QUESTION: I got some quail questions for you. I have experienced hatching before, with guinea fowl, pheasants & chickens. Recently I ordered some bobwhite quail eggs. When they arrived they were very dry to the touch and I started spritzing immediately. Now during hatch I would find 2 or 3 daily cracking and oozing what looked like dried blood.(I have herd about rotten eggs before but nothing described like this.) I could smell a musky smell (not rotten musky) when they would crack, long before I saw the problem. I would remove these eggs once I noticed the crack. But this happened up to day of hatch..out of 120 eggs I ended up with a hatch of approx. 50. Now that is not the only problem I ran into.
Many eggs would pip and then not hatch. Now I’ve run into this and know there is no real explanation..but what I did start seeing was a lot of pipping of the shell, all the way around, yet not one hole in the membrane! I am aware of two membrane in an egg. The one around the chick holding fluids in, and the one attached to the egg, which is much thicker. Now I did help a few out of the membrane when it was taking too long. There were eggs that I could pull the whole chick in membrane (after pip) out of the shell. it would still look like the egg shape, but all membrane and wiggling chick. I would help some out of the membrane, but not all ends well so I don’t like to do that! Now I was running into another problem as well. Towards the end they would pip and then the membrane were drying suffocating the chick within. You would look at the newly pipped and 10 minutes later they were dead and the membrane had shrunk.
Now peoples first reaction is humidity, that was not a problem during incubation it was normal and during hatch I did increase it by adding an additional sponge soaked in warm water. When I had 6 or more chicks hatch I would trade sponge with new one and spritz..liberally. (little giant Styrofoam incubator, fan).
I had to remove the chicks, waiting for six at least, because the other shells were so brittle they would crack other eggs while running about! I have experienced many things but this was the weirdest and lowest hatch I ever had and I have hatched many hundreds of chicks in my short 4 yr experience (I started small, you know how the hobby grows)!
Do you have a clue why this would happen. The membrane separating from egg like that or shrinking up so quickly. Would it be connected to the cracked oozing eggs? Was there a disease ,or could the hens they came from be new to laying somehow causing a problem???? I am just curious as to why this happened. As I said temp and humidity were steady and fine whole time, never did I let it dry out nor did I let the heat waver! What could have caused such a problem? Now I am also running into a loss of at least a chick a day. I have a brower brooder with a mesh flooring in there, heat is good, food and water are freely available, they seem fine and happy and yet daily I’m finding a dead chick. Is this normal after hatch it’s been a week now and from 50 I’m down to 35ish. If it was the feed I would think I would find more then one dead daily, and they drink plenty of water….?????? I know shipped eggs don’t give you perfect hatches but the problems don’t seem to strike me as a shipping problem?? I’m stumped, is any of this normal???
ANSWER: You are having more than your share of problems with this hatch.
It sounds to me that the eggs got cracked during shipment and bacteria got into the eggs and killed the embryo.
I am grabbed with the question of humidity. You said the humidity was normal just what is normal to you? The humidity for Bobwhites should be around 83-4 degrees wet-bulb and the dry thermometer should read close to 99. 3/4 degrees. The dryness is definitely a sign that the humidity was too low. You simply dried out the eggs during incubation. The membranes you described seem to indicate this. What humidity did you have during incubation?
It could be a problem of heat. If you have the heat too high the eggs tend to dry out. Check your thermometers with a medical thermometer to be sure it is calibrated correctly. The problem with hatching indicate the chicks did not have enough moisture and the inside membrane dried out abnormally.
The dying of the chicks is another story. I do not know why this is happening. You will get a few dead chicks now and then for no apparent reason. Having the number die that you describe is not normal. Again, check to see that the heat for the chicks is OK and that they are eating and drinking. I would put Solu-Tracin in the water.
Don’t give up! You are learning by doing. Game bird breeders never make mistakes if they learn to never do the same thing again.
About the author:
Leland B. Hayes, Ph.D.
P.O. Box 1682,
Valley Center, CA 92082
(760) 749-6829 FAX (760) 742-1173