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Goose Egg Incubation
When hatching goose eggs, it is best to use an incubator in order to maximize your egg output. Geese do not lay eggs while they are hatching, so removing those eggs and using a goose egg incubator for hatching can dramatically increase the number of eggs you are able to get in a breeding season. Geese lay eggs beginning early spring, sometimes even late winter, and continue through August or September. A more mature goose is going to have a higher production and hatch rate than a much younger goose. Encouraging early egg production will help you to have larger goslings toward holiday season if you are raising geese for sale. It is important to check your geese for eggs in the late morning, since most egg production happens early in the morning. You will also want to continue to check throughout the day, about 4 times total. Make sure your geese are not given access to water for swimming until you have collected your first round of eggs in the morning in order to reduce eggs being lost.
Incubating goose eggs should be done for a period of about 28 days for smaller breeds, and up to 35 days for larger breeds before pipping begins. Once goose eggs begin hatching, the process can take up to three days before they are completely out of their shell.
You will want to hatch goose eggs at a temperature of about 99.5 degrees. Many poultry breeds suggest the temperature be changed throughout the incubation process, but when hatching goslings, you maintain a consistent temperature throughout the entire process. Make sure you are properly setting up your incubator before your eggs are ready in order to stabilize temperature and humidity. As always, make sure you are following any breed specific guidelines that may help to produce a successful hatch.
Goose eggs require unique humidity settings from other types of hatching eggs. You will want to maintain a 50-55% humidity for the first 27 days, then an increase to 75% for the remaining days. There are many different ways that you can help to increase the humidity. Some breeders recommended removing your eggs for 15 minutes per day and spraying them with water. Others recommended submerging them in water that is 99.5 degrees for 1 minute every other day from the 15th day of incubation and then daily during the last week. Determine what method works best for you and use the same method throughout the entire incubation process in order to accurately monitor results.
Each type of incubator will have their own process for set up. Most require the temperature to be set at least 24-48 hours before the eggs are placed inside so that humidity and temperature can be stabilized and adjusted as needed. The eggs can be kept in cold storage (about 59-60 degrees) for up to 7 days before being incubated. You will want to turn the eggs daily during the goose egg storage time. You will want to select eggs that are uncracked and weighing 5-7 ounces for best hatching results. If these eggs are dirty, they should be cleaned prior to incubation with a clean, damp cloth.
Studies done in France, using 2000 eggs and 18 different incubators, suggest that laying goose eggs horizontally rather than vertically produces a higher hatch rate. If you are using an egg turner, then you will simply rest the eggs on their side rather than on the fat end as you typically would with chickens and other poultry. If you are turning by hand, then this will be the way the eggs will naturally want to lay if they are given enough space within the incubator.
Turning goose eggs is just as important as with other poultry incubation. You will want to turn your eggs 180 degrees four times a day for best hatch rates. It is important to make a small mark on your egg to differentiate between the two sides so you can keep track of your turning, especially when turning by hand. It is also a good idea to mark them when using an automatic goose egg turner especially since you will be removing them periodically to either soak them, mist them, or check fertility throughout the goose egg incubation process.
Candling goose eggs is the easiest way to monitor growth of the embryo and determine if the eggs are fertile. It is important to pick the best eggs for incubation in order to have the best possible fertility rate. Candling goose eggs can be done at any time, but you may not be able to see development until at least 7-10 days into the incubation process.
After the 27th day, you will want to dip or spray your eggs one last time (unless experience shows they have been hatching sooner, then more like the 25th day). Then the waiting begins! When the goose eggs begin to pip, the hatching process has begun! You will want to reduce the humidity and temperature of your unit just slightly to encourage hatching. After hatching, leave your goslings in the hatcher for another 2-4 hours before beginning the brooding process.
There are many different ways you can brood goslings. You can use a small building or corner of a garage, barn, shed that has a layer of litter material that is then stirred with wet spots and obvious dirt removed. The most important thing is to keep them warm and then slowly reduce the temperature over the course of the next 5 weeks from about 95 down to 70. In warmer weather they can have access to the outside (with supervision) in as little as two weeks.
Hatching goose eggs can be a challenging and rewarding process. Experience will help you to get the best results, but a quality goose egg incubator and goose egg turner will help you to achieve optimal results. Happy goose breeding!