chickens have all hatched and are happy and healthy, in a heated box next to the incubator, hence the added child traffic to the area. lol.... I guess I will have to wait 4 to 5 days to see if it had an effect on the ducks. I will advise once they hatch.
Comment by Ian late Friday morning, February 19th, 2016
I have power shortage day 3 for 24 hours can my eggs be affected are now day 5
Comment by Rose at midnight, August 17th, 2016
I candled my eggs 48 hours ago at day 15 and removed 1 failed egg. When I did this I turned the heater off. I then went away for 48 hours and have just returned to discover what I had done. My cry of anguish brought my wife at the run. We are rather despondent that the remaining 23 eggs wil probably not hatch. Today is day 18 and they are due to stop being rotated tonight. I will perist witht he 21 days and post a follow up comment as to how many come through.
Comment by Allan Rowland Thursday night, January 5th, 2017
How did your hatch turn out?
Comment by Ashley Harper Sunday afternoon, March 26th, 2017
I am wondering if I should keep or start over our chicken eggs that were in an incubator during a 48 hour power outage. We are were trying to hatch out in our school with our Life skills class when our school was out hit with a bad storm with cause a power outage of 48 hours. We started them on April 24 so they would be 8 days old when power went out and there 11 days old now. The room was at 50 decrease.
Comment by Rain early Thursday morning, May 4th, 2017

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