Changes in the air cell volume of artificially incubated ostrich eggs
A total of 2160 images of candled, incubated ostrich eggs were digitized to determine the percentage of egg volume occupied by the air cell at different stages of incubation. The air cell on average occupied 2.5% of the volume of fresh eggs. For eggs that hatched successfully, this volume increased to an average of 24.4% at 41 days of incubation, just prior to hatching. Air cell volume at 29 days of incubation for infertile eggs (19.3%) was significantly higher when compared to dead-in-shell (DIS) eggs (14.3%) and eggs that hatched (13.8%). There was a significantly larger air cell volume in eggs that hatched normally compared with DIS eggs at 41 days of incubation (28.3% vs. 21.7%, respectively). No differences in air cell volume were observed up to day 17 of incubation for eggs that hatched normally between eggs that exhibited high, average or low rates of water loss, but from 20 days of incubation the air cell volume was significantly larger for high weight loss eggs. However, for the DIS eggs, air cell volume was consistently larger in eggs that exhibited high rates of water loss. Air cell volume was largely independent of adult strain (SA Black or Zimbabwean Blue) or whether chicks were assisted to hatch. Although some subtle differences in air cell size were detected between hatched and DIS chicks during this study, it is unlikely to find useful application in the broader industry.
Keywords: Water loss, artificial incubation, fertility, dead-in-shell, hatch, genotype