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INCUBATION

In recent years, several changes have been made to the incubation process. The incubators evolved and gained process automation (such as automatic turning and humidity control), computer monitoring, among other technological improvements. There was also a growing awareness that artificial hatching has many advantages in controlling bird diseases. To achieve good results in artificial incubation, proper handling of eggs and good use of the incubator are necessary.

1. Before starting incubation

For each type of bird (domestic or exotic) there are specific incubation conditions, namely, temperature, humidity and days of incubation.

Recommendation for an incubation room

The incubation room is a space confined to the use of an incubator. As the environment of this space has a considerable effect on the hatch rate, it is recommended to control the room temperature where the incubator will operate. There should be little noise and vibration in the surroundings and the temperature should be kept between 20-25°C (68-77°F) with little variation.

It is important to pay special attention when there are large thermal amplitudes, that is, when the night temperature suddenly drops compared to the day temperature. If this is the case, check the temperature frequently and remember that the incubator should not be exposed to sunlight during the day.

Before hatching, eggs should also be kept in optimal conditions: temperature between 12-15°C and humidity between 60-75%.

Hatching eggs

An egg is suitable for incubation when it is fertilized, but this does not imply that every fertilized egg can succeed. The incubation result may differ depending on egg conditions. In order for it to be a good egg to incubate, the parent birds must be in good nutrition and health conditions. After the bird lays the egg, it should be placed in the incubator for up to 7-10 days. They should be kept in an appropriate place at a temperature between 12-15°C, ideal relative humidity of 70% and direct sunlight exposure should be avoided before starting the incubation.

Selecting eggs for hatching

  • Eggs should also be selected for appearance. Eggs that have cracked shells or have been chopped, are dirty or stained with blood, malformed or wrinkled, or are abnormal in shape and size must be avoided.
  • Do not incubate cracked eggs as they are likely to rot due to bacterial growth.
  • You should always avoid mating between siblings, to reduce the likelihood of malformation.
  • To get more eggs per bird, remove eggs daily. Thus, the birds do not go into brooding and start a new laying a few days later.
  • Check the date the egg was laid.
  • A laying hen can still lay fertile eggs for 10 to 15 days after the male is removed.

Sterilization of hatching eggs

Under natural conditions eggs are often soiled with droppings. If they are used in this way, there may be contamination of eggs due to the creation of bacteria. Therefore, it is advisable to sterilize contaminated eggs with a sterilizing element (We recommend using Ipoclor.See more in the Cleaning and Disinfection category).

The most correct thing to do before each incubation is the disinfection/sterilization of the eggs and the incubator.

It is very important to have clean hands when picking up eggs that are placed in the incubator, as they have many bacteria that can develop and affect the process. Water temperature should be similar to egg temperature to avoid thermal shock.

Good disinfectant products are recommended for the egg, incubator and hand sterilization process.

2. Artificial incubation conditions

For each type of bird (domestic or exotic) there are specific incubation conditions, namely, temperature, humidity and days of incubation.

Incubation days and recommended temperature (poultry):

BIRDS DAYS TEMP. °C TEMP. °F
HEN 21 37.5°C 99.5°F
DUCK 28 37.5°C 99.5°F
QUAIL 17 37.7°C 99.9°F
PHEASANT 23 37.7°C 99.9°F
G-PHEASANT 23 37.5°C 99.5°F
GOOSE 30 37.5°C 99.5°F
TURKEY 28 37.5°C 99.5°F
PEACOCK 28 37.5°C 99.5°F

Incubation days and recommended temperature (parrots):

PARROTS DAYS TEMP. °C TEMP. °F
MACAW 26-28 37.1-37.2°C 99.0°F
COCKATOO 30 37.1-37.2°C 99.0°F
AMAZON 24-29 37.1-37.2°C 99.0°F
LOVE BIRDS 22-24 37.1-37.2°C 99.0°F
GREY 28 37.1-37.2°C 99.0°F
HAWK 32 37.1-37.2°C 99.0°F

Attention! The user must be careful with regard to drops in egg temperature even when inspecting them. Decreases in temperature at an early stage of incubation affect the development of the embryo, directly interfering with the final results of births.

Adequate relative humidity for artificial incubation

The incubation humidity can be divided into phases: initial phase, development phase and final phase. However, it is more common its division between humidity at the beginning of incubation and humidity at the final stage which corresponds to 2/3 days before hatching.

There is no big difference in humidity between the initial phase and the middle phase so the humidity can be the same. Most birds require higher humidity, around 65% in the final stage of incubation, the so-called hatch period.

