Incubation Techniques

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tortadise

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I figured I would post some techniques I have utilized in these species I have successfully hatched out over the years. Its going to be a multi part thread so I can keep the text down to a minimum as much as possible. Here are a few methods that have worked very well for me. I would love some other input on some more difficult species like kinixys,forsten,elongated,radiated, As well as species I have not been familiar with in terms of incubation, such as aldabra, galaps, russian, hermanns, marginated. I would love to get any input from anyone. maybe you guys have better techniques.





Incubation Methods of some different tortoise species.
Just a few common things about incubation of tortoise eggs.
Placing the eggs in a deli cup or shoe box with a lid and drilled holes (1/4” in size) in about 4-6 places on the tub, few on the sides and few on the top to allow air circulation needed by the eggs during the incubation process. The tub can vary in size, depending on the quantity of eggs that are obtained from the tortoises nest. Some species will lay only a few eggs or even 1, in this scenario a deli cup would be the best method to use to uphold the micro climate surrounding the egg.
Incubation time will vary upon the temperature the incubator is set too. The lower the temp the longer the development, but higher the risk of having some developmental complications percent rise. This goes the same for higher temps.
Vermiculite is the most common substrate to use when incubating tortoise eggs. Some species such as Kinixys, Manouria, Elongated, Travancore, and Forstens, can be incubated using sphagnum moss mixtures and small branches to allow more air circulation and moisture in the ambient air that the egg requires for these special species. Each species will have different humidity and moisture requirements during the incubation duration, as well as the level of substrate needing to be surrounding the eggs in the incubator. Never spray the eggs with water during the incubation time period, this can cause eggs to pop, or crack before they will naturally pip and hatch out.
TSD (temperature sex determination) it has been proven in laboratory method experiments that you can incubate eggs at set temperatures to sustain a desired male or female. Although these experiments were in extremely controlled environments with very costly thermometers and very high cost equipment, It is a proven method.
Things you want to make sure before breeding or expecting eggs from your female tortoise. Size is very important, some species can produce eggs early in their adult life, but sometimes does not suit being able to lay successfully. In some species females can produce and lay eggs but not have a large enough ventral opening to drop the eggs without breaking them. Sometimes this causes a female to be egg bound and forces herself to hold the eggs in and can cause grave situations. AS well as a perfect nesting site is the key to having a female lay her eggs in.
The different species of tortoises have different nesting techniques. Some species will not dig a hole and lay their eggs, But rather build a nest above the ground to lay their eggs. If you have nest building species, you need to make certain there is adequate nesting material for the female to build her nest and not become egg bound. Let’s take Sulcata or leopards for an example. These species will dig a hole in the ground about 12-16” deep and soften the soil by excreting water from their body to make up the mixture of soil and liquid to soften the soil so digging is easier. As well as the softer easier to dig dirt the liquid placement is also a natural additive to the nest hole to sustain humidity for the eggs once the hole is then covered by the soil by the female.






Sulcata-
Females will start laying small clutches as early as 15” in length. Sometimes earlier, as well as smaller in size but not too common.
Clutch size varies with age and size. Early laying females will lay 1-3 clutches with 8-17 eggs and gradually increasing with age up to full adult size clutch sizes from 26-38 eggs in each clutch, up to 5 clutches. Typically laid 1 month apart from each clutch that is laid.
Incubation needs to be in a controlled Environment temps range from 84-92 being a good medium temp in the middle or kept at this range. Try to keep a sustained temp with as minimal fluctuation as possible. Drastic temperature rise or declination can cause complications in the tortoise’s development.
Nest will be dug by the female using her hind legs. Very deep 14-18” deep hole followed by a egg catch basin pit about 10” at the bottom of the larger hole dug by the female. Typically will be dug in a corner of enclosure.
Eggs will range 90-200 days in incubation duration, this is a control defined by humidity and temperature control.
Summed up (if you don’t want to read all the text)
Clutch size-8-38 eggs per clutch up to 5-6 clutches per year.
Incubation Temperature-84-92 with 70% humidity
Substrate-Vermiculite Egg placement ¼ of egg below vermiculite leaving remainder of egg above substrate. 1:1 ratio vermiculite to water IN WEIGHT NOT IN MASS. Example 1 ounce of vermiculite is 1 once water mixed together.


