Many individuals have contacted me searching for an easy incubation method that successfully incubates and hatches juveniles. Outlined below is the method I use which achieves, on average, a 95% hatch rate.
There is no need to spend a fortune on an incubator and in most cases, a simple still air Hovabator, which is available for under $50, is a straightforward and easy incubator to use. I have used the Hovabator for some years now with no issues or complaints. The Zoo Med ReptiBator is a much-needed upgrade to the Hovabator that uses the same concept with a controller and probe combination to control heat. The ReptiBator can be found for under $120
It is best to keep your incubator in a cold room to achieve an adequate temperate that has little fluctuation. In summer months an air conditioned room set at an ambient of about 70°F (21°Celsius) will be sufficient to enable a set incubation temperature of between 80° to 84°F (27° to 29°Celsius) inside the incubating unit. It is important to remember that an increase in the ambient room temperature will affect your incubation temperature if it is a severe temperature increase.
Next step is to purchase various cheap airtight plastic containers (deli-cups) from your local supermarket or reptile supply company. They must be air tight. Sterilize the containers with F10, Chlorhexidine or by placing in the freezer. Very accurately mix 1 cup (250 ml) of vermiculite with .84 fluid ounces (25 ml) of water (applicable to soft shelled egg layers) and mix thoroughly to cover the vermiculite with moisture. Finally, fill your airtight plastic containers, so they are about half full with the above mix. Seal the containers with their lids and place into your incubator.
It is imperative to note that if your incubators internal temperature is 82°F (28°Celsius) that the temperature inside your air tight containers will in most cases be -0.5 to -1.0° cooler. I find by incubating at this temperature, that the airtight container temperature is closer to 81.5°F (27.5° Celsius).
Where possible avoid producing at temperatures higher than 30° Celsius as the chances of speeding up the incubation period can cause some weak juveniles or premature deaths by the developing embryos within the egg.
It is imperative that you get accustomed to gravid females and make sure the laying material or nest boxes within the enclosures has a slightly moist substrate or medium. I try to collect all eggs within the first 24 hours of being laid and mark the eggs with a small line indicating the orientation they were laid and place them on top of the incubating medium within the airtight containers. The marking of the eggs is crucial as moving or bumping the eggs during incubation can damage or kill the developing embryo within the egg.
After placing the eggs in the incubator, there should be no further need to open the containers until hatching has occurred. Depending on the species and incubating temperatures the fertile eggs should hatch within a 50–90 day period. Hatching is present by the sweating of the eggs which is the formation of droplets of moisture on the exterior of the egg.
Infertile eggs or eggs where the juveniles have died tend to cave in or become invaded by mold. However, some eggs will still be covered by mold but still hatch successfully. Eggs which have caved in or shriveled up tend to be of no further use, particularly in the first month of incubation. Discard the dead eggs.
I keep new hatchlings within the incubator for about 24 hrs after hatching and then transfer them to a nursery enclosure. Make sure you check the unhatched eggs in the air tight containers to see that no they were not disturbed due to the newly hatched juvenile’s movements. All line marked eggs are facing upwards, so the line is visible.