Artificial incubation of avian eggs is not commonly done. It takes patience, experience and special equipment for a successful outcome. Usually, artificial incubation is done in cases or rare and valuable birds, inexperienced or unreliable mothers or when the mother is too ill or has died. Most often, incubation is limited to psittacine eggs, requiring significant monitoring, egg handling and record keeping. Before embarking on artificial incubation, you may want to consider talking with an experienced bird breeder.
There are a variety of commercially available incubators. Keep in mind that there are three major factors to consider when selecting an incubator: temperature control, humidity and ability to rotate eggs. The best incubators are those made with furniture-quality wood. Styrofoam incubators are inexpensive and may work but tend to be unreliable.
Once you have chosen an incubator, you will also need monitoring equipment in order to provide the optimum temperature and humidity. Usually, several monitoring devices are needed to control the environment properly. Each species has a different temperature and humidity requirement. Research your specific species to find the proper settings.
After selecting an incubator, turn it on and allow the temperature and humidity to stabilize 1 to 2 weeks before you introduce any eggs.
Before retrieving the eggs from the nest, carefully wash your hands so as not to spread any diseases. You may want to candle an egg to check for cracks and fertilization. This can be done by placing the egg up to a strong light and looking through the shell.
If the eggs are not cool when removed from the nest let them cool to room temperature before transferring to the incubator. This will mimic what the hen would do if allowed to incubate naturally.
If an egg turns colors or appears suspicious or develops a foul odor, remove it from the incubator immediately so as not to affect other eggs.
Eggs will need to be rotated frequently. Most incubators come with automatic turning. If your incubator does not automatically turn the eggs, research the specifics for your breed and follow the guidelines. For macaws and Amazons, the eggs need to be turned 90 degrees every hour. Mark the egg with 2 arrows opposite to each other to help you decide the appropriate direction to turn the eggs.
Preparing for Delivery
Three days prior to hatching, reduce the temperature of the incubator about 1 degree, increase the humidity and stop turning eggs. To find the expected delivery date, review the literature on your specific species. Once the bird is ready to hatch, called pipping, you may hear the chick as he tries to emerge. It may be tempting to help the chick emerge but you may cause damage to the chick so it is best to just let him work his way out. Once the chicks hatch, move them to a brooder to dry out.