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Brinsea introduces the Contaq Z6 Contact Incubator

The search for better hatch rates by closer understanding of natural incubation

contact incubationIn recent years the Brinsea research department, in conjunction with scientists and bird breeders have been investigating an incubation technique that more closely mimics the original natural environment known as 'contact incubation' as a viable alternative to current incubation techniques.

This innovative incubation technology could dramatically improve the hatch rates of altricial eggs and also prove invaluable in helping to ensure the success of conservation projects from around the world.

This page aims to explore the theory behind 'Contact Incubation Technology' and also to keep you up to date with the latest news regarding Brinsea's exciting research and development program into this innovative incubation technology.

Encouraging initial results of field trials of Contact Incubation, (C.I.T.)

Following initial in-house trials, ten prototype contact incubators were constructed with the aim of testing the validity of contact incubation (C.I.T.) across a wide range of species at respected breeding centres around the world.

The question to be answered was ‘Does Contact Incubation provide better hatch rates than conventional artificial incubation?’

Selecting eggs for testing

For centuries incubation of eggs was confined almost entirely to commercial poultry and these species have been modified by continual incidental selection to become adapted to the kind of incubation environment to which they were subjected.

Those eggs which hatched were the ones better suited to artificial incubation than those that failed, and so, over generations the species evolved to suit the machines in which they were incubated.

Contact Incubation Technology (CIT) replicates the natural nest and so is likely to be most successful in ‘wild’ species where this natural selection has not taken place. But such species are not artificially bred in large numbers and so field trials are small in scale and less sensitive to the effects under investigation. Nevertheless first results are encouraging.

Field Trials

Trials in the UK were conducted by National Bird of Prey Centre, The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (WWT) at Slimbridge and large scale private raptor breeding centre. Each of these centres artificially incubate significant numbers of large ‘wild’ species and are in an ideal position to make comparisons between the Contact Incubation prototypes and conventional incubators. Full analysis of the data is not yet complete but the initial results from the breeders involved has been very encouraging.

The WWT at Slimbridge performed A/B tests between Contact/Conventional incubation with a sample of 61 Chilean Flamingo eggs. They artificially incubated eggs before introducing them back to the parents when the eggs pipped.

81% of eggs incubated by contact hatched successfully against 66% in conventional machines.The proportion of chicks dying during hatch in the nest was also smaller for those eggs incubated by contact – 15% compared to 20% with conventionally incubated eggs. This suggests that the chicks incubated in the Contact Incubator were stronger than those from the conventional incubator.

These results support the idea that eggs hatch better when incubated by contact (C.I.T.) – further results and feedback from other test sites will follow.

Related research

The Contact Z6 incubator is the product of a number of years of development and endless comparative field trials. However, a constant source of inspiration has been the painstaking scientific research undertaken over the years into certain key aspects of natural egg incubation. In particular, the work of Dr. J Scott Turner of NY State University has provided a remarkable insight into the differences between conventional (convective) egg incubation and the natural, conductive process. His paper ‘The thermal energetics of incubated bird eggs’ follows a detailed study with the conclusion: “..the thermal physiology of the contact incubated egg is radically different from the convectively incubated egg. Trying to understand how contact incubation works, either as an analogy with convectively incubated eggs, or by simplifying the problem excessively, has not proved fruitful. The process of contact incubation is complex, and understanding it requires an approach which recognizes this complexity.”

For more information and reprints of Turner’s work, go to:

Interaction of Contact Incubation and egg turning

Conservation by Contact - A new approach using artificial contact incubation
Frank Pearce

Importance of temperature and egg postion for contact incubation of eggs of the red-legged partrridge


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Conservation by

Temperature and
egg position

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