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  1. #1
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    Unhappy Incubator Help - Something is wrong and we don't know what is causing it!!

    I posted last year around this time with sad news about a clutch who hatched with shark mouth, and here we are again... We just had a clutch who again were almost entirely deformed with shark mouth and/or kinks. At least this time they all passed in their egg, but obviously we're still upset by it. I apologize in advance for what a huge post this will be, but I just want to do my best to give a clear picture of what's been happening. If you take the time to read this, I appreciate you so much!!

    Just to loop you in on what happened last year... We got a new incubator (this is the model here) and the second clutch that hatched from it were all deformed save for one baby. We have been breeding ball pythons for about ten years. Previous to this, we had used mini fridge incubators with no problems. We posted here for advice when the deformed clutch hatched, and it was suggested that we were incubating too high (we incubated at 90F as we had with our last incubators, but it was suggested that this may be too high for the new incubator once the eggs began producing heat) as we could find no other cause of a temperature fluctuation. We have since incubated at 88F, but we still had a worry that something was off because we found that almost every clutch, we had an egg (and once two eggs) go bad during incubation, and ONE clutch had a baby pass in the egg who did have shark mouth (though we assumed they had just passed at a later stage of incubation so was just not fully developed). This rarely ever happened to us before, but because we don't breed many clutches (usually just 2 or 4 a year. This was our first year with 5 clutches), we thought perhaps it was a run of bad luck.

    It happened again though. Only one baby is normal. The parents of this clutch and the parents of the last clutch were different, though the father of the last clutch and this clutch are from the same line, however we're disinclined to think it is anything genetic because of the timing and unusually high amount of eggs going bad during incubation. We are at the end of our rope and so worried that the incubator we got has something wrong with it, but we can't figure out what it could be... Has anyone else used a similar incubator and encountered any problems? I will outline before what we have tested (and what we are doing) as well as our only theories...

    What We've Done:
    • Incubated in bins with press n seal to help keep in humidity (our first clutch started to dimple two weeks in, so we started using press n seal and the eggs were fine. We previously didn't need press n seal with our mini fridge incubators)
    • We use the same pearlite/light diffuser set up as you would find in pinned in the egg tub topic on this site, though our bins do not have locks (they are the kind you see in the link posted above to the incubator we bought)
    • Incubator is set to 87.1. This is because of after extensive testing using two different temperature probes (both of which we tested for accuracy), we found that the temps inside the egg boxes ALWAYS read 1-2F higher than the setting on the thermostat
    • When checking the temps inside the egg box with a digital temp probe: Temps were around 88 during most of incubation (they would sometimes fluctuate a bