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June 24, 2011

Metzer Farms' Traveling Catalog

Our catalog has been to five continents - we are only missing Australia and Antarctica!  I am bumping the gift certificate award for the first picture from each of these continents to $150!  For complete rules, visit our website .  Now that summer vacation is here, I know duck and goose fans are on these two continents now!  If you forget to pack our catalog, download it and print it from our Metzer Farms website once you get to your destination.

Following are some of our winners from five continents!

Asia:  Loren King on the  Great Wall of China, China

Asia: Joseph Whi in Bangkok, Thailand

Africa:  Alex Visio at the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

Europe: Frank Chandler (our very first winner) in Rome, Italy

Europe: Ethan Graves at Stonehenge, England

South America:  Maria Tate at the Panama Canal, Panama

South America:  Carmen Tate, Panama Canal, Panama

North America:  Giovanna Coraggio at Glacier Bay, Alaska

North America:  Alex Capstraw at Disney World, Florida !!

We just need Antarctica and Australia now..........

June 03, 2011

What Is So Special About A Constant Incubator Temperature?

Most of you have incubators that have several different ages of eggs in them.  And you have your incubator set to one constant temperature.  Right?  What I learned the other day is you want one constant temperature during incubation.  But not the incubator temperature - the shell temperature!

Last Friday we were visited by Jerry Garrison and Phillip Percy, technical advisors from Jamesway, the company that built our new Incubators.  Jerry told me they are learning that the shell temperature is the important temperature, not incubator temperature.   And the reason you want to know the shell temperature is that closely follows the temperature of the embryo which should be stable throughout incubation.

We have single stage incubators for our duck and goose eggs, which means all the eggs in that machine are set to hatch on the same day.  We start the incubator temperature at 100.3 and by the time they start hatching it is set at 98.2.  But he said if we measured the shell temperature, it should always read about 100.2!

Why does the shell temperature differ from the incubator temperature?  Initially the embryo is very small and not generating any measurable heat.  But the egg shell is cooler than the incubator because small amounts of moisture are evaporating from the shell which cools it - just as our sweat cools us.  This water loss is normal as an egg loses 13-14% of its weight during incubation.

However, as the embryo grows, it starts generating more and more heat.  Eventually it is producing so much heat that it's shell temperature can be two degrees warmer than the air in the incubator.  The egg is warming the surrounding air - not vice versa.

So how do you know the shell temperature of incubating eggs?  You can get a infrared thermometer.  You can get inexpensive one for only $60 but they do not measure in 1/10's of a degree.  To measure as accurately as necessary you need to spend several hundred dollars.

The best way to maintain a constant shell temperature is to have a single stage incubator (only one age of eggs in the incubator).   To have a shell temperature of 100.2, you need it to be 100.3 in the beginning and then gradually reduce it until it is about 98.2 when they start hatching.  For more information on single stage incubation, click this link and select the third article.

If you are used to setting every week, how do you switch to single stage incubation?  You would need at least two incubators and set eggs every two weeks.  Your first egg set of the spring would be in one incubator.  Ten to fourteen days later (10 days if you are setting chicken eggs, 14 for ducks) you set all your eggs in the second incubator.  By rotating your egg set from one incubator to the other, you have created two single stage incubators!  Just be sure the incubator is capable of sufficient ventilation to cool itself when it is full of older, heat producing embryos.

The biggest advantage of the multi-stage incubator is that it is easy.  The disadvantage is the embryos will be slightly cool early in the incubation and slightly warm late in incubation.

I found the idea of a constant embryo temperature fascinating - and how that varies from the incubator temperature.  Do any of you have experience measuring shell temperatures or using single stage incubation?