Leopard babcocki-
Females will start laying clutches of eggs around 10” in length at a minimum. Usually around 13-14” they will lay larger more consistent clutches.
Clutch size varies from 3-20 can receive larger clutches depending on females size and age.
Nest will be dug about 12-16” deep with an egg pit in the bottom .
Duration of incubation will depend on incubation techniques and temperatures. But typical in days is 120-200 days.
Temperature-82.4-88 with ambient humidity of 70-80%
Substrate should be vermiculite and the egg placed ¼” into vermiculite and dampened to a 1;1 ratio of vermiculite to water by weight, not mass.



Redfoot-
A lot of times redfoots will not have soft enough soil to dig a proper nest in captivity. When breeding redfoots make sure your corners in the enclosure are very deep and use a nice sphagnum, peat, top soil mixture and water every day when you spray them down. Give a proper nesting site for them to dig. When not applied they will typically just lay on top of the enclosure floor, and can be broken easily.
Adult females will start to lay as early as 9-10” in length
Clutch size-1-16 eggs
Duration of incubation 116-200 days, also depends on temperature kept in incubator.
Temperature- 77-86 degrees 70-80% ambient humidity
Moisture needs to be maintained for this species in the incubator.
Substrate-vermiculite is suitable however some have used sphagnum moss as substrate to incubate redfoots. Place ¼- 1/2” into the substrate.


Yellow foot-
Make sure the adult female has a suitable place to lay her eggs. They don’t put a lot of time into digging a good nest hole if the soil is not suitable. They are typically use to very moist and very easily dug forest floors, with lots of leaf litter and moss, and very fertile soil leaving it rather effortless to dig their nest.
Adult females will begin to lay eggs as early as 11-12” in length.
Clutch size-1-17 eggs
Temperature-77-86 degrees with MINIMUM ambient humidity of 80%
Duration-120-270 days.
Substrate-Very moist substrate is always good to have healthy fertile eggs develop and hatch with no likely problems. Vermiculite is a good substrate sometimes mixed with mulch or moss. A ratio of 1.5:1 water to vermiculite is more suitable for this species.


Pancake-
Pancakes will typically dig a shallow nest of 6-8” and laying typically one egg at a time. Although sometimes can lay 2 eggs in one nest digging. They are used to laying in very easily excavated sandy soil, so always make sure there is a spot in the enclosure that has a very low PI(plasticity index) almost like sand or very loose soil.
Adult females can lay as early as 6” in length.
Clutch size- 1-2
Temperature-80.6-87 degrees, ambient humidity 60-70%
Duration-99-300 days
Substrate-Vermiculite is the most suitable to use with a 1:1 ratio of water to vermiculite in weight. Buried ¼-1/2’ in the substrate.


Indian/Sri Lanken Star-
Indian and sri lanken stars will dig a rather deep nest hole in relation to the size of the species. The nest will be around 8-10” in depth.
Indian Star Females can start laying at the earliest around 7-8” in length.
Sri Lanken Star females can start laying eggs at the earliest around 7-8” in length.
Clutch size-1-10
Temperature-84-90 degrees with relative humidity sustained at 70-80%
Duration-109-168 days.
Substrate-Vermiculite is the best substrate to use with these species. 1.2:1 ratio water to vermiculite by weight not mass.
 

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* We try and catch all of our aldabra eggs inorder to avoid any possiby initial damage.

* Never rotate the egg after it is initially placed.

* We also mix water and vermiculite (50/50).

* Our average clutch size is between 6 and 18.

* Our females have had up to three clutches per year.

* Overall average temperature is 86f.

* Overall average humidity is above 90%.

* We use one incubator per clutch.

