How to incubate eggs successfully
With the popularity of organic, ethical and local food production, there is a renewed interest in smallholding and managing small flocks of poultry and waterfowl for their eggs and meat.
For a keeper of chickens, ducks or geese on a small scale, the advantages of artificial incubation may not be initially obvious – after all, the parent birds will often be quite capable of breeding and rearing their own young, so why do we need to put eggs in incubators?
Problems with 'Natural' Incubation
Once a female has laid a clutch of eggs there is a long period, while she sits on the eggs, helps them hatch and nurtures the hatchlings before she will lay again. If eggs are removed, artificially incubated and raised independent of their mother, eggs will continue to be laid and may either be incubated or consumed. The use of an incubator and brooder will increase the number of chicks produced by a flock by several times in one season.
Excess chicks can either be sold as day–olds, or raised to be sold as table or point-of-lay breeding birds.
Poor hatching results are frustrating, costly and often confusing due to the many factors involved.
Factors Affecting Successful Incubation
The four most important factors affecting incubation results are:
How to Incubate Eggs Successfully
To ensure that future hatches are not impaired by recurrent mistakes, it is important to:
- Glean and record as much information from the hatching as possible, to enable the problem to be analysed in detail.
- Record dates when eggs are set, incubator settings, and dates of hatches, humidity through weight loss and the number of hatchlings.
- Candle the eggs regularly and break open un-hatched eggs to estimate the extent of embryo development.
Countrywide stock Brinsea incubators. Brinsea have a broad spectrum of products as well as expert knowledge of the incubation market for both birds and reptiles.
Temperature - the primary control
Successful egg incubation and animal care depends on control of temperature above all other factors. All Brinsea incubators are designed first and foremost to provide the best control of temperature possible. Furthermore Brinsea's latest models are fitted with digital controls providing useful additional features like
temperature alarms whilst being reliable and easy to use. These models are all individually factory calibrated to ensure accuracy and the best hatching results possible.
A well insulated cabinet design is essential in establishing good temperature control and Brinsea never skimp with thin single skin cabinet walls.
Humidity - subtle but crucial
All Brinsea incubators and exotic bird brooders include provision for regulating humidity. The more sophisticated models have the option of a unique Humidity Management System which provides both adjustable and accurate control of humidity; when combined with a refined temperature system this provides a controlled environment in which to successfully brood or incubate.
The Polyhatch and Hatchmaster moving tray system of automatic egg turning has been widely mimicked for its flexibility and the virtual impossibility of damage to eggs. The Octagon range goes one step further and turns the whole incubator resulting in no internal turning mechanisms to injure chicks or trap dirt and bacteria. Furthermore any of the Octagon range allows eggs to be turned semi-automatically by manually rolling the incubator onto its octagonal faces. The Z6 has the most sophisticated programmable turning system which allows almost any natural turning routine to be replicated.
Incubators or Hatchers
Hatchmaker and Hatchmaster 'H' can be used effectively to incubate from day one through to hatching by turning the eggs by hand, the lack of automatic egg turning makes these models suitable for reptiles or as hatchers when used in conjunction
with an automatic setter.
The OvaEasy range offer the flexibility of easily cleaned hatching trays if required.
Brinsea recommend hatching in a separate machine for the following reasons:
- Automatic egg turning of later batches of eggs can be continued without fear of damage to emerging chicks.
- Contamination of the automatic incubator is virtually eliminated so no pauses are required for cleaning. This enables one batch of eggs to follow another without interruption.
- The higher humidity conditions required for hatching can be maintained in the hatcher, thus avoiding any compromise in the conditions required for eggs at earlier stages.
- Stores stock a wide range