I have an Emden gander that is about 3 years old, and I know he knows how to do his job. We had to get a new female last year, stray dogs got the other one, so I'm not sure about her. They seem to have bonded well, and while I haven't seen him mount her, he is acting quite the man. He chases all the other birds out of the coop.
Last Monday I found the first egg, it had a little blood on it, usual I figure, but good sized. I marked it and put it back in the nest. Oh, the nest. She had build quite a nest with the new straw I'd put on the coop floor. About 10 inches high on the edges. So then she laid every other day for the week, and I got one Friday and Saturday. Got another one Monday morning and put all four of them in the incubator. All these had been laid in the early morning hours I'm sure, but the one I got Tuesday was laid in the afternoon or evening. It wasn't there this morning and when I got it tonight it was still warm.
Guess I'm writing to share with others and to see if anyone has thoughts about how to do things better. In the past, I've done pretty good at incubating the eggs, just have a problem with them being pasty and not getting out of the shells in good shape. Think it has to do with humidity and the final hatching temps.
I am using a still air Hovabator. The forced air one gets used for the turkeys. I think my temps were too low in the past because they hatched late. So I've turned them up so I have 100 degrees just off the floor of the thing. I turn them by hand a minimum of 3 times a day, more when I can. But I'm gone out of the house for just over 12-13 hours a day. I turn them in the morning, as soon as we get home and again when I go to bed. Figure it works out pretty even over time. The incubator is in a cabinet in my closet, so the ambient temperature and humidity around it stays very constant.
I've tried the "Dry hatching method" with some of my other birds and it has done rather well. But these are water fowl and they need something different. So this is the plan:
I put them in and left it alone for the first 24 hours.
I'll do nothing but turn them for the first 4 days.
After that when I get home, I'll open the incubator when I get home and allow the eggs to cool for about 15 minutes.
Then I'll mist them and close them back up. I'll do this from day 4 to day 27. I'm hoping this will keep the natural humidity level above 45-50%, which is where I think it should be for incubation.
At about day 27 I plan to stop turning them, reduce the temp by 2 degrees and raise the humidity to about 65%. To do this I will probably need to add water to the trays underneath the mesh floor, or insert dishes on the floor. I'm thinking I should continue misting the eggs also, but not sure. I can open the clear cover on top and spray in with out actually removing the top.
I will also be adding eggs periodically, so I may use a different incubator for hatching. Would eliminate some problems. I'm just concerned about running short of incubators when the turkeys start paying full time. I have 1 goose hen, and 7 turkey hens. The math is easy to figure out.
One final thought is that maybe in a month or so when the weather warms up some, I'll stop collecting the eggs and let her set on some and see how she does as a mother. I think we would all enjoy that very much.