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Setting and Turning of the Eggs

by Misty Johnson

Once you have your incubator all set up and running nicely at the correct temperature, you're ready to set your eggs. But first (as ever!), there are a few things you need to check.

The most obvious thing to know is how long the eggs are going to be in the incubator. Keeping track of the days is essential as you will have to remember when you should stop turning the eggs, raise humidity, and so on. Guinea eggs hatch after 26-28 days in the incubator.

In incubation, best results usually come from the eggs being incubated on their sides; but guinea (and chicken) eggs usually hatch equally well when incubated in a more upright position. Do be sure when putting your eggs in an automatic turner that they are point-down and not point-up, though, as that leads to keets developing upside-down in the eggs and being unable to hatch.

Setting the eggs is fairly simple and is directly related to how you intend to turn your eggs. Methods of turning vary from various species of birds. Chickens, game birds, and ducks have similar needs in this area; and guineas fall into the game bird category. There is a right way and a wrong way to turn your eggs. Do not turn your eggs in a full circle. This can cause the embryo and parts of the egg to become tangled. Instead, the most common method of turning is with the small end down, large end up, and moving left to right on a 90-degree plane. That's 45 degrees each direction from center. Automatic turners, holding the eggs large end up, turn the eggs in this manner. The next best position is on their sides. If at all possible, try to have your eggs lying with large ends all facing the same direction. They are still tilted enough to keep the air sac near the large end of the egg. (Don't worry too much as eggs don't always cooperate and stay in the position you put them.)

Turning should continue until three days prior to hatching. If you notice any eggs pipping before this point, stop turning immediately as turning could make the keet become disorientated and could prevent it from pecking its way out of the egg. Stop turning guinea eggs on day 23.

When hand turning, you should be sure to turn the eggs an odd number of times each day once they are in the incubator - 3, 5, or 7 times per 24-hour period. Turning an odd number of times per day will prevent the same side of the egg from being downwards all night every night. It's best to turn first thing in the morning, right before bed, and at least one more time during the day, as evenly spaced as your daily schedule will allow. As you turn the eggs, you may want to move them to a different part of the tray to offset variations in temperature in the different parts of the incubator if you have a still-air incubator.

Why is position so important? Birds know naturally how and when to turn their eggs. Many studies on why this is have been done over the years. Though much has been learned, it's still not fully understood. Proper turning will reduce the possibility of early and late stage mortality, retarded embryonic development, and malpositioned embryos. Turning will keep the embryo from sticking to the shell and keep it close to the center of the egg. Frequent turning promotes a fuller, more even vein growth through the egg in early incubation and increases the developing keet's heart rate, which in turn improves the rate at which nutrients are absorbed from the egg into the keet and helps the keet receive more oxygen. All this helps promote rapid growth and greater strength in the developing keet.

No matter if you are hand turning, using a manual turner, or an automatic one, you still need to check the eggs for cracks, seeping, and bad odors. With an automatic turner, check the eggs when you add water to the incubator or at least every 3 or 4 days up until day 23. Cracked eggs are possible even after you have set your eggs. These should not be incubated, as they cannot retain the moisture they need and are likely to spread bacterial infections to your other eggs. Discard any eggs that are seeping liquid. You'll know it when you see it. It could look like fizz, goo, or any other icky looking stuff that isn't water. A bad odor is a sure sign of an egg that should be tossed out. If your incubator smells bad, you must find the egg that is causing the odor. Such eggs have gone bad and do not have a keet growing inside them. They harbor infection and could even explode in your incubator, contaminating the rest of your eggs. You don't want this to happen (trust me, it's disgusting). So, if you have a bad egg, get rid of it as soon as possible. Take care how you dispose of any eggs, as they can attract predators. Wrap them securely in a couple of layers of plastic before putting them in the garbage.

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