One of the most common questions new serama breeders ask is, how do I successfully incubate and hatch serama eggs ? A lot of people will say they are very difficult to hatch, especially shipped eggs. Others will say they aren’t difficult at all. There’s about as many answers as there are breeders out there! I decided to pose the incubation question to some of our best SCNA breeders and I got several different answers. One thing is for sure, there’s no ONE method to success! I am going to post some of their answers below and hope that even with the diversity, people can find what works for them. There are many factors as most pointed out.
Most serama breeders will tell you, if at all possible, use a broody hen to hatch your eggs. Any breed will do ! Angel Whitt of The Serama Lab in Illinois wrote an article about broodies you can read here.
The first things to make sure of is that the pair you are hatching from are fertile to begin with. Crack open a few eggs and check for that bullseye that shows the eggs are fertile.
Also be sure that the parents are healthy. The health of the birds you are hatching from is also a factor.
Some other things to consider….the place where you live Hatching in Florida is going to be different than hatching in Washington State. What kind of room environment is your incubator in ? What kind of incubator are you using ?
Are you having eggs shipped ? Please be aware that shipped eggs are a gamble for a lot of factors that the shipper has no control over. The USPS sometimes is not kind to boxes containing shipped eggs! When you receive your shipped eggs, you should set them pointy end down in an egg carton or container in your incubator and do not turn them for a few days. This will allow them to ‘settle’ if they were jostled around during shipment. Eggs have an egg sac which should be intact, at the top of the egg and not moving. Setting the eggs still will give any detached air sacs the chance to possibly reattach.
When you candle your eggs, you want to see veins and an embryo developing if you candle later in the process.
This means that the embryo did not develop and this egg is "dead". Photo: Eryn Briggs
This is a good looking embryo that is developing properly. Photo: Eryn Briggs
Our beginning step in successful incubation is to pay close attention to the nutrition of the parent birds. Unless you are a poultry nutritionist I would recommend feeding a high quality commercial feed in order to provide balanced nutrition. ‘Balanced’ is the key word.
As others have mentioned….What works with one brand of incubator for one location may not work the same for a different incubator or a different location. So when using a new incubator my first step is to start out with the directions that come with that incubator.
I incubate at a temperature of 99.5 Fahrenheit. I want my humidity to average out around 45% from day 1 through 16. The important thing about humidity is that it average what is needed for your eggs to lose the desired amount of moisture. My humidity fluctuates between 25% and 60% with the average being around 45% therefore my eggs have lost the necessary moisture before hatching begins. Starting day 17 I hold the humidity between 55% and 60% for hatching.
Ventilation is an important aspect of incubation which isn’t often mentioned. The growing embryos require oxygen and hatching is hard work so oxygen becomes even more important. If your incubator has vent plugs remove them before you put eggs in.
Here we use Incuview and Brinsea Mini II Eco incubators. Our hatch rate runs around 90% consistently in either incubator. EXCEPT for the eggs from one 3 year old hen who I have never bred before. I won’t go into the story, but one chick from around 25 eggs.
Charlotte Lupton/Reflections Farm– Oklahoma
Angela Panacci/Chicks in Bloom – Oklahoma
I have not had issues with fertilized eggs. I have had some not fertilized eggs which is a completely different issue. My adult birds are given a boost in feed occasionally. Not even close to every day. I also feed dual protein to my birds. All store bought feed is vegetarian and we know poultry are not vegetarians they also need an animal protein. I see way to many people who think they’re doing their birds good with tons of grains or mealworms and that’s definitely not the answer. Eggs are then collected and placed in styrofoam incubators. I personally incubate in styrofoam and hatch in an incuview so I can see better.
Day 5 after hatch I cut a piece of sweet potato and grind it with their food. I grind all of their food for 8-12 weeks. When a chick first hatches it has all the rich nutrients it needs except vitamin C. A piece of sweet potato provides vitamin A,C, and E and I do this 3xs the first month not just for Seramas but all my chicks. Humidity plays a huge factor in all hatchings so where you live and the location you set incubator plays a huge part in that. If your home humidity is below 50% you really need to fix that for you health also not just hatching. But if it’s under 50% your home is only sucking the moisture from incubator. I am for the first time ever trying hand turning otherwise all my eggs have always sat in a turner.
Jamie Peterson – Wisconsin
The biggest variable for me is the fact that I live in an older frame house and the ambient temp and humidity inside my house, even with central heat and air, changes frequently and that affects my incubations. Use the best incubator you can afford and start with the manufacturers recommendations and go from there. – Becky Schultz/Perfectly Poultry- Oklahoma
My suggestion is since incubators and area climate play a big role in humidity to crack open eggs that don’t hatch to see if too wet or too dry. Then adjust humidity depending on outcome. There’s a lot of discussion about incubation temp/humidity and not on health of breeders. We had power outage for 3 days. We stagger hatch so some were mid/end of incubation and some were beginning. All hatches that went through this were obviously a day or two late do to temps. But humidity did not cause much of an issue. We still had 75% hatch rate for the eggs that went through this. We have not kept up with vitamin supplements we were using then and hatch rate has decreases some. We have had success with the Kickin Chicken supplement.
Geoff Ryan/Ryan Ranch Seramas– Texas
Advice for shipped eggs and Incubation-
Candle Eggs upon arrival to check that the air sacs are attached to the big end of the egg. If they aren’t, do the following….
Let eggs set pointy end down for the first week of incubation without turning. This is a good practice even with intact air sacs.
Keep humidity between 40-45% during incubation, do not exceed 50-55% at lockdown.
After hatch- Dip the chicks’ beaks in their water ish daily for the first 3-4 days to help them find the water. Watch for clogged vents !!be sure to check your chicks daily and remove any dried poop with a warm paper towel gently. Treat the chicks with Corrid, a half a teaspoon per quart of water for 7 days at 3 weeks old as a Coccidia Prevention.
David Mills/Blue Blood Seramas – Louisiana