Hatch­ing help

Country Smallholding - - Ask The Experts -

QI set 12 goose eggs in an in­cu­ba­tor, 10 were fer­tile but in the end only three hatched. Four out of the seven that didn’t hatch had started to crack but the goslings didn’t man­age to get all the way out. Why is this? Should I have helped them?

AJack Smel­lie: It is re­ally hard to lose birds at such a late stage in the in­cu­ba­tion process. I am sorry!

The most likely rea­son that this hap­pened is down to hu­mid­ity. Once the gosling pips in­ter­nally (i.e. breaks through into the air sac in­side the egg), the hu­mid­ity in your in­cu­ba­tor needs to be in­creased from 55% to 75% in or­der that ex­ter­nal pip­ping can then oc­cur. As the bird starts to crack open the ac­tual egg it­self, it is cru­cial that the hu­mid­ity is right to stop the egg mem­branes dry­ing out and trap­ping the gosling in­side the shell. A cru­cial point to note is that if you open your in­cu­ba­tor at this point, even if for just a few sec­onds, the hu­mid­ity level will quickly fall and that can be enough to dry the mem­branes out.

As to whether you should have helped: it’s tricky. When a bird breaks out of its shell, it nat­u­rally strength­ens its neck mus­cles in do­ing so and if you there­fore ‘help’ it you run the risk of hav­ing a bird with a weak neck that may then re­main weak. On the other hand, if you have not kept the hu­mid­ity lev­els high and the bird is trapped, it seems al­most cruel to con­demn it to die due to hu­man error! If you do de­cide to help next time, make sure you have given the bird enough time to try on its own (24 hours at least from when you first see ex­ter­nal pip­ping) and that you do it slowly and care­fully. Any sign of blood, stop and re­turn the egg to the in­cu­ba­tor. Good luck!

Hatch­ing out

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