What to do with your Incubator if the Power Goes Out

Losing power while you incubate eggs doesn’t have to be disastrous, but there are some steps you should take to save your eggs.

It took me almost two weeks to collect enough guinea eggs to have a decent size hatch. Just two eggs at a time, always leaving some in the nest to encourage them to keep laying in the same spot.

I ordered a brand new incubator, got the eggs set up, and gleefully marked on the calendar when they should start hatching.

Cut to 24 hours later, the power goes out. Thankfully it was a short outage. Just an hour maybe. But then that night, out again. And two days later, out again.

I am grateful that I had on my shelf, “Hatching & Brooding Your Own Chicks” by Gail Damerow to guide me along in keeping our eggs alive and well.

Information in this post all comes from that book and my own experience.

Why might my egg incubator lose power?

This spring we had some seriously severe weather events that knocked out our power several different times. Lightning, down trees, floods, all might send your power packing.

Or perhaps your husband wasn’t paying attention and UNPLUGGED IT when he went to make his morning coffee.

Incubators will wear out over time and you might find halfway through a hatch that it suddenly has lost power.

No matter which reason your incubator lost electricity, there is still hope for your hatch.

Are my eggs still good if the power goes out?

Yes. Depending on how long the outage is, the eggs can actually go up to about 12 hours without it affecting your hatch rate too much. Anything beyond 12 hours and your hatch numbers will drop.

Once you get close to the 12 hour mark, I’d recommend seeing if you have friends or neighbors nearby that have power and can house your eggs.

Place them gently in a carton, pointed side down, and transport them there quickly.

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What to do if your Incubator Loses Power

Mark the Time

As soon as our power went out I would jot down the time on our refrigerator whiteboard so I wouldn’t forget how much time had passed.

Wait up to a half hour. If the power still isn’t back on, move on to next steps.

Remove the Incubator Cover

At this point your power has been out for a half-hour. Unplug and remove the cover from the eggs and set it aside. This will allow the eggs to cool. According to Gail Damerow, this reduces the embryo metabolism and slows down the growth. If you try to keep the eggs warm but only manage to keep them kind of warm, this can cause abnormal embryonic development.

Why You Shouldn’t Wrap the Incubator in Blankets

My first instinct when our power went out was to wrap the incubator in blankets to keep the eggs warm. As well-intentioned as this was, it was the wrong move. Thankfully I turned to my books right away and got them uncovered.

When you wrap the incubator in blankets, this deprives the eggs of oxygen. Again according to Damerow, this is a much greater risk than heat loss. The embryos need oxygen, as absorbed through the shell, to survive. Covering them in such a way basically suffocates them.

Start the Incubator as Normal

When power returns you can go ahead and return the cover, plug it in, and run the incubator as normal.

Will a Power Outtage Affect My Hatch Rate?

Maybe. This depends on how long you go without power as well as where the eggs are in terms of development.

Damerow says that up to 12 hours shouldn’t significantly affect your hatch rate, just possibly delay it a day or so.

If it is early in the hatch, the cooling of the embryos puts them in a dormant state until they can be warmed again.

Chicks that are close to hatching may put out enough of their own heat to help carry them through more successfully.

It’s sort of that middle ground where they won’t go dormant and they aren’t big enough to generate heat that they are at a higher risk.

Planning for Future Power Outages

Storms are inevitable and it’s a good idea to be prepared to keep your precious embryos on their way to becoming full-fledged chickens.

Here are a few suggestions to be ready for future outages.

  • Surge Protector – Plug your incubator into a surge protector to keep it safe from high voltage spikes.
  • Generator– You can get small, battery powered generators for around $150 or portable generators for a few hundred bucks.
  • Kerosene- If you live off-grid or experience tons of outages and are set on incubating eggs, Lehman’s has a kerosene powered incubator.

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