I must preface this explanation by saying that this is my second breeding season. I have ONLY used substrateless method and EVERYTHING I have ever hatched has been with that method, traditional method scares me.
This is what I did last season and am doing this season. It works WELL for ME - there are other ways that work WELL for OTHERS.
Last year my season consisted of 62 clutches -- 302 incubated eggs -- 67 slugs -- 10 infertile (candled bad - did not incubate). I don't cook anything that candles bad. I will cook small eggs, boob eggs, spotted eggs, ugly eggs -- just NOT eggs that candle yellow with no veins.
Of the 302 candled eggs that went into the incubator, 4 went bad (during first 3 weeks) and I had 3 kinked -- each from a different clutch. (2 severe) -- the other was a "tweaked egg stressed" KILLER BEE!!! That one hurt.
I set set my Herpstat thermostat at 88.4 in the incubator -- NOT the egg box.
SET-UP: I use 6 qrt. Sterlite shoe boxes. I have fit as many as nine eggs in a box. If I have a big clutch I can't fit in one box -- I use 2. I like to use the same containers within my incubators.
Place 1-2 inches of dry mix in box. I have used 60/40 combination of perlite and vermiculite. I prefer 100% perlite. I have the better half of a big bag of vermiculite yet to use. When that is gone PERLITE will be the ticket. It does not conduct water to top/surface of mixture like vermiculite tends too. Therefore, it is better for substrateless method.
Pour in 4-8 oz. of water. (I use tap water. Some people use distilled or put a smidge of chlorhexidine in water. Fresh tap water has worked fine for me). You should be able to see it gather on the bottom, but not sloshing around -- don't need much because almost NONE will escape during the 60 days of incubation.
Place cut to size egg crate on top of level mixture. Remember that the idea is for the eggs NOT to touch the mix. But rather lay on TOP of the crate. I gently set it on and give a little wiggle side to side.
Place eggs in. Center them so they don't touch the sides or top of box when closed. I have no set rule on whether I separate eggs before cooking. If the "pile" is to high to fit in container, I will take of a few off pile so as to fit in box. I don't use dental floss. I gently and slowly pull them apart -- never ripped one -- YET!!!
Put piece of Press N Seal over the top and pull tight over the sides. Place lid on and snap tight. Be careful when putting box in bator. Eggs will roll if separated, and piles will slide to touch the side of the container -- don't want that. After 2-3 weeks, the eggs will flatten a bit and shifting boxes around will be no big deal. I am always shifting mine. During the second 30 days of incubation you will likely get some condensation on the top inside of box -- gathered on inside of Press N Seal. It usually will not drip on the eggs. If it does -- no worries. Eggs After day 40 or so won't be bothered by a drip or two on TOP of them.
I don't usually open the box AT ALL until last 2 weeks/day 45-48. At this time I will take OFF the plastic and put lid back on. This allows for respiration and heat transfer as interior egg temps will rise a bit over the last 2 weeks. If you are the one to check on eggs every week -- go for it. But I don't "breathe" my boxes as a rule, and every time you open the box it will release humidity and lower temps.
There you have it!!! I am sure I forgot something. When you all figure it out let me know and I will clarify.
P. S. One of the many reasons I love this method is I can get a clutch in the incubator from pulling the female to closing the incubator door in no more than 15 min. -- often less. Makes it nice on the work days when you have more than one clutch to deal with. I think last season the girls would conspire to lay in 3's and 4's just to mess with me!!!
The best part is that I don't worry about whether my mix is too wet -- there is no moisture touching the egg!!!
I am sure you all have your own cutting/not cutting and when procedures. Mine always always fluctuate dependent upon mood and whether the clutch is one of those SPECIAL ones. I know -- they are ALL special!!!
These days, if I do cut early, I wait until day 54. I have cut at day 46 and got away with it. Would not tempt fate again. I just tell myself, "Hey Bonehead! Cutting them does not change what they are within each egg!!!" I always reply..."IT MIGHT"