By Clayton Botkin
Recently, the term “lockdown” has become mainstream among new poultry people. Ask anyone on any forum or Facebook group and you will get a different definition. Ask an old-timer (nowadays someone who has been in the hobby for more than 5 years) and they will look at you and ask if you are referring to an event that happens in prison. “Lockdown” seems to be the new words describing the final three days of incubation. The same period we used to refer to as, and the term we should continue to use, hatching.
Here are some points to consider on why “lockdown” is inappropriate for the period we define as hatching:
- During this period, a hen, when permitted, will continue to leave the nest to feed and drink, until such time as she can here the developing embryos begin to vocalize. At this point, the hatch has begun, and she will likely remain on the nest.
- Once the first egg and following eggs pip, the air around the eggs will increase in humidity due to the moisture being released from the hatching eggs. We simulate this in an artificial environment by raising the humidity as well.
- To prevent release of this moisture, we avoid opening the incubator. This can be a challenge to the newbies, so the period previously, and properly referred to as hatching, was called lockdown.
The truth is, the term is completely inappropriate. The Oxford Dictionary has 2 meanings for the word:
- The confining of prisoners to their cells, typically after an escape or to regain control during a riot.
- A state of isolation or restricted access instituted as a security measure.
During this period in an incubator, or below an incubating hen, a number of things are happening, the most important of which, is the continued development, and hatching of chicks or offspring. The term, would imply that the development of the chicks is actually stopping. This is not the case. Air needs to move in and out of the incubator, or the area below the hen, to ensure adequate oxygen is available, and CO2 is removed. New air will also cool the area and will not necessarily harm the young.
Anyone who has observed hens with hatching eggs knows that they will regularly inspect eggs and jostle them around. Even during the hatching period, hens will stand to view the eggs below them. This is far from a sealed or isolated environment. This is not to advocate that the incubator can or should be regularly opened. It should validate the reason to stop using this term for the period we are actually referring to, and appropriately refer to it as hatching. Next up for removal- “chooks”.