This has been one of the hardest months that I’ve had as a breeder. I was very excited about having clutches laid early in the season and having 5 in the incubator at one time. Unfortunately I had two eggs hatch very late, after 45 days, and found two very weak geckos with their yolk sacs still attached. Neither hatchling made it past a week. To make matters worse all the eggs in the incubator with the exception of one went sunken and moldy.
I’ve been trying to figure out why I had the mass egg loss all at the same time and why the eggs that did hatch progressed so slowly. I had made the egg cups exactly as I did the previous year using the GEO’s. I was using the same incubator and I followed my typical setup that I outlined in an earlier article. So I decided to check the temperature fluctuations inside the incubator by placing a digital thermometer in there that will save the highest and lowest temperature that it encounters. I was surprised to find out that over 24 hours there was a 6 degree difference between the highest and lowest temperatures. It went from 82.4 to 88.2 degrees.
I’m not really sure why this would happen since the incubator can both cool and heat which I thought would make it stable almost any place that I put it. Based on what I found out in the temperature test I don’t think that I can really rely on this incubator anymore. I have moved it back where I had it last year, in my kitchen at the center of my house. Right now it’s been between my rack and my Tortoise tub that has a huge mercury vapor bulb on it. Maybe that was part of the problem but I’m not convinced.
It think that the lesson to be learned is twofold. One is that there are no guarantees when working with animals and nature. It’s possible that this is all just a coincidence and I got really unlucky. I tend to think that 8 or so eggs going bad at the same time and having the only two hatchlings suffer from the same issues be a little too coincidental. The second thing is that when it comes to incubation there is no substitute for a quality thermostat.
I know one thing for sure. If I was using a quality proportional thermostat I wouldn’t even be questioning my temps. On/off style thermostats are more than sufficient for racks because a change of a couple of degrees certainly isn’t going to kill your geckos but temperature fluctuations certainly can have very adverse effects on incubation. A proportional thermostat will be a more stable platform because instead of bringing the temperature up and then allowing to fall a certain amount before powering it up again it will increase or decrease the power being used to hold the temperature steady.
So in addition to moving my current incubator to its new location I’m going to build a new incubator using wood or an old mini fridge and a proportional thermostat. It will give me peace of mind and one less thing to worry about. I’d also like to make a second one so that I can have both male and female temps going at once. Hopefully I can change my luck and I won’t lose any more eggs this year.