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Avian Experimenters and The Art of Artificial Incubation: 

Avian Experimenters and The Art of Artificial Incubation From: The Megapodes by Jones, et al.


Natural Incubation -- Broody hen Artificial Incubation -- Nature’s Experimenters Forced Natural Incubation Artificial Incubation in China Egypt Europe America Topics


Definition of incubation 'The act or process of maintaining favorable conditions for the development of the embryo'


Favorable conditions Temp, Humidity, Gas Env., 37.8 C/100 F 40-60% 21% O2 1% CO2 Turning 1-14 days


Art of Incubation - Natural andamp; Artificial


Natural Incubation What is Natural ??


Natural Incubation What is Natural ?? Requirements A. Broody hen B. Nest box Broodiness = Actively select against in current poultry practices.


Characteristics of the Broody Hen:


Management of the Broody Do not disturb when broody Match egg size with hen Place hen in dark or subdued lighted area - Watch for mites, etc, dust vent andamp; nest: hen being tormented will not sit -- Reference: Anderson, The Incubation Book, p 45-53.


Artificial Incubation in Nature Experimentation with artificial incubation in nature by birds preceded early man's attempts at incubating eggs


Megapodes (Birds with big Feet) Family : Megapodiidae--incubation techniques range from primitive to sophisticated. -- The burrow nesters.


Megapodes (Birds with big Feet) Family : Megapodiidae-- the burrow nesters- incubation techniques range from primitive to sophisticated. Melipoa wallacei -- used sand at ocean beaches, 35-60 cm and lets the sun incubate the eggs. Megapodius hueskeri -- deposited eggs in the crevices and slopes of active volcanoes. Megapodius eremita -- holes in loose sand 60-100 cm deep, eggs in bottom, covered with soil and vegetable matter. Megapodius forsteni -- used humus and buried eggs when fermentation processes at correct temperature.


Mound Builders (Australia) - Males build large compost piles of grass and decaying leaves. - - opened and closed the mounds before andamp; after rains, increasing rate of fermentation. An 1853 report, ... Measured mounds 15' high and 60' in diameter , typical 8' w x 3' h..... Will clear up to 1/4 acre around nest.


Mound Builders (Australia) - Males build large compost piles of grass and decaying leaves. - - opened and closed the mounds before andamp; after rains, increasing rate of fermentation. An 1853 report, ... Measured mounds 15' high and 60' in diameter , typical 8' w x 3' h..... Will clear up to 1/4 acre around nest. Mallee Fowl-- Leipoa oscellata--(South Australia) digs holes in sandy soil, fills with vegetable matter. After fermenting, for several months centers become hot, allowed temperature to drop before laying eggs. Eggs layed one at a time and buried in the mixture. Birds open the mounds on hot days and covered in the evenings.


Features of the Mallee Fowl Capable of moving large quantities of soil and plant materials for nest building, e.g. 3 Tons Male checks mound temperature with their tongue Add or remover vegitation to maintain a 33 C temperature No parental care is needed by newly hatched chicks


Other experimenters in artificial incubation not related to the 'chicken.' Non-gallinaceous birds. African ostrich--burries its eggs in the sand, heat of the sun incubated the eggs. Egyptian plover-- similar, but during the warmest part of the day, sits on the location of the buried eggs.


Other Experimenters….. Brood Parasitism (foster parents) phenomena of mimicry.


Variations of Brood Parasitism Cuckoo -egg size -shell color


Two other variations A more innovative bird is the cuckoo, practice brood parasitism (foster parents). Involves the phenomena of mimicry -Foster chicks crowd out and starve out other chicks (real occupants) -Cuckoos monitor the activities of the foster parents - Cuckoo eggs, although laid later, have a compensatory mechanism for rapid development and growth at lower than optimal temperatures.


Another type of 'parasitic incubator', Obligate Brood Parasite Never rear their own young and are totally dependent upon the foster parents. North America-Brown Cow Bird -Molothrus ater


Obligate Brood Parasite chick recognition


Brood Parasitism… resulting from dense populations with free access to limited resource Wood Ducks


Brood Parasite….. Adoption for chick survival Major hen ejects some of the minor hens eggs, Ostrich Nest


Problems with the demise of a host? Host species co-evolved withe Cow bird reduce parasitism by: -deserting parasitized nest -building a floor over the parasitized eggs -evicting the eggs The arcadian fly catches never raises its own if the nest has been parasitized. Brood parasitism reduces reproductive success of the host. (Forest song birds, breed only once or twice during their lifetime.)


Most birds incubate their eggs by sitting on them, exceptions. Emperor penguin--males incubate the egg by standing with webbed feet around the egg. Emu--(Australia)--female lays the eggs and male incubates. ~broody male


Forced Natural Incubation Various attempts had been made to force cocks and hens to incubate eggs. In 1813, Mademoiselle Portebois. Made males / females sit on eggs, placed in boxes so they could not move. A cover prevented them from rising and boxes stored in the dark Female hens, ducks and turkeys, tops could be removed in a day-- not so with males unless kept on eggs for 3-4 days. In 1867 turkey hens were used. Started with plaster eggs for 48 hours then replaced to 24 hatch eggs. Hens kept with wire netting. Some organization had 100 hens 'sitting', 2400 eggs. 'Best and cheapest way of incubation at that time.'


Artificial Incubation in the History of Man Earliest recorded accounts of artificial incubation are those of Egypt and China, practiced for more than 2000 years. China, Artificial incubation was practiced since 246 BC Chinese method described in Funk and Irwin, page 4. Egypt, Aristotle writing about poultry in 400 BC remarked about 'spontaneous hatching of eggs in the ground.' Buried in dung heaps. - No automatic controls - No thermometers - Procedure maintained as a trade secret


Second type of Egyptian Incubator Egyptian weather was quite constant Europeans Early European travelers to Egypt were impressed with the Egyptian method. Brought to Florence in 1644 but not successful De Reaumur, a French scientist, used the method of fermentation for incubating eggs and published his method, 'The art of hatching and bringing up domestic fowls of all kinds at any time of the year by means of hot beds or that of commonfire.' American patent was issued in 1875 for an incubator-brooder surrounded on 3 sides by horse manure.


America The first incubator built in America was in 1844 and patented in England as Cantelo's Patent Incubator. Hot water incubator fueled by charcoal. April 1883, 3 incubators on the market. 1900 to 1915, 50 manufacturers of incubators available. All single tray's with hot water pipes, etc. Sectional incubators (end to end) Forced draft cabinet types of today Most of the incubators had capacities for less than 200 eggs.


There have been a lot of changes and today..... In 1929, incubator companies were Smith (Chick Master), Buckeye, Petersime, Robbins, Bundy and Mackay (Jamesway). Today there are 3-4 domestic and approximately the same number Internationally Before incubators could be operated successfully, gauges, controls, thermostats for temperature, humidity needed to be developed.

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