ARTIFICIAL INCUBATION OF PEAFOWL EGGS
People who raise peafowl have three options to choose from when it comes to the incubation of the eggs. The eggs can be incubated using natural methods, artificial methods, or a combination of both. These methods have both advantages and disadvantages which should be considered by each individual interested in incubating peafowl eggs. I have used all three of these methods and have found that artificial incubation best suits my needs in raising peafowl. The purpose of the article is to share the information that I have learned through the years on how to artificially incubate peafowl eggs.
Successful incubation of peafowl eggs starts before the first egg is even laid. Breeder birds should be free of external and internal parasites. There are many products available, which makes this easy to achieve. The breeder birds should be on a chicken or pheasant layer feed at least a month before the first egg is expected to be laid. Oyster shell should be provided to the birds free choice. Housing for the breeder birds should be cleaned out prior to the laying season to reduce the chances of disease and to minimize the disturbance of the birds. Healthy breeder birds produce healthy, viable eggs which is a key to successful incubation.
Preparation of incubators prior to setting eggs in them is another key to successful artificial incubation. Whether the incubator is new or one that a person has used for years, the temperature and humidity settings should be checked prior to the beginning of each laying season. The temperature should be measured in many locations to insure that the proper temperature is kept throughout the incubator. The thermostat should be set so that a temperature of 99 -100 degrees F is consistent throughout. I use incubators which have air circulation fans in them which help maintain a uniform temperature. Many forced air incubators come with the thermometer placed in the top portion. If these are tall narrow incubators, the temperature at the bottom can be 1 - 2 degrees F cooler. This can lead to a lower hatch rate of eggs in the bottom trays. The accuracy of the thermometer in an incubator should be checked against a proven thermometer. I use an ordinary, household, mercury thermometer for this check. If an incubator will not hold a uniform temperature, this can point to a bad switch, wafer, heating element, fan motor or door seal. These problems should be fixed before eggs are set in the incubator.
I have found through the years that the humidity level in the incubator plays the biggest role in successful artificial incubation of peafowl eggs. I maintain the humidity level at 60%. This converts to a wet bulb temperature of 86 - 87 degrees F. The humidity level can be measured with a hygrometer or through the use of a wet bulb thermometer and a conversion chart. The humidity level can be adjusted by opening or closing the vents on an incubator to allow more or less air to enter and escape. The humidity level can also be adjusted by the use of a water pan in the incubator. The water evaporation is controlled by the surface area of water in the water pan. In other words, water will evaporate quicker from a large shallow water pan than from a smaller, deeper water pan ÷ even if they contain the same amount of water. The more water evaporating from the water pan, the higher the humidity level.
The placement of an incubator can make achieving the desired setting much easier or much more difficult. An incubator should be placed in an area where the temperature and humidity are fairly constant. A basement or a room which is heated and cooled are good choices for the location of the incubator. An out building or barn that is not temperature and humidity controlled are a poor choice because it is very difficult to get the incubator properly adjusted. This is because of the large temperature and humidity swings that most areas experience during the incubation season.
The preparations mentioned earlier should be done far enough ahead of time to allow for the proper adjustments to be made before it is time to set the eggs. The last thing that I do before I set the first egg is to clean and fumigate the incubator. This insures that the incubator is free of harmful bacteria which can contaminate the eggs. The use of a separate hatcher will greatly reduce the chances of bacteria forming in the incubator because all of the mess and fluff associated with the chicks hatching is confined to the hatcher. The hatcher should be located in an area where it can be cleaned regularly to minimize the bacteria build up in it.
Now that the incubator is ready, it is time to set the eggs. I lay the eggs on their sides in the incubating trays with the pointed end of the egg tipped slightly down. The eggs are marked on one side with the date that the egg was set, and a line is marked 180 degrees from the date on the other side of the egg. Always use a pencil or crayon to mark the eggs. Never use a permanent marker because it can kill the embryo. My incubators have automatic turners which tip 45 degrees in either direction every 2 to 3 hours. I have found that the hatching percentage can be greatly improved be turning eggs over 180 degrees twice a day in addition to using the automatic turner. This is where the egg set date and the line marked on the egg come into play. I set my eggs in the incubator daily and I never hold eggs more than 7 days before setting them. If the eggs are to be held a few days before incubation begins, they should be kept at 55 - 60 degrees F in a dry location and the eggs should be turned twice daily. During the incubation season, I candle the eggs once a week to check for fertility. If an egg shows no signs of development after 10 days of incubation, it should be removed form the incubator so that it doesn't spoil and possibly contaminate other eggs in the incubator. I leave the fertile eggs in the incubator until the 26th day of incubation. The eggs are then moved to the hatcher where they will usually hatch within two to three days. The eggs are no longer turned while they are in the hatcher so that the chick can properly orient itself for hatching. The hatcher is run at the same temperature as the incubator but with a higher humidity level. This can be done by adding an extra water of pan. The higher humidity helps prevent the membranes in the egg from drying out too much while the chick is hatching. Once the chick has hatched, it will stay in the hatcher for about a day or until it can stand on its own and move about easily.
The information presented in this article has been gathered over many years and is intended to answer some of the more common questions that people have in regards to incubating peafowl eggs. This information can be used on other types of eggs as well, with only slight adjustments for temperature and humidity required. I have used these same techniques to incubate and hatch chicken, pheasant, quail, swan, rhea, emu, duck, and goose eggs. I wish the best of luck and remember that attention to detail is the key to successful artificial incubation
Hopkins' Alternative Livestock
1479 N. Washington RD.
Greens Fork, IN 47345-5560
This article originally appeared in the June 1999 Issue of The UPA Newsletter. Reproduction elsewhere in any form without prior consent from the UPA is strictly prohibited. © 1999 The United Peafowl Association.
All rights reserved.