Power Failures and Incubators

© Howard Voren. Click here to use this content.

Q: We had a powerfailure, and the electricity was cut off for about three hours. I am worried about the eggs in our incubator. Last year, the heating element in the incubator shorted out. We figure that about eight hours passed before we realized what had happened and put in the spare heating element that we had on hand. We had a lot of dead-in-shell with that batch. Can we expect the same with three hours, or will the mortality be cut down because the time was less than half?

A: Good news! If your incubation methods are reasonably good, you should expect minimal to no effect on your dead-in-shell rate. The heating element burning out in your incubator is much more detrimental to the egg’s development than a complete power failure. The difference is the fan. When the heating element shorts out, the fan becomes the egg’s greatest enemy. Its continual blowing of cool (unheated) air over the eggs quickly draws the warmth out of them. This places them under stress. How much stress this creates is not only a function of time but is also dependent on the ambient temperature of the room. Obviously, 65-degree Fahrenheit air blowing over the eggs will have a greater negative effect than 90 degree-Fahrenheit air.

When there is a complete power failure, the fan is not blowing. This enables the eggs to retain their warmth for a much greater length of time. The incubator box at that point also helps by insulating the eggs from the temperature in the room. Any eggs that have a reasonable amount of development will also have a limited ability to generate some of their own heat. This, as well, limits the negative effects. Whenever there is a power failure, the first thing you should do is close off the ventilation holes in your incubator. We have suffered two-hour electric failures with no ill effects. I have also (although I would never admit it in public) turned off my incubator for one reason or another and forgotten to turn it back on. Inspection six hours later revealed my error, along with several hundred cool eggs. End-result negative effects were minimal enough that they did not warrant calculation. It must be considered that part of the reason for the lack of negative effects was that my incubation room was kept at around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, power failures that take place when you are aware of them can always be handled by a cheap, second-hand, small, gasoline generator. One thing to remember is that if you switch to generator power, you may have to readjust the temperature setting on your incubator. In one instance, my incubator went a full 2 degrees higher when I switched temporarily to generator power.