How to Incubate and Hatch Pekin Bantam Eggs?
As one of the tiniest chicken breeds, the Pekin breed is a true bantam. It only weighs approximately 600 grams and stands at around 25cm.
Nonetheless, the chicken has so many feathers that hide its small frame. These feathers make it look like a walking ball around your chicken coop.
One of the myths on the origin of the Pekin is that the chicken was stolen from the Chinese Emperor by British soldiers around 1860 from the emperor’s summer palace in Peking, which is present-day Beijing, hence the name.
Pekin chickens are among the sweetest and most docile breeds. They are easy to handle and will not be too much trouble, even for beginners and kids.
Though primarily kept as ornamental birds and pets, Pekin chickens will also produce around a hundred eggs annually.
You can incubate and hatch these eggs to increase your flock and have several adorable birds in your chicken coop. Below are a few tips on incubating and hatching your Pekin bantam eggs.
Incubating Pekin Bantam Eggs
Here are a few pointers on incubating Pekin bantam eggs:
Preparing the Equipment
Preparation is essential when incubating your Pekin bantam eggs. Your incubator should be appropriately set up and running not less than 24 hours before setting the eggs.
With the right equipment, you will take about 21 days from incubating the eggs to hatching. The main things needed for hatching are an incubator, brooder, candler, thermometer, and hygrometer.
When shopping for an incubator, here are the things that the simplest one you can get should have:
- A heat source with a switch to control it
- A way of adding humidity to the air in your incubator.
- A fan to circulate air.
- An automatic egg turner that periodically turns your eggs.
- A digital display for humidity, temperature, and the hatch day countdown.
Experts recommend preparing your incubator about a week before your fertilized eggs arrive. Wash the incubator in a solution with 10% bleach, followed by a thorough wash with warm soapy water.
You can then rinse it with clean water. When your incubator is clean and dry, you will turn it on to ascertain that it can maintain a constant humidity and temperature level.
After this, place your incubator in a place with steady ambient temperatures with no draft waiting for the fertilized eggs.
Ensure the candler, thermometer, and hygrometer are in good working condition. Remember that even a temperature variation of one degree Celsius will affect the hatching of your eggs, so this equipment should be very accurate.
Selecting the Eggs
You should hatch eggs that are no more than ten days old, but the best are those below seven days old. If you are unsure about the eggs you want to hatch, consider doing a float test where you gently submerge them in water.
Newly laid eggs lay flat at the bottom of your water container, while older ones unsuitable for hatching will float. The ideal eggs for hatching are sourced from poultry farmers who have roosters in their flocks or a hatchery rather than your grocery store.
Ensure the eggs you place in your incubator are unbroken. You can candle them to guarantee they are fracture-free before incubating.
During candling, you can also check for a ‘’blood ring’’ in the egg that signifies that the embryo has died, so the blood is collected in one place.
Temperature and Humidity
To hatch your eggs successfully, you should maintain temperatures of 100-102 degrees Fahrenheit or 99-99.5 degrees Fahrenheit in forced air incubators.
The inside temperature of a hatching egg should be as near to 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit as possible. Since you cannot heat an egg’s interior, keeping the outside temperature slightly higher than this is recommended.
Overheating the incubator might kill the embryo, while under heating it slows down your embryo’s metabolic rate.
The ideal humidity level for a hatching egg from day 1-18 in your incubator is 40-50%. The humidity is then raised to 50-60% for the remaining days. Maintaining the proper humidity is crucial, more so in the last days of hatching.
If your humidity levels are too low, chicks might become ‘’shrink-wrapped’’ and unable to break from their eggs.
When the humidity levels are too high, eggs do not lose their moisture, and the chicks will become too big to hatch. When incubating, an egg loses 11-13% of its initial weight, which is around 8-9 grams.
You can use a digital thermometer to measure the temperature and humidity in your incubator, so you do not have to start guessing and mess up the hatching process.
Only open the incubator when necessary so that you do not interfere with its heat and humidity levels and affect your hatch.
Candling the Eggs
On day seven of your incubation, start candling your egg using an egg candler. The candler is a special light like a flashlight. If you don’t have a candler, you can use a candling box. You can start candling the eggs on day ten if the eggs are darker.
Candling eggs simply involves shining light on them so you can see what is within. Ideally, you should see veins and something moving in your egg if it is fertile.
If you only see a yolk and a transparent center by day ten, this might signify that your egg was infertile, so no embryo formed. You should remove the infertile eggs to let the rest mature appropriately.
Turning the Eggs
Eggs should be turned to keep the chick from sticking to their shells. The embryo rests on top of an egg yolk. In most cases, a yolk will float upward to rest on the egg white towards the shell.
As such, the developing embryo might get squeezed between the shell and the yolk and get hurt. By turning the eggs, you move the yolk away from the shell so that the embryo is safe.
You should flip your eggs at least thrice daily from day one to eighteen. From day 18-21, you will not turn them. When turning the eggs manually, turn them through 180 degrees.
Some incubators come with semi-automatic turning, where you can use a lever to turn all your eggs at once. A fully automated incubator uses a drive system with a time-based system that turns all the eggs at specified times.
How Long Do Pekin Bantam Eggs Take to Hatch?
Normal-sized eggs will hatch on day 21, so you should lock down the incubator at around day 18 of incubation.
Pekin bantam eggs are small, so you can expect them to hatch on day 18 or 19 of incubation. This means you should lock down your incubator on day 16.
If you have a mixed flock and are incubating large and bantam eggs, there is no harm in locking down your incubator on day 16 of incubation.
Lockdown describes the timeframe when your incubator should have optimized settings for hatching. Within this period, you will not candle or turn your eggs but rather leave the incubator locked until your chick hatch.
Should You Wash the Eggs Before Incubating?
No, it is not advisable to clean eggs before incubating them. Washing the eggs or even wiping them with a damp cloth will remove their protective coatings and expose them to disease-causing microorganisms. The cleaning or wiping also forces microorganisms through the eggshells’ pores.
However, when the eggs are excessively dirty, you can clean them cautiously. You can use a brush to lightly brush the dust off your eggs or use a store-bought sanitizing solution that is safe for hatching eggs.
How to Store Eggs Before Incubating
You can store your eggs in a room at 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit before incubating them. Refrain from refrigerating the eggs. Before you set the eggs, remember to increase the temperatures slowly.
Quickly moving your egg from 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit into an incubator at 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit can cause thermal shock. When storing the eggs, place the pointed side down to maintain the air bubble on the eggs’ fat ends from bursting.
Chicks will break into this air bubble before breaking into the outside world. Do not store your eggs for more than a week before incubating them. Their hatchability will reduce after seven days because their membranes break down and the vitamins decay.
When you have followed the right steps detailed in the above tips, you are sure that your chicks will hatch.
You can leave your chicks in the incubator for at most three days after hatching, but you can also move them into a brooder immediately after hatching. When your chicks move in, the brooder should be 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can use a thermometer to maintain the right temperature in your brooder because chicks will not easily regulate their temperatures.
If some of your eggs do not hatch after 21 days, use the warm water trick to see if they can hatch. This involves dipping the eggs in warm water.
If they move and float, these eggs can be hatched into healthy chicks so they can be placed back in the incubator.