* Our incubation duration on average is around 100 days.

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tortadise

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You can do either or. Those are gregs photos of his aldabra eggs in the incubator. If your using smaller incubators like the hovabator and have a large enough clutch to fill up the entire incubator you can just spread the vermiculite in the entire bottom of the incubator and place a cup of warm water in the middle to sustain good humidity levels. The still air incubators as shown in gregs photos hold better humidity in that scenario. if you only have 3 eggs I would do the shoe box method. Its really just preference and sometimes species as well as quantity involved.

Heres some examples. The smaller non forced air incubator works great with just having the vermiculite placed in the entire incubator. This allows more eggs to fit. When getting smaller amounts of eggs you can use the small tub method or the large tub method. The larger tub has a lid placed on with 4 holes in the top for air circulation. Or smaller tub for smaller amount of eggs like the clear one showed with the egg in it. Helps keep mor elocalized humidity to the smaller amount of eggs needing to be incubated. The larger amount of eggs (takes up more room) typically means more upkeep in humidity in a larger space. So using when a small number of eggs occur its easier to maintain good moisture and not dry out the substrate by placing them in a tub.

Like in the photo with the huge commercial incubator. I have to use the lids to sustain a good moisture percentage.

Burmese Brown-Burmese browns are a above ground nest building tortoise. They will scrape dead, leaves, moss, small branches and twigs, plant debris and loose dirt from the forest floor or enclosure they are in, and build up a nesting site. This nesting site made of organic forest material is typically 12-18” thick as wide as 6 feet in diameter. They will then dig a hole in the middle of the built up nest and lay the eggs followed by covering them up. The interesting thing about the Burmese browns is they will actually guard the eggs in the nest until hatched out. Rather than other species of tortoises laying their eggs and leaving them to hatch on their own.
Adult females will become viable to produce eggs, around 14” in straight length size. Typically they’re clutches will increase in size the bigger the adult female is.
Clutch size-39-42 eggs (some larger females have laid 60+ eggs in one clutch)
Temperature-77-83 degrees with ambient humidity of 80-90% with moist to wet substrate
Duration-66-90 days
Substrate-Vermiculite is a great incubation substrate to use for this species. Being that this species requires a wet and high humidity range for incubation sometimes moss mixed with vermiculite is a good use of substrate. They need high moisture content so a 2:1 ratio of water to substrate is recommended as well as a tightly seal box with some air ventilation holes will keep the moisture in at a more stabilized level during the eggs developmental process.

Burmese Black-Burmese black are also above ground nest building tortoise like its cousin the Burmese brown. They will scrape dead, leaves, moss, small branches and twigs, plant debris and loose dirt from the forest floor or enclosure they are in, and build up a nesting site. This nesting site made of organic forest material is typically 12-18” thick as wide as 6 feet in diameter. They will then dig a hole in the middle of the built up nest and lay the eggs followed by covering them up. The interesting thing about the Burmese browns is they will actually guard the eggs in the nest until hatched out. Rather than other species of tortoises laying their eggs and leaving them to hatch on their own.
Adult females will become viable to start producing eggs, around 16-17”” in straight length size. Typically they’re clutches will increase in size the bigger the adult female is.
Clutch size-42-48 (records have shown higher clutch sizes in this species)
Temperature-76-81 degrees with ambient humidity of 80-90% with moist to wet substrate
Duration-88-102 days
Substrate-Vermiculite is a great incubation substrate to use for this species. Being that this species requires a wet and high humidity range for incubation sometimes moss mixed with vermiculite is a good use of substrate. They need high moisture content so a 2:1 ratio of water to substrate is recommended as well as a tightly seal box with some air ventilation holes will keep the moisture in at a more stabilized level during the eggs developmental process.


