Incubation & Hatching

There are two systems of incubation. Natural incubation and artificial incubation.

  A farmer holding egg holding trays in an incubator

A farmer holding egg holding trays in an incubator

Natural incubation

The eggs are incubated by the females by day and by the male by night this uses the coloration of the two sexes to escape detection of the nest, as the drab female blends in with the sand, while the black male is nearly undetectable in the night.The incubation period is 42 days. . However under Natural hatching an ostrich has a capacity of covering effectively 20 eggs. Therefore extra eggs are likely to be wasted if it is allowed to incubate without controlled management.  The male will defend the hatchlings, and teach them how and on what to feed. The female cleans the area to prevent the young ones from eating indigestible materials like stones. These materials cause impaction and sudden death of chicks. The survival rate is low for the eggs with an average of one per nest surviving. Predators are mainly hyenas, jackals, and vultures.            

Artificial incubation

Candle the eggs to identify the air sac and place the eggs with the air sac side facing up. The bulb used should be 250 watts due to the thickness of the egg shell. The eggs are placed in an incubator under controlled temperature of 36degree Celsius and regulated humidity of 35%-50%.

Some incubators will turn the eggs automatically to an angle of 45 degrees. This could also be done manually. Turning the eggs should be twice daily at an angle of 45 degrees. 

Two month old birds

Two month old birds


  1. Hatching starts after 42 days.
  2. Egg shells for birds supplemented with calcium are thick and hard. 
  3. After12hours shells of unhatched eggs are perforated to assist chicks to hatch.


  1. After hatching the chicks are kept warm for two months at regulated temperatures .Infra red bulbs can be used. The stocking density for brooding chicks is 60 chicks per 25 sq.m
  2. At three months the heat should be reduced till the chicks are four months old.
  3. At four months birds are then moved to the open paddock without shade to scavenge.

Sexing of birds

At 14 months sexing of the birds can be accurately done. At this age the colours become distinct. The males’ feathers become black and white while the hens feathers become greyish.The males and the females are separated at this age.


Culling criteria

  • Due to deformities.
  • Old or unproductive age, females are culled at 17 years.
  •  males with weak back

Factors affecting hatchability of eggs

 Hatching of eggs is affected by several factors.

  • Age of breeding birds.  Young birds Eggs lay fewer eggs with low fertility. This increases with subsequent seasons reaching their potential in the third lay.  After 17 years of age, the production of females’ declines.
  • Herd ratioHigh number of female against males is likely to result into birds laying infertile eggs. Ideally one male should serve 3 females.
  • Nutrition of the female. Nutritional deficiencies especially calcium leads to birds laying eggs with weak shells. Such a shell is porous allowing penetration of microorganisms that kill the embryo. Therefore Calcium supplementation is recommend for laying birds.
  • Poor handling of eggs. Contact between the collector body and the eggs may lead to embryo   mortality due to contamination. During transportation care should be taken to avoid excessive shaking of the eggs.
  • Worm infestation. The Tape worms are the most common in ostriches due to their feeding habits. The worms compete with the birds for the essential nutrients.