Some years ago, when breeding parrots, I realised to be successful at breeding these difficult rarer parrots I would need to learn how to hand-raise and incubate parrot eggs correctly. To do this successfully I needed to understand the inside workings of a fertile egg 🙂
This led me to understand what a complex and magnificent perfect package, the workings of a fertile egg are. Learning the importance of everything that you should do for the hen, also the cock bird, leading into the breeding season, helping them so they can do the job with healthy fertile eggs, giving each egg the correct start to develop into life’s special gift. So let us start with the unique wonder of the egg – “The Shell”.
The Shell itself consists almost entirely of calcium carbonate crystals. It is a semi permeable membrane, simply meaning that air and moisture can pass through the hundreds if not thousands of its tiny pores, most of the pores being in the larger end of the egg. These pores allow for the gas inside the shell to be released. Also covering the shell is a fine coating called the Cuticle which protects the egg from bacterial invasion as well controlling the loss of moisture from the shell.
Just after the egg has been laid and is in the cooling stage, an Air Space is formed. This air pocket you will notice is at the larger end of the egg. These air cells rest between the inner and outer Membranes of the egg. This membrane is like a very thin clear skin that is there to enclose and protect the Yolk. It lays directly under the shell with both membranes being separate to one another!
The yolk is so important, as it is basically a bag of concentrated food for the development of the tiny embryo. The yolk contains most of the Vitamins and Minerals of the egg, including Iron, Vit A, Vit D, Phosphorus, Calcium, Thiamine and Riboflavin. I have included this to show how important it is to feed your birds correctly before the breeding season starts, leading to a more successful breeding season with an extremely high fertility average.
Another important content of the egg is the white liquid called Albumen, which is a Latin word for White. This Albumen is a clear fluid, with a thick layer surrounding the Yolk. This clear white fluid is made up of lots of proteins. It also is the main component of the egg in addition to water!
What comes next is a tiny white spot called the Germinal Disc. This is a tiny white spot that sits on the top of the Yolk. All eggs have the Germinal Disc whether fertile or not. This tiny white spot is the wonder that will develop into the chick and carries all the genetic information passed down from the mother and father, showing us that the decisions we made when pairing birds to produce quality young is no fluke.
The Chalazae are clear white ropes of egg white. These chalazae ropes hold the yolk in the centre of the egg, acting as anchors that have attached the yolk casing to both ends of the shell membrane. These ropes act as stabilisers and are there to absorb sudden movement.
Fertility is the start of the exciting time in my breeding season, giving me confidence that we will shortly have a chick. The tool I use to guarantee that I have fertile eggs early in their development is a Candling Torch. Without this essential device there is no way of determining early signs of fertility, these are a must for any serious breeder! The first sign of fertility is a faint blood ring floating just off centre of the yolk – in a few days you will notice the appearance of a network of thicker blood veins. If you are not seeing development at this early stage around five or six days be patient as there may be reasons like the hen being a “light sitter”. Light sitting hens still get the desired result, it just takes longer! So do not throw out the eggs that you consider infertile until it is proven that no blood veins have started!
When using the candling torch, you will quickly learn the signs of fertility – far better than second guessing what is or is not fertile just by the eye. Most importantly, if in doubt do not throw it out.
The most common rule for the Gouldian hatching date is 15 or 16 days. This can vary depending on the climate; colder areas may be a few days later:) When it is time for the chick to hatch, say twenty-four hours before, it will go through a process called the Drawdown. This will look like there is more air in the larger end of the egg, with the chick looking like it has shrivelled up and is covered by the top membrane pulling itself down into the smaller end of the egg, hence the name Drawdown. I have known breeders that have misunderstood the actual significance of drawdown, throwing the perfectly good eggs away thinking that these eggs were dead in shell!
When the chick has had enough of drawdown and decides to hatch, it first has to start with the Internal Pip through the membrane, fractioning it so to break into the air cell, the chick will then physically push its way into the air cell through the weakened membrane. Once in the air cell, the chick will pick the spot to start the External Pip, then work its way circling around the inside of the egg, weakening it as it goes and back to the spot where it started from. This can only be achieved because in the process of development, the chick developed a hard piece on the front top of the beak called the Egg tooth. Using this, it can chip its way out of the egg and bust free.
Gouldian chicks normally hatch unaided. They are very efficient and successful breeders. If the conditions that you are breeding in are favourable and the preparation correct, there is no reason why you would not have a very successful and problem-free breeding season!
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