Chaco Tortoise-Chaco tortoises are a burrow desert dweller. They will dig and lay their eggs in a nest hole dug about 6” deep in the sandy, rocky, and low PI soil in the Chaco deserts in Argentina. They lay 1-2 eggs at a time sometimes 2-3 clutches but very rarely more than 1 clutch. They lay their eggs at the end of the hot summers and allow the eggs to incubate during the cooling fall and wet rainy seasons of spring. The eggs take quite a while to develop due to climate increase and decreases in the wild. Incubating this species eggs requires a diapause in captivity. Diapause is a halt in development in the egg by cooling the temperatures to a degree that stops growth and allows the embryo to not over develop too soon and cause gaseous suffocation inside the egg of the undeveloped tortoise. The process is then boosted back to a warmer temperature to allow more development in the egg. Sometimes this process is repeated numerous times in this species to develop properly, and can take up to 366 days for the egg to pip and outcomes a hatchling.
Adult females are not ready to breed until 6 1/2”-7” straight length. They have quite large eggs so its always a cautious measure to take that the ventral opening is large enough to keep the female from being egg bound. It is recommended to mature the female rather than early breed and cause egg laying issues as this species is quite rare and declining in numbers international.
Clutch size-1-4 only 1 to 2 eggs are laid but have been record of 4 in one clutch.
Temperature- method one is 82 degrees for 35 days from drop date of egg. Then cool to middle 70’s for 35 days. Then Proceed with incubation at 82 degrees. Duration of this method took 344 days. Alternate diapause methods that were used. After eggs are laid, incubate 78-82 for 45-62 days, then cool to mid 60’s to low 70’s for 70-90 days, then back to 78-82 range for remainder.
Substrate-Vermiculite kept rather dry .5:1 ratio water to vermiculite in weight not mass. You can use a 1:1 ratio of water to vermiculite but allow the substrate to dry accordingly before egg placement.
 

princessdreamsxxx

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How many times do I change the water? And do I open the show box lid every so often? If anyone can help?
 

tortadise

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As long as you out a few holes in the box to give air circulation to the eggs you shouldnt need to open the lid except every once in a while just to check for progress on the eggs. Just keep the water filled if your refering to the bottom of incubator or cup in the incubator to sustain humidity. Its also good to use warm or hot water when refilling the cup. Heat and water makes humidity. Cold water will acrually decrease the temp. Do not add water to subsrate or eggs. Can cause then to crack
 

Jacqui

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Bells Hingebacks: 86-87.8 (30-31 C) this seems to be a good middle ground for a mixture of genders. Humidity level at around 70%. Incubation takes about three to six months.


Homes 76-86 avg 82 129

I think spekii, and belliana belliana because of their adaptations to
cool, and drought do indeed have a diapause, and should be cooled before
incubation. That may lead to better hatch success with those two
species, but my spekii hatchling of late had no intentional diapause,
and I know others that have hatched out that species without a diapause
as well, incubation of my lone spekii hatchling was nearly 8 months.
Egg laid Jan 25, and hatched without diapause (intentionally) on Oct 2
of the same year. Looooong incubation that has been reported with both
spekii and lobatsiana in the literature
 

tortadise

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Its ok. bad eggs will be easily recognized they will turn a dark olive to black color form the inside of the egg and usually start to stink. If they stay chalky white and keep consistant color and dont stink they should be good. The way to be 100% is to candle them. You can use a little flash light place it very close to the top of the egg and take a photo and post it. int he first few weeks you might not notice anything changing but over time you will start to see a little tort develop. It typically starts with a 1/4 of the egg inside is dark and the rest is reddish pink, the yolk is the dark dot, and it will grow and grow and get bigger and bigger over time. They should be at the top of the egg as long as the placement was immidiately after the eggs were laid, and then put into the incubator, The first 10 minutes of the egg being laid is the most crucial if fertile. They need to stay in that same spot the whole time so nothing gets shaked around and causes embryonic developmental failure. When were they laid? and they are leopards? Also If they are known pardalis pardalis your incubation technique will not be as described above. they will require a diapause. So hope you know whatcha got?:)
 

