Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Artificial Incubation - Part 1

Hi Trisno,

Glad to receive your email.

I reproduce your email below with my answers in red print after each question.

Keeping Shama is one of my hobbies. Just about 2 years ago, I started breeding Aceh Shama (known as Medan Shama), and recently I am intensively breeding more Shamas. In the progress, I am using an egg incubator due to the noisy sound resulted from a new house construction in the back of my house which causes most my Shamas throwing away their eggs.

For egg incubation, I use 2 units of Brinsea Mini Advance which are equipped with the digital thermometer without the humidity control. One serves as a setter and the other is a hatcher. I just bought these units from brinsea distributor in Singapore just last week.

Pursuant to the general review on the intended incubator, I am of the view that it does not have any significant humidity issue during the hatching period whereby breeder is sufficiently to add more water in the other pots (brinsea mini advance has 2 pots for water). I will later ask you on the humidity issue below.

I note that you also use Brinsea Octagon 20 which may have similar features with Brinsea Mini Advance. Therefore, I would be pleased if you could assist me with the below questions based on your experiences in shama breeding generally and using brinsea incubator specifically.

1. Incubation period. I note from your blogs, shama egg may start hatching on 11th day in artificial incubation which is nearly same with my breeding experience (12 days by natural incubation). However, when using an incubator, I think the range must be more definite so that I can identify when to stop egg turning. I have a doubt on this since mostly Indonesian breeders estimate incubation period of shama ranges from 12 to 14 days. To your experience in using incubator, when will you stop turning eggs?

DDS: The best way to determine the progress of the developing egg is to “candle” it.  Asby sells a dedicated egg candler.  If you don’t have this, a small torchlight will do.  Even the “assist light” on the hand-phone is sufficiently bright to provide information on the developing egg. From the 4th day of artificial incubation, I may candle the eggs every 2 or 3 days.  By the 9th day, the embryo should have developed into a dark mass that occupies the smaller part of the egg.  When you see this, you should stop turning the eggs. If you want to preset the timing, I would do so at the end of the 9th day.

2. Commencement of egg turning

Some local breeders using the incubator(mostly chicken or ducks) suggest that the first day to fourth day, egg is not allowed to be turned for the stable temperature purpose. While brinsea incubators suggest that the eggs turning commences on the first day. What do you think of these?

DDS: The books on artificial incubation suggest that the freshly laid bird’s eggs should not be placed in the incubator straight away but after one or two days and I observe this.  I switch on the turning mechanism for my shama eggs immediately I place them in the incubator.  I have never had any problem with egg turning.

3. Egg turning interval

What interval do you use for egg turning ranging from 30 to 180 minutes?

DDS: Egg turning intervals on the Brinsea Octagon 20 is preset and cannot be adjusted.  I have not timed it but it would seem to be about 30 minutes.  My experience has been that the egg turning interval is not critical for shama eggs.

4. Egg turning angle

How long will the motor run for egg turning angle ranging from 1 to 20 seconds?

DDS: I am not sure of the question as I have not used the Mini Advanced. On the Octagon 20, the motor runs continuously with a slight pause at the end of each turn.

5. Incubation cooling

Do you use this feature? If yes, for how many hours or minutes for incubation cooling? Is it ok if I just turn off the incubator power for cooling purpose?

DDS: I do not use this feature at all.  When I first started breeding shamas, I would be anxious if the female spent long hours in the day away from the nest.  However, I found that so long as the female sat on the nest during the night, the eggs would hatch.  This experience suggests that there is no harm in practicing some form of incubation cooling.  However, I have never done so.  Except for checking the water level in the incubator or the eggs every few days, I do not open the cover of the incubator.

6. Humidity

I note from your blogs that for hatching shama egg needs more humidity at about 80 to 85. This which I can not control with my brinsea mini advance since it is not equipped with humidity settings. As stated earlier, during the hatching period brinsea mini advance users are sufficiently to add more water in the other pot.  If I wish to add more humidity level, can I add one cup full of water in the incubator? Is there any adverse consequence if more humidity occurs during the hatching period?

DDS: I check and ensure that the temperature of the incubator is set at about 37.4 degrees each time I use it but I do not check the humidity in the incubator as I have found that there is sufficient humidity if I follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  I check and top up the troughs of the Octagon 20 with water as necessary and my experience has been that the humidity is sufficient for the eggs to develop and hatch.  Humidity becomes very important to the chicks after hatching.  I make sure that the brooder has a humidity of 80 to 85.  Otherwise, the skin of the chicks starts to dry out.

7. Fertility enhancer

If you don't mind, could you please share your most preferred fertility enhancer for shama breeding?

DDS:  I have used several brands of fertility enhancer including the German brand that is sold by Asby.  My preference is “Breeding Aid” by Vetafarm.  However, surprisingly, it does not contain vitamin E so I additionally supplement this vitamin.

Wishing you success in your hobby,


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