After incubating chicken eggs, you live by faith. From the 1st day to the 20th day, there is very little you can see unless you do a close inspection. From the 20th day, the first sign of success happens, pipping. However, even at this stage, it’s not a guarantee that the chicks will hatch. Sometimes the chick pipped but not hatching.
I have had this happen to me, when hatching chicken eggs. It was heart breaking to find after waiting patiently for the chicks to hatch, nothing happened. Having had some chicks reach full growth and then not get through the internal pipping and some that didn’t make it through the external pipping. This was a problem I hadn’t faced before, having hatched eggs under broody hens before.
The first thing was to look for answers, and that is why I have written this article to help others who have this happen to them. I will go through the possible causes, what to do, and how to prevent pipping without hatching situations.
Before we get into that, let’s talk about pipping in general.
What is Internal and External Pipping During the Hatching Process
- Internal pipping occurs at around the 19th day when the embryo breaks the membrane separating the air cell from the other parts of the egg.
- The embryo then starts lung respiration, filling the lungs and air sacs.
- The air in the air sac supports the breathing of the embryo for the next few hours before external pipping happens. Internal pipping is not visible from the outside.
- You can only see internal pipping by shining light through the egg (candling).
- If you are near the eggs, you can hear the moment the embryos are pipping the membrane.
- Unlike internal pipping, external pipping is visible from the outside. Mostly it happens after 12 hours to 24 hours after internal pipping has occurred. Sometimes, external pipping can happen after just a few hours.
- After successfully pipping the air cell membrane, the embryo’s next mission is to break the eggs.
- For the next few hours, the embryo starts hitting the eggshell using its egg tooth until there is a small break or crack.
- Sometimes the breaking point is very small that you can miss it.
What is an Egg Tooth?
An egg tooth is a sharp and hard protrusion on the upper side of the beak of an embryo. It helps the embryo break the egg. The egg tooth is also found in other animals that hatch from eggs, including snakes and lizards.
The egg tooth in chickens will either fall off or get absorbed into the beak after some time.
What Happens after External Pipping?…. Zipping
After successfully breaking an external pip, the embryo takes on the third challenge. However, it starts by taking a rest.
After briefly resting, the next challenge is freeing itself from the eggshell. To do this, the embryo uses the egg tooth to cut across the eggshell. During cutting the embryo moves around inside the shell using its legs and wings.
The process of enlarging the external pip along a line is called zipping. Zipping takes anywhere between a few hours to 24 hours.
The embryo escapes the shell by stretching its legs and wings so that the shell can crack open along the weak lines.
Because of the work involved newly hatched chicks are tired and vulnerable. The chicks are also wet, which is why one is supposed to let the chicks dry before taking them out of the incubator.
But a problem can occur
Sometimes two things can happen
- The embryo will make the external pip but won’t progress to zipping
- The embryo will make the external pip and start zipping but won’t succeed in coming out of the shell.
And that is what this article is about. Let’s start by going through the different reasons why eggs won’t hatch after pipping.
Before we get into the Causes, it’s Worth Mentioning that after Pipping, the Chicks take Time before Starting to Zip the Shell
You should only start worrying if it’s been more than 24 hours after pipping and there are no signs of zipping.
Causes why a Chick will Pip but Won’t Hatch
1. Improper Humidity
One of the major causes of chicks pipping but not hatching is low humidity levels.
The sign of chick embryo pipping is a sign that everything is alright. However, wrong humidity levels can cut your joy by killing these embryos.
Why is humidity regulation important during hatching?
When eggs are incubated, one of the most important things that happen is weight loss. The egg loses weight by losing some of its moisture through the pores.
Ideally, an egg should lose between 12 and 14% of its weight by the 18th day. If the water loss is higher or lower than this range there will be problems during hatching that includes death.
When water escapes from the egg, the air sac enlarges. Low water loss results in a smaller air sac while large water loss results in a bigger air sac.
A small air sac means there is more water and the chick can drown. When the air sac is big there is the risk of the air membrane shrink-wrapping the chick and suffocating it or the chick getting stuck.
What determines the amount of moisture that an egg loses?
The biggest determinant of the amount of water that an egg loses during incubation depends on the humidity.
