I had a customer the other day call and ask some questions about incubation and it just got me thinking about it. So I just wanted to share my experience’s with incubation here with the people who would care to know them. Incubation is a lot like breeding I can tell you everything I know about breeding and incubation but until you actually do it you will not fully understand what someone is trying to tell you. There is a million breeding/incubation recipes out there. I’m not going to tell you how I do it or how to do it I just want to share with you my experiences over the past 10 years and hopefully they will help you in some way.
First question I’m always asked is what do I use for a incubator? We use stand up deep freezer’s with 11″ flexwatt and a proportional thermostat (helix). We do not use a fan in any of our incubators. Some people find this very hard to believe but we have done it for years with no problems. This is the first topic I will touch base on. The key to not using a fan is air exchange. This can be detrimental as it can be helpful. Well why do you say that? What I commonly see year after year with novice breeders is kinking, kinking and more kinking. By the ingredients they did everything perfectly but still ended up with kinked babies. The novice keeper tends to over check there eggs just from being overly excited. What this does is everytime that incubator is opened you are releasing humidty and also letting the hot air out and letting your cool air conditioning in. Put the eggs back and now the incubator has to kick back up to heat the incubator back up. Do this say 40 times in a 60 day period and you now have created temperature spikes throughout every stage of development during your snakes incubation period. Side note: Unless you are dealing with caramel albinos kinking is 100% a temp/humidty problem. So here is what we do and has worked best for us. First thing is we leave our incubator closed as much as possible. We try to do egg checks every 7-10 days unless we are putting clutches in the incubator and if we are we go ahead and do our egg check on our other clutches in the process which allows killing two birds with one stone. This “egg check” allows for a air exchange for the incubator. The less clutches you have in a big incubator the less you will have to give a air exchange. This being if you have 2 clutches in a stand up deep freezer you may only want to check every 10 – 15 days because you have more air in the incubator with less clutches. Make any sense? We have found this to be adequate enough for our clutch’s and have never had any use for fans in our incubators.
Now to a really controversial topic EGG CUTTING…….. I always get asked “how do I cut my eggs” well there are tons of videos on egg cutting and how to set-up egg boxes that’s not what this blog is about. This is to help you with some do’s and dont’s from my expierences over the past 10 years. Here is the thing, I do not like cutting eggs. I have found the babies to be stronger, healthier and feed and grow better if they pip on their own. Plain and Simple. Once they pip we may slit the egg a little more to allow them to leave the egg a little easier but I don’t really like doing that. So let me start from the beginning. In the beginning I really wanted to know if I hit what I was going for so I counted everyday for every clutch and when the time came I broke out my scissors. Over the period of a few years I would notice that the more I messed with these babies the more problems I would have. Number one problem would be a wrapped embilical cord. Other problems would be them running out of the egg with the yoke and all attached. I finally got to thinking hard about all these problems I was having. Let me say this I wasn’t having them every clutch but there were quite a few clutches a year I would have a problem. I then began to notice it was the clutches I cut early with my new exspensive morph I just hit and brought out of the incubator 305 times to show all my friends and poked around in the egg to see it’s head. Then one day I said you know what they have made it this long in the wild why wouldn’t they make it in my incubator? Someone started a rumor about a baby ball python being born without a egg tooth and died in the egg as a result of it. I’m not saying it’s not true because I have seen a lot of weird things in 10 years of breeding. But I can say I haven’t cut an egg in 5 years and it hasn’t happened yet. When I quit cutting my eggs all my problems went away. When the hatchlings pip on their own if you leave them alone they will be out in 12-24 hours. I had problems when they pipped and I would take them out of the incubator 15 times to see if they had come out most of the time those were the ones that would run out of the egg with everthing still attached. I just got to thinking about it and something that small see’s us as a predator sometimes and probably figures either make a break for it or be eaten and that’s where I think they run out of the egg before they absorb their yolk. Now I could have a baby ball python not hatch tomorrow because of a egg tooth not being there or one come out with yolk attached but all I’m saying is by letting them do what they were designed to do to survive has reduced our problems to almost nothing. Something else I noticed when I cut my eggs is it takes them so much longer to come out. Everyone always says well duh there not ready when you cut them. No , what I mean is I cut them 5 days early and sometimes it has took 10-15 days for them to come out NO JOKE. I cant stand that when I see those pretty little babies I want them out and I want them out now. I love seeing them pip and then them be out and running around the egg box within a day or two. The less you bother them the better off you are going to be. Now with that being said you go to 1000 breeders and ask the same question you’ll get 1000 different answers. I’ve heard rumors of someone cutting on day 27. What’s the point?
The point is it has took 3 years to raise your female and 6-18 months for your male and 3-6 months of breeding, 30 days to lay,55 days of incubation . What’s a few more days to have healthier babies? Am I saying you can cut your eggs and not have healthy babies? Absolutely not. What I am saying is you can reduce your risk for complications and trouble by leaving them alone. Even if you have one baby ball in your lifetime born without a egg tooth and it dies in the egg. That’s one out of a million. It’s just something that we have learned through trial and error and wanted to pass along to see if we could help someone down the road.
Give them what they need and they will do the rest. Now another point I wanted to make. I moved my incubators last year and one of the doors hinges got bent in the process. Not enough to notice but enough not to seal at the very top. Temperature stayed the same on my thermostat but my heat tape had to run at a much higher temperature to maintain the desired temp. By the time I caught it it had already affected 15 clutches. So how to avoid this? In your incubator your going for a ambient temperature and humidity. So the best thing to do is never ever push your clutches all the way back on your heat tape. If I had my clutches off the back wall and in the middle of the rack or even on the front of the rack they would have had the same ambient temperature without the hotspot of the heat tape and I probably wouldn’t have had any problems. So you don’t ever want to put your eggs back on the heat tape. Its kind of common sense when you say it but sometimes we just don’t think about the little things.
Another thing is holes in the egg boxes. It doesn’t matter whether you have holes in the egg boxes or don’t. If you do then you will have to have more water in your substrate if you don’t, you wont. The bottom line is whether you have holes or not you just need to find that happy medium that keeps your eggs happy. Remember if your eggs crash within two weeks of first going in the incubator it’s probably something out of your control. If the eggs make it past two weeks and crash half way through incubation then its probably something you did. You need to check your set-up.
So with all that said there is a lot of different incubation methods out there. If any of you care to know mine shoot me a email or comment below and I will be glad to help you out. As far as substrate and how to and all that you can pretty much find videos and information all over the web for that stuff. Advice would be stick with the basics and try not to experiment too much. I hope I helped someone along the line with this information that I have shared here with you all. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.
Hope to see you all soon!
7-15-2015 I always like to come back and update any information I can on my recent experiences so that you guys have all the information I can possibly give you for you to be successful. In one of my recent clutches I let my hatchlings pip on there own (as I always do) and during my busy schedule I just kept a check on them but decide I would do what I haven’t done in a long time which is let them all hatch naturally and come out on there own. I thought this would be cool to watch seeing how the pairing was albino pied X dbl het albino pied. The eggs were stacked on top of one another but every egg had plenty of room for the hatchling to slice the egg and pip on there own. I should have took pictures to show you guys but didn’t really think about it at the time I was a little more upset with my results at the time. For those of you that don’t know when a female lays her eggs she also lays a glue like film over the eggs to hold the cluster together. This glue is only allowed to hold the eggs for roughly 55 days. Perfect evolution huh? If you get to your eggs probably within 12 hours of her laying her eggs you can still easily pull them apart and separate them individually in there incubation tub. So back on topic didn’t catch this clutch in time and they were all still in a cluster from when they were laid. So here it is day 57 and my perfect little babies are pipping and im so exited. The next day I come in the shop and open my tub and noticed that all the babies had pipped except the very bottom egg. Some of the babies had already came out and were crawling around the tub. The top egg was split open but it still had the hatchling in it. Upon closer inspection I found that my egg on the bottom had pipped right into the top egg and had suffocated from not being able to reach air. It also tangled up the yolk sack in the top egg which killed the top hatchling as well. Can you guess what that little egg in the bottom was? That’s right it was my little albino pied! OUCH ! So what we usually do when Daniel doesn’t want to see everything come out natural is we let the first one pip and if the eggs are in a cluster the glue is already breaking down so as we cut the eggs we also pull them apart and place them individually so these problems do not happen again. If you happen to get the eggs pretty early before the glue like film dries go ahead and separate them just incase you might not be around down the road when they start pipping. When your dealing with numbers of clutches it can sometimes be hard to catch the first pip when life is going on also. So I hope this bad experience of mine can prevent you guys from loosing something you worked very hard to get down the road. Thanks again guys and until next time……….