princessdreamsxxx

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What's a diapause? Yes they are leopards they were laid on Sunday afternoon I retrieved them as soon as she walked away from the nest and kept them in the same position they were laid :)
 

tortadise

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A diapause is used in species that naturally have wet season and dry season, South african leopards geochelone pardalis pardalis is one of those species. It is a cool period during the incubation duration that actually "pauses" the development of the embryo. When incubating certain species like pardalis pardalis, kinixys, Pyxis, radiated, chaco, geometric, tent, padlopers, bolsen and texas torts. It simulates the "winter" because the eggs in the wild are typically laid at the end of the warm season, and then it cools down while the eggs are in the ground for small period of time (sometimes a few months) then warms back up and they hatch at the beginning of the wet season or spring. If your leopards are babcoki they will not require a diapause, if they are pardalis pardalis they will require a diapause. If not pardalis pardalis resume incubation method for leopards stated above and all should be well. :) sounds like your doing everything just fine. Have you tried to candle them yet?
 

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Incubation techniques for T. ibera; babies enclosures.

Hi all,

I want to describe here my simple, budget-friendly method of incubating Ibera eggs and making enclosures for the little ones.

I am slightly watering/spraying the babies enclosures: 1-2 times/week for 2011 ones, almost daily for the most fragile 2012 babies- that in severe drought conditions, with 33-38*C maxima, a few times (3-4, this year??) up to 40-41*C. Even if you would think my enclosures will be furnaces in that full sun (no shade-providing object nearby) and affect the babies, it gets never too hot inside their hides ("little houses"). The ground is slightly moist and easy diggable, and some babies even digg themselves a little.

When autumn rains occur, I just cover with plastic or glass the enclosures, to prevent excessive moisture, and removing when good weather returns. The same for first freezes. This usually doesn't last too long, since at beginning November the babies started to burrow, emerging less often, until not at all- that was on 11 Nov 2011, when i dug them all up, and put in controlled hibernation.


The 2012 incubator is a bit larger than 2011 one, since I had now 39 eggs instead of 12. At the moment, 35 hatchlings (2 with tiny extra-scutes, 1 with a more obvious one), and the last four are scheduled at about 20 August.
I have incubated at 34-36*C, cut the heating during the night (10 hours), down to 27*C in the morning. The last days had minimas of 30-32*C, since it was very hot here.
Cracked eggs due to excess humidity- about 8-9 (?), but no problems for the babies. I am speculating something: the extra-scutes can they be caused by a slight dessication following an egg-crack? I didn't verified if those 3 babies came from cracked eggs, but all belong to the same mother tortoise. The other 4 from the same clutch are perfect, like all the other babies from other females.
What do you think about this speculation? Possible?

The primitive incubator is opened, aerated and checked every morning, right before lighting the bulb. You maybe find that thing a little inconvenient, but 5 minutes are less than a cigarette or a TV commercial. Even more, it is a good chance to find possible problems- like cracked eggs etc.- and taking action asap.
Obviously, no hygrometer used. I am spraying slightly the publicitar papers when i think it's too dry, and I let a small plastic box with water on the wall-tiles, a few times. I wasn't watering this time, not even slightly, the perlite, only the first time when placed in the tray. Well, eggs still cracked, but not right after being in incubator, but somewhere in the middle of incubation.

The 2012 clutches were produced by 4 females, 3 of them making a second one.
I have another good adult female- Nr. 5- that hasn't laid eggs; I received her last September, but she was in good shape... i cannot imagine why she didn't produced this year. She is healthy and strong!
The other non-producing female- Nr.6- is the most aged tortoise I have. She lived before coming to me, for 9 years, without seeing the sun or hibernating, and her food was only partially correct. At my place, she ate- and still eat- like a crazy reptile, maybe to re-calcify and getting strong again. It is the second season with me. Should I wait for that oldie to lay? Who knows...


Well, the pictures- I hope it will work, I don't post pics too often...


1-Perlite tray, mortar mixing tub: 75x50x30cm; 2 small incisions at the back corners, to fit the wires from heater and temperature probe.