High humidity means less water will be lost from the egg and hence the egg will have more water and a smaller air sac.
Low humidity means there will be a bigger air sac since more water/weight has been lost. That’s why breeders are recommended to track the progress of the size of the air sac on the 7th, 14th, and 18th day since that will guide on whether the humidity levels are higher or lower.
During the lock-down, it’s recommended to raise the humidity levels to 70-75% relative humidity. The high levels make it easier for the embryo to break the membrane and protect the chick from being trapped by the membrane.
If the humidity levels are low, the chick won’t be able to fully break out from the egg leading to death.
2. High temperatures
Another cause that will prevent chicks from hatching despite pipping is incorrect temperatures.
Unlike humidity, which is supposed to increase during the final last 3 days, temperature levels are supposed to be maintained between 99° and 100°F.
Don’t attempt to either increase or lower the temperatures. If you have to lower the temperatures it should be the lower figure of this range.
High temperatures can kill the chick but also makes the shell and membrane harder for the embryo to crack open.
3. Poor ventilation
Another cause of chicks not hatching despite pipping is poor ventilation.
Now, generally, the oxygen levels in a ventilator are usually 21%. This is the normal oxygen level at sea level and you can only increase the levels by bringing in oxygen, which is not needed.
Then there is CO2.
As embryos develop they increase their oxygen intake but produce more carbon dioxide. The amount of carbon dioxide increases as the hatching days progress. However, high levels of carbon dioxide are toxic.
That’s where ventilation comes in.
Different incubators utilize different types of ventilation mechanisms. First off, the ventilator should be put in a well-ventilated room.
The challenge with ventilation comes during the last few days. Increasing the airflow means the humidity levels will go down, which is not ideal. That’s why some users reduce ventilation to raise the humidity levels.
But that is dangerous to the chicks.
One should improve ventilation without lowering the humidity. This can be done by introducing an additional sponge or pan of water.
4. Weak and Malformed Beaks
When chicks are about to hatch they develop an egg tooth to break the membrane and then break the egg shell.
However, sometimes the egg tooth can be weak for the chick to break the egg shell. Despite breaking the membrane and making the first pipping, the chick is unable to unzip the eggshell.
5. Thick-shelled eggshells
Sometimes the shell is too hard for the chick to break. The chick may be able to break both the membrane and the first external pip but will be unable to unzip the shell.
6. Lack of external stimuli
There are some stimuli that are known to enhance hatching. For instance, the sound of other embryos pipping their eggs stimulates other chicks to start pipping. Other stimuli that enhance hatching include audio such as chicken sounds and photo-stimulation.
If there are no stimuli at all, the chick may fail to hatch.
7. Egg Turning
During the last 3 days, you are not supposed to turn the eggs. The eggs are supposed to stay still to allow the embryo to position itself for hatching.
When the eggs are still, the embryo will take the best position for breaking the membrane and later breaking the shell.
Also, you don’t want to open the incubator during the last 3 days since that mess with the temperatures and humidity.
8. Opening the Incubator
Chicken may also fail to hatch even after pipping if you open the incubator during the last 3 days.
The last days are critical days and things can go wrong. When you open the incubator, a lot of air flows in and this messes with the humidity levels.
If it’s a must to open the incubator, you should be swift. If you are adding water, you should add warm water to avoid overworking the bulb as it tries to stabilize the temperatures.
A trick for adding water during lock down is passing a pipe through the vents and using it to wet the sponges.
9. Mal-positioned Chicks
Mal-positioning may also lead to the failure of chicks not hatching even after pipping. The impact can result from improper turning during storage and incubation. Other factors include the turning frequency and turning angle.
An example of a malpositioned chick is when the head of the chick is in the smaller end of the egg. When the chick is in such a position it will struggle to pip and zip the shell.
10. Damaged or misplaced air cells
Sometimes eggs will have a detached air sac. The hatch-ability of such eggs is usually lower. When they develop, the embryo will struggle to pip the egg since the air sac will not be positioned properly.
What to do when chicks pip but are not hatching
1. Give the Eggs Time
First things first, give the eggs time. As I mentioned above, it takes up to 24 after internal pipping for external pipping to start.
When external pipping happens the chick will first take a break before starting to zip. It also takes time between zipping and hatching.
Understanding how long each stage takes will help you to track progress and also manage your anxiety especially if you are hatching for the first time.
2. Ensure the Conditions are Ideal
There are three key conditions that should be checked during the lock-down. They include temperature, humidity, and ventilation. Raise the humidity, maintain the temperatures, and enhance ventilation.
3. Know When to Help
The process of hatching can appear hard for the chick but its nature doing its work. The process makes the chicks strong.
Even if you see the chick struggling, let them do most of the work.
How to prevent cases of eggs pipping but not hatching
1. Don’t turn the eggs during the last three days
This ensures that the embryo takes the right position for internal pipping and external pipping.
Moving or turning the eggs will shift the chick to a position that will it make harder or impossible for pipping to occur.
2. Increase the humidity during the last three days
Humidity and temperatures are key during the lock-down stage. Increase the humidity levels to between 70-80% during the lock-down.
This keeps the membrane moist for the pipping chicks.
3. Improve Aeration during the last three days
Don’t close ventilations to increase humidity levels. Instead, add a wet sponge or an additional water pan.
4. Ensure the Proper Rotation of the Eggs.
From the first day, make sure you are doing rotation correctly and following the right frequency. Rotation is very important during the first 3 days. This will ensure the chicks will be healthy and strong to pip and zip when they are ready.
5. Inspect the air sac to assess whether humidity and temperatures levels are good
The best way to know whether the eggs are developing well is by checking the development of the air sac. This should be done on the, 7, 14 and 18th days The air sac should gradually increase meaning the egg is losing moisture.
To correct the air sac you should adjust the humidity depending on whether the sac is bigger or smaller.
6. Provide the right stimuli
If you can, introduce the right stimuli that can stimulate the chicks to pip and zip faster. This can be sounds or light.
Other causes of pipping without hatching include.
- Hatching low-quality eggs
- Disabled chicken
- Nature doing its work.
Frequently Asked Questions on Why Eggs Fail to Hatch Despite Pipping
Should I help a pipped egg?
No, you should not help a pipping chick. Let nature do its work by giving the eggs time. Your key role should be to ensure that the temperature and humidity levels during lock-down are ideal.
The only time you can help a pipping chick is if the chick has zipped the egg and it has been more than 24 hours and it has not come out yet.
Can you open the incubator after pipping?
It’s not recommended to open the incubator after external pipping has started. When you open the door, dry air gets in and humid air from the incubator flows out making the humidity levels go down.
This can make the membrane of the pipping chicks to dry, trapping the chicks. This leads to death.
How long can an egg stay pipped?
It takes between 12 and 24 hours after internal pipping, for the external pipping to start. After external pipping it takes up to 24 hours before zipping.
Why are my eggs pipping but not hatching?
The two major causes of failed hatching even after external pipping include incorrect temperatures and humidity levels.
What happens after pipping?
After internal pipping, the embryo starts breathing through the lungs. However, after some time, all the air inside the air sac will be used up. To avoid suffocating, the chicken will then break the egg (external pipping)
The chick will then take a break and finally start zipping to get out of the eggshell.
How long does it take from Pip to zip?
After the chicken has pipped the egg externally, it will take between a few hours and 24 hours for the chicken to appear.
What does an internally pipped egg look like?
Since you can’t see the internal pip from the outside you will need to candle the egg. Candling is using a bright source of light to illuminate the inside of the egg. When there has been an internal pip you should see the chick’s beak in the air sac.
When the chick has used all the air in the air sac, it will then break the egg starting with one spot (external pip)
What is a pip when hatching eggs?
Internal pip is when an embryo breaks the membrane of the air sac, while external pipping is when the embryo makes the first break on the eggshell.
There are several reasons why chicks will pip but won’t hatch. The two major causes include incorrect humidity and temperature levels. Chicks can also fail to hatch despite pipping if they are positioned incorrectly or if they are disabled. While it’s tempting to help such chicks, it’s not recommended. You should only try to help if there has been sufficient time and the chick has zipped a big section of the egg.