A Guide To Incubating Parrots
Incubation is a fascinating process, particularly in parrots. Female parrots have only one ovary which is on the left-hand side of their body but despite this they are good layers. Laying can be encouraged if the eggs are removed after laying and stored before incubation. Be sure to clean the eggs if necessary, using a specialized egg wash power or liquid such as Chicktec Egg Wash Powder/Liquid which does not damage the cuticle of the egg, as an incubator is the perfect breeding ground for bacterial growth. Remember to follow the instructions on the product and use water which is warmer than the eggs, allowing them to air-dry.
Choosing the right incubator
There are many different incubators on the market so choosing the right one can be a daunting task. Whilst it is true that it is possible to successfully hatch parrot eggs in almost any fan-assisted incubator, given dedicated care and attention to detail by the operator, the incubator of choice for many professional breeders would be the Grumbach S84 MP GTFS, with its sophisticated controls and a long record of success rates with exotic eggs. The Grumbach S84 MP GTFS is the most advanced incubator in the Grumbach range incorporating microprocessor controls to regulate heating, cooling, humidity and a turning timer making the process significantly easier. Particularly useful when incubating smaller parrot eggs, this machine comes with the option of a Chicktec turning upgrade, which allows for adjustable turning intervals with a digital turning counter to ensure that very small eggs are turned at exactly the right angle.
Once you have the incubator, there are three main factors to be considered in hatching eggs – temperature, humidity and turning – and all three can make the critical difference between a successfully hatched chick and one which either fails to hatch or hatches late or deformed. Whilst a chicken egg is relatively forgiving, a parrot egg is definitely more of a challenge!
The average optimum temperature for incubating eggs is 37.1°C -37.3°C and care needs to be taken not to exceed this temperature; in natural conditions, it is almost impossible for the mother to overheat an egg, but it is easy to do in an incubator and the resulting chick will be weakened, if it hatches at all. On the other hand, an egg incubated at a temperature slightly lower than optimum will tend to hatch late, the humidity will be affected and the chick may not absorb its yolk-sac, drastically reducing chances of survival. To be sure you are maintaining the correct temperature, it is always advisable to use a reliable electronic thermometer such as the Chicktec Incu-temp, or even an accurate glass stem incubator thermometer (not a clinical thermometer, which has an offset built-in) in addition to any temperature display on the incubator itself.
Humidity can be tricky to get right in incubation but in general more chicks are lost to high humidity than low. The purpose of humidity control is to balance out the natural evaporation of fluid from within the egg as the embryo grows and the air space increases. The correct level can be gauged by air space development (visible on candling) or weight loss between setting and internal pipping. However, there are no hard-fast rules that can be given and much depends on the ambient humidity in your locality. In many cases, parrot eggs hatch successfully relying on ambient humidity alone in a dry incubator, giving a humidity reading within the incubator which fluctuates somewhere around 48% RH; in general, larger parrot eggs need a slightly lower humidity and smaller eggs, slightly higher.
Turning the eggs
Turning the eggs is one of the most important parts of incubation. It is necessary to promote blood vessel and vein growth development in the early stage (up to 10 days) and then as the embryo develops it promotes even growth and stops missformation. Once there is full vein growth in the egg, frequent turning becomes less critical, so it is the early stages which matter. In the natural environment, the eggs are being turned regularly so it’s important that you do the same. Ideally parrot eggs should be turned at least 4-8 times a day and up to once an hour. Manual turning for parrot eggs is not recommended, although sometimes breeders will supplement the auto-turning by giving the eggs a complete 180°turn once a day. It is worth noting that because the yolk of the parrot egg is very small in relation to the albumen (white of the egg), optimum vein growth will only be achieved if the eggs are placed on their sides. Chicktec offer a turning upgrade perfect for Parrot eggs as it allows for adjustable turning intervals and comes with a digital turning counter to ensure that the eggs are at the perfect angle.
How long will it take?
Parrot egg incubation does vary according to breed but it typically takes 24-28 days. However, some breeds can hatch in as little as 18 days so be sure to research your breed beforehand!
Finally, for parrot eggs, incubation is as much an art as a science and results usually improve with experience – so don’t give up! Keep records for comparison, so you know what to tweak next time!
Keep a look out for this article in the August issue of Parrots magazine. For any further information or for answers to specific questions please call us on 01246 264646