2-Perlite tray, mortar mixing tub- view


3- 50W broken aquarium heater Eheim, ordinary light bulb adapted (25-70w, depending on ambient temperature)




4- Perlite tray with eggs covered with 2 pieces of glass; notice the temperature probe. Between the tray and the glass are 4 distancing pieces of plastic, resulting a 1,5 mm luft.




5- then add some publicitar material as insulation




6- then add a three-folded old towel as main insulation; careful to cover-fill all the edges for better buffering




7- 2 wall-tiles as a buffer and support for the bulb's fasung




8- A piece of paper under the fasung




9- Hiding the thermostat under the towel




10- A piece of pressed board as cover




11- The probe; yesterday I had 36degC in that room, but only 34 at the bottom, where is the incubator.




12- Temporary tranzit box for egg-pipping babies; I took them with 2-3 days before predicted hatchling date, to prevent perlite swallowing and disturbing the awaiting eggs.




13- 2-3 days here, to check them and see if they eat well, then outdoor enclosure




14- 2-3 days here, to check them and see if they eat well, then outdoor enclosure2




15- another transit box to separate each mother's babies




16- from the transit box- after an hour, she was scratching the walls, wishing to explore!




17- these ones will go outdoors after the heat- about 6PM.




18- A few weeks older- previous hatched babies, bath time; just once a week, since they have water in a small pot.




19- Bath time




20- Enclosure details: 1x1m




21- Enclosure details2




22- Hide covered with rough sack paper




23- isolating wood boards after




24- Prepared food and eggshells- their own ones!




25- Attacking food- mainly Bindweed




26- Rat protection, but also cat and dog...




27- Low-tech at its best- providing shade to allow them eat without hurry; we had 41 and lots of 35-38*C days, but no overheating inside the "house"; also, the substrate there is easy diggable, and some of babies use it.




28- With the sisters from last year; these are bigger than they look here! Find the alien!




29- My 2011 babies- find the alien!




30- 2011 enclosure: 1x1m




31- 2011 enclosure with lousy predator protection; a rat could get in, if determined.


Eventually, pictures appeared ok!! Sorry for the quality, and if shocked by ugly conditions, I can guarantee that tortoises are just fine!
 

Neal

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princessdreamsxxx said:
I have candled the eggs tonight and can't see anything? They are 5 days old so does this mean they are not fertile or when do I next check?

Leopard eggs will take about two full weeks at the earliest before you can really see anything.
 

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Been reading this post top to bottom and forgive me if I missed it, what grade of Vermiculite do you use? All I can find is the THERMOROCK 2.0 cu. ft. Vermiculite (Medium Grade) at the local Home Depot... My Sulcatas have been quite frisky lately and I want to get set up, just in case...
 

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does anyone know if you have to separate the mature males from the not mature females to avoid mating and the females ending with their eggs bound????????????
 

tortadise

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Yes this is always something to consider. Placing a female with male is wise only if they are mature and or large enough to pass the eggs.
 

seanang168

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With regards to Star Tortoise, I read that the substrate and water ratio should be about 50/50, so I will start off with a wet substrate. I also read that we should NOT wet the substrate during incubation period as the eggs may crack. Can someone advise me what I should do with regards to Stars? My substrate dries up after some time and because of the conflicting advice, I am not sure whether I should wet it again.

So far my past two attempts, I wet my substrate again. I never had any eggs hatching before. Hope someone could advise me.

Thanks
 

tortadise

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This is a good question. It is wise not to wet the sibstrate because it can cause early cracks. Usually it doesnt but better safe.then sorry. Use a sponge or cup of warm water placed in the incubator to help sustain humidity. are you sure they are fertile? Lots of times in stars its the male and lack of maturity. The males stay very small. Good age on males usually plays a key factor. Around 8-10 years males tend to be successful at fertilization, but can start breeding much earlier. Husbandry also plays a role in the female part to produce good eggs that are fertile in my star experiance.
 
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