How to Incubate Ostrich Eggs
In this article, we look at incubation basics.
Under optimum conditions, a fertile ostrich egg needs to incubate for 42 days to produce a chick.
You need to get into the breeder pen and collect the egg. Be careful as the male is protective of his territory, and sometimes it is best to use somebody else as a decoy to attract his attention, whilst you go in and collect the egg. Pen design of breeder pens should therefore allow a person to enter and exit easily from the pen, yet maintain the birds within their pen.
For recording purposes, write the pen no. and date on the egg at collection.
Recording the Egg
Make a record of each egg collected. Details to record are the pen in which it was laid, the date, and give the egg a unique egg no.
Cleaning the Egg
The ostrich egg itself has a hard outer surface with pores. Dirt can enter through these pores, so it is first necessary to clean the egg. This can be done with a toothbrush and luke warm water with detergent. The bristles of the tooth brush are gentle and is adequate for removing dirt from the egg.
After washing and drying the egg with paper towels, write the egg no. on the side of the egg in pencil.
Lay the egg horizontal on something which prevents the egg from rolling, such as a large plastic dish or plate.
In 24 hours, look at the egg again with a torch in a dark area and you will see an air gap at one end of the egg. Place the egg with this air gap at the top, but in an inclined position.
Write the egg no. at the other end of the egg. The reason for this is that when the egg hatches, the shell breaks and you may not be able to identify the egg no.. However if you have written the egg on the bottom, this remains in tact and you can easily identify which egg has hatched.
Storing the Egg
Every 24 hours move the eggs position, so the egg still has the air gap faced upwards but in the other direction. For example if the top was inclined in the direction north east, then place the egg inclined in the direction north west. Similarly, if the inclined position is north west, then change back to the direction north east. Always with the air gap at the top.
Studies have shown that for optimum incubation, eggs should not be stored for more than 10 days.
The temperature of the storage room should neither be too cold nor too hot, say 15 to 20 C (59 to 68 F).
The general concept of incubation is to have a clean room for the incubator, to incubate the egg until 38 or 39 days, and then move the egg to a hatcher, which can be classified as a dirty area as the hatching is messy. Keep the clean area, spotlessly clean, and keep the hatcher are as clean as possible.
Work flow should be that nobody goes from a dirty area – hatcher – to the clean area – incubator, and both areas should be completely separate for optimum performance.
All birds typically use 15% during the incubation process. You need to purchase an incubator that can give you optimum performance to achieve this, and whilst I recommend say savings on other areas of your farming activity, the incubator is a capital expense which you need to take seriously. Buy the best you can afford, within reason.
For a good incubator you need to consider
a) constant temperature
b) humidity control
c) air flow
We incubated at a constant temperature of 36.5 C (97.7 F).
The important thing here is that the temperature is constant. I remember reading that you can incubate between 35 C and 37 C, and in one case, ostrich eggs were
successfully incubated at 34.5 C but hatching time took 57 days !
Consult with your incubator provider for correct incubation temperatures for ostrich.
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