The recommended humidity for the initial and medium phase are as follows:

  1. Poultry: 40-50% relative humidity;
  2. Parrots: 35-45% relative humidity;
  3. Waterfowl: 50-55% relative humidity;

Humidity must be higher in the hatching period to prevent the thin layer surrounding the embryo from drying out or becoming harder.

Therefore, it is best not to open the incubator lid when the eggs start to hatch. The opening of the incubator causes a sudden drop in humidity, and its recovery will be slow and slow, affecting the birth in this period.

Attention! Please consult specialist manuals for more information on suitable incubation conditions.

Attention! Incubations in a dry environment generate low hatch percentages. Embryos either die between the 16th and 19th day, are born small, malformed or stuck to the shell, as the air chambers are too big.

3. Incubation

With the start of incubation it is also recommended to inspect the eggs, to check their evolution.

It is important at this stage to check if the turning of the eggs is happening correctly. You have to check the development with the help, for example, of an egg candler and removing the eggs that may not be evolving.

Egg-turning

When eggs are hatching, both ends are fixed.

If the egg is positioned without movement, the embryo will be pressed down and may compromise its development or it may give rise to a malformed chick due to insufficient rotation in the incubation period.

The period over which the eggs must be turned is generally 1-2 hours for most birds and their rotation should be done at an angle of 90 to 180°. However, compared to birds, short maturing birds such as parrots need a greater angle of rotation. The turning of the eggs must finish 2-3 days before they hatch.

Eggs that are going to be hatched must also be turned over for better conservation, that is, before being placed inside the incubator.

Turning the eggs is important so that the embryo does not adhere to the shell. If your incubator does not automatically turn over, you have to do it manually.

Egg development process and inspections (Ovoscopy)

Eggs that have small cracks should be removed as they may have a bad smell and will be more permeable to contamination by bacteria, ie these eggs will end up contaminating others. To perform candling, it is recommended to use the Egg Candler High Intensity or equivalent.

Chronology of embryo development:

  • 2nd day — After incubation start : The head starts to form together with the eyes, heart and blood vessels.
  • 4th day — The brain is divided, the heart becomes much larger, and the blood vessels are wide open.
  • 6th day — 1st Inspection: the blood veins look like a spider. The wings and limbs begin to appear. The brain and eyes become clear. The embryo starts to move.
  • 8th day — The brain is completely formed. The neck becomes larger and the wings and legs separate.
  • 10th day — The wings and legs are completely separated from the rest of the body. The feet form and the feathers begin to grow.
  • 12th day — 2nd Inspection: the blood vessels become even thicker. The embryo becomes much larger and starts to hear for the first time. The feathers continue to grow. If the blood vessels are not visible or the embryo is not moving, it may be an egg that has stopped developing.
  • 14th day — Head lowered towards the trunk, the back is bent to the left so that the head is facing the air chamber. Feathers cover the entire body and head.
  • 16th day — Since the head moves under the right wing, it is in a good position to hatch.
  • 18th day — 3rd Inspection: the embryo looks dark except in a small air chamber. The amount of amniotic fluid decreases and the chick prepares to hatch. The turn must be deactivated.
  • 19th day — The air chamber becomes much larger and the yolk remains in the body. The chick goes towards the air chamber and starts breathing with its lungs.
  • 20th day — The yolk is completely absorbed by the body and becomes food for two to three days after incubation.
  • 21st day — The chick starts pecking the eggshell, pushes it and turns to break it all apart. This process takes about 12 hours. If there is too little moisture the process can be very difficult for the chick.

The objective of candling is to differentiate sterile eggs, dead embryos, air chamber evolution and analyze the embryo development process.

Frequent inspections can damage the incubation.

During the day, carry out the inspection in a dark room.

During egg inspection, the room temperature is lower than in the incubator, so it is advisable to inspect the eggs in a warm room. Be careful not to impact the eggs in any way.

During candling, if no blood vessels or embryo are visible, it is an unfertilized egg and should be removed from the incubator.

In dark or thick shells it may be difficult to inspect the eggs, therefore, we recommend the use of a Egg Candler High Intensity.

4. Post-birth

At this stage there has to be a concern with the first days of life of the birds depending on each species. Perfect conditions of heat, food and space must be given. It is very important that the brooder is clean and disinfected, to receive the new offspring preventing the proliferation of microorganisms.

Development

By development is meant the process by which a chick breathes through its lungs for the first time, after having passed through an air chamber and out of the shell.

In the case of slow-growing birds, such as chicks, they must rest in the incubator for 24 hours after hatching until the feathers are completely dry. They sleep without needing to be fed. Then, they must move to the brooder or another space with suitable conditions, being fed with water and adequate food. In the case of newly maturing birds (birds that have been born without down), they must be fed directly (with a weaning diet) and let them grow in a specific brooder and with temperature and humidity level control until they eat for them. themselves. Specialized brooders are recommended for these valuable chicks (see more in the Brooders category).

In the first days, a place with light and heat should be prepared in order to maintain the temperature between 30 and 34°C. Over the weeks, the temperature must be gradually reduced to adapt the offspring to the environment. In the case of short matured birds such as parrots, continue to feed them a weaning diet every 3 hours and keep the space clean at all times. Spreading sawdust or scraps of paper on the floor can prevent compartment contamination.

It is preferable to use a specialized bird brooder such as the Rcom BIRD BROODER LARGE for the breeding of exotic birds.

Be careful to consult professional breeders or parrot breeding experts as this is not an easy process for a beginner.

Most birds, because they suffer from polyphagia, eat all kinds of grains, vegetables and insects. However, for small chicks, during the period they are in the brooder, it is advisable to feed them specific food for their age.

Chicks die if they get wet as their body temperature suddenly drops. To prevent this situation, the bird breeder must take care to use a suitable water container (first age drinkers).

Incubator maintenance

Inside the incubator used for hatching there will be favorable conditions for the propagation of bacteria due to eggshells, chick fluff and other egg residues. For this reason, electronic parts and heating appliances must be well cleaned and dry. Remove dust from the control panel and sensors with a soft brush.

The inner part of the incubator must be cleaned with a cloth or a sheet of paper dampened with a disinfectant solution (We recommend the use of Klorkleen tablets. See more in the Cleaning and Disinfection category).

5. Bird feeding

Before hatching, the chicks have absorbed the yolk and therefore can go a day without any other food. For the next three days they can be fed boiled egg powder. After these days they should start digesting cut vegetables.

It should be given water and changed frequently to keep it clean so that the chicks do not get any diseases.

Quail, pheasants, golden pheasants, and silver pheasants such as chicks can be fed.

Ducks, geese and wild geese are omnivores, you can feed them anything.

Parrots eat all kinds of seeds, vegetables and fruits.

Baby birds need an external heat source for the first few days of life, as they do not have a thermoregulatory mechanism for their own temperature.

To prevent cannibalism among small birds (pheasants, partridges, etc.), you must provide them with hiding places and perches for rest (vegetables, branches, foliage, etc.). And also provide them with heating without lighting, like that of ceramic lamps.

Always have brightly colored feeders and drinkers, such as red and yellow, as birds are attracted to colors.

When using automatic drinkers, the birds always have clean water and there is no water wasted.

If you have energetic and active birds, be careful, as they usually consume more food than usual.

6. FAQ's - Frequently asked questions about incubation

6. FAQ's - Frequently asked questions about incubation

Here are some of the most common problems in incubation and how to solve them.

Issues

1) Low hatch rate.

Possible Causes

  1. When the egg is an unfertilized egg;
  2. The eggs were infected by germs;
  3. Errors in incubation setup;
  4. Health conditions of parent birds;
  5. Egg-turning failures;

Procedure

  1. Check the origin of the egg and its provenance;
  2. Disinfect the incubator;
  3. Check the incubation settings, namely, with regard to temperature;
  4. Review the parent bird's health care;
  5. Check if the egg turning occurs within the normal range;

2) A chick is born earlier than expected or a chick is born with deformities.

Possible Causes

  1. Temperature is too high;
  2. The egg-turning did not proceed normally;

Procedure

  1. Lower the incubator temperature to about 0.5°C (1°F);
  2. Check if the egg-turning function is OFF;

3) A chick is born later than expected.

Possible Causes

  1. Temperature is too low;

Procedure

  1. Raise the incubator temperature to about 0.5°C (1°F);

4) Hatch dates vary from egg to egg (the chicks are not all hatched at the same time but over a long period of time).

Possible Causes

  1. Eggs were stored for long periods of time;
  2. Different incubation temperatures;

Procedure

  1. Set egg storage deadlines appropriately;
  2. Check temperature differences in the incubator (sunlight, incubation room temperature, etc.);

5) How to protect hatching eggs in case there is a power cut.

If the power is cut off and comes back within 2-3 hours, there will be no major effect on egg incubation, as long as the hatch room is in a controlled environment. However, if incubation stops due to incubator malfunction, a blanket should be adopted as a temporary measure to cover the incubator so that the temperature stabilizes as much as possible. Then, you should urgently contact the incubator's manufacturer or retailer and request technical assistance.