Incubation and hatching terms and definitions

Hatching chicks can be a confusing process for someone just starting out. The different types of incubators are baffling, the eggs look so fragile and words get thrown around by 'the old pros' that you've never even heard before. Ugh! Right? 

Well, I've wracked my brain for every incubation term I could think of and compiled a list of terminology for you. Hope this helps you on your chick hatching adventure!

incubation terms & definitions

Dictionary of hatching and incubation terms

  • Air cell: The pocket of air inside the egg at the large end. The air cell gets larger as incubation progresses.
  • Albumen: The egg white.
  • Blastoderm: This is the nucleus of the egg when it is fertilized. Seen on the yolk.
  • Blastodisc: This is the nucleus of the egg when it is unfertilized. Seen on the yolk.
  • Blood Ring: A line or ring of blood inside an egg that has started to develop into a chick but quit at an early stage.
  • Bloom: The protective coating on freshly laid eggs that helps seal the pores of the egg shell. This prevents bacteria from entering the egg. Also called the cuticle.
  • Broody: A hen that is sitting on a clutch of eggs in order to hatch them into chicks.
  • Candle: Looking inside an egg to see the contents by using a bright light source.
  • Candler: The light used to see inside the egg.
  • Candling: The act of looking inside the egg with a bright light source.
  • Clutch: The group of eggs a hen decides to collect before becoming broody and hatching them.
  • Embryo: The developing chick while in the egg.
  • Forced Air: Having a fan inside an incubator forcing the air to circulate.
  • Germinal Disc: The fertilization site in the egg, on the yolk. Also called blastoderm or blastodisc.
  • Hatch: The process of the chick getting itself out of the egg.
  • Hatch Rate: Percentage of eggs that hatched into chicks. If 9 out of 10 hatch, your hatch rate is 90%.
  • Humidity: Amount of water vapor in the air inside the incubator.
  • Hygrometer: Device used to measure humidity.
  • Incubation: Subjecting the eggs to ideal hatching conditions for the proper amount of time while controlling heat and humidity in order to hatch chicks.
  • Incubation Period: Amount of time each egg takes to develop completely. Example, chickens have a 21 day incubation period while ducks have a 28 day incubation period.
  • Incubator: Object used to incubate eggs which holds in heat and humidity. 
  • Infertile Egg: Egg that has not been fertilized.
  • Lockdown:  The last 3 days of incubation when humidity is raised to the proper level and the incubator is not to be opened to prevent the loss of humidity.
  • Membrane: A thin, skin like coating surrounding the albumen. There are actually 2 membranes, but you'll only be dealing with the inner shell membrane ... around the egg white. The outer shell membrane sticks to the inside of the shell.
  • Pip: The first little break a chick makes through the membrane and shell. The first step in hatching.
  • Quitter: An egg that has quit developing at some point during the incubation period.
  • Set: The act of putting the eggs in the incubator to start the incubation process.
  • Shrink Wrapped: When the membrane of a hatching chick becomes too dry and it shrinks around the chick. Often it inhibits movement to the point that the chick cannot move to continue hatching.
  • Still Air: The air inside an incubator without any artificial air circulation.
  • Temperature: The degree of heat present inside the incubator.
  • Thermometer: Object that measures the degree of heat inside the incubator.
  • Turn or turning Eggs: Rotating eggs several times a day to keep the chick forming uniformly.
  • Turner: Rack or device inside incubator on a timer that turns eggs for you.
  • Zip: After the pip, the process of turning inside the egg while breaking through the shell repeatedly in order to be able to remove the top of the egg and hatch out of it. 

Well, how does that look? Did I get them all? I certainly hope I did, but if not please leave me a comment and I will be happy to add in any that I missed. Now that you know all the terms, it's time to learn how to hatch chicks!


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