Thursday, April 29, 2010

Incubation Observation & Other Thoughts…

(Watch for Comments at the bottom of each Blog; there may be one or two. The one added to yesterday’s blog, "Splendids," is particularly interesting. There is a Comments button at the end of each blog and it tells you how many, if any, comments there are).

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ll recall our attempt to incubate two Bourke eggs. We were successful right up to the point where the eggs were even piping. It was very disappointing to lose the little chicks after getting them so close to hatching.

The cause, we had decided, might be that we didn’t have enough humidity present toward the end of incubation. More humidity is needed just before hatching. A dish of water was present, but we heard a recommendation to hang a wet washcloth near them in the last few days and keep checking it since it would dry out from the heat lamp.

Maybe that would have made a difference, or maybe not. Sugar, the hen who abandoned those eggs after becoming egg-bound with the 3rd egg, recently laid three eggs. It took her a while to recover from the ordeal we put her through to help her release the over-sized egg. At least she survived.

Sugar kept the three eggs from this clutch warm right up to the point of hatching, but these did not hatch either. After 21 days I was concerned, but left them under her for over 30 days. I wanted her to abandon them herself, but she was more persistent than any other hen I’ve ever had and remained on them – she was very determined, but in the end it did her no good.

Once the eggs were removed from her nestbox, I opened them. One was infertile, but the other two held dead chicks, fully developed and ready to hatch, but apparently they could not. Was it genetics, or something else? Unless she succeeds with another clutch someday, I may never know.

After talking to Bob Nelson, Bird Specialist extraordinaire, he said that the problem of “dead in shell” can sometimes be caused by low iodine in the parents’ diets. His solution has been to provide rabbit salt blocks which contain iodine. I was concerned about the salt intake, but Bob says they won’t consume more than they need. He warned about attaching the salt block to the side of a metal cage or the salt will damage the metal.

Eleven of my cages now have a small salt block available. We attached them each to a perch with small plastic ties (cable ties used by electricians). Getting them tight enough required pulling with a pair of pliers. So far, the birds are ignoring them.

As I sit here typing, I see Sugar and Spice mating again. Spicy’s picture is in the column at the left. He’s the very tiny, newly hatched baby being hand fed. At the time, his mother was mated to a much younger male (the only one available), and he wasn’t very good at helping feed the young. To compensate she was only willing to feed the first two eggs that hatched. When we lost the third baby, I paid close attention. Realizing she wasn’t feeding the fourth baby, I removed the newly hatched Spicy and hand fed him. He was my first experience at hand feeding. By the way, his father grew up the following year and the pair successfully raised three or four babies in most clutches thereafter.


neversink7 said...

Just FYI on the iodine. If you can't get the parakeets to use the salt blocks, I give my finches and grasskeets granulated kelp for iodine supplement. They seem to love eating the granulated kelp which I give together with egg shells and charcoal and grit. They don't like powdered kelp as much. I also give liquid iodine in water most days of the week, but that's mainly for my gouldians, though the grasskeets get the same water. I've also heard other breeders give sea salt in their grit mix, which has iodine as well. Hope that helps. BTW, I get my granulated kelp from

Also, I wonder what are your thought about helping a hatching egg hatch? I usually don't do it, since it would be very hard to time it correctly, but recently I had a splendid egg that I saw was trying to hatch for more than a day already. There were cracks on the egg, but it's been more than a day and appeared almost abandoned by the mother since it was not with the chick huddle and felt cold. It still had movement inside from the chick, so I did carefully help widen the opening for the chick, who is doing very well being fed by its parents now. But I'm never sure if we should help them out of the shell, since if they can't make it out, it may mean there is something inherently wrong...

The Splendid Bourke Bird Blog said...

Thanks for the tip about iodine. And, congratulations on saving your Splendid chick. The only eggs I've known were ready to hatch were the two we incubated ourselves. In hind sight I'll always wonder if helping them out of the shell would have saved them. Then again, if they'd died anyway, I would be blaming myself for their death. Neither the incubated eggs, or the eggs laid by the same brooding hen, ever got a crack or any apparent attempt to break the shell. So, I feared doing anything for them. I've read that you should never help, but I've also read from someone with cockatiels that they do successfully help. Risky...I can't imagine myself intervening unless it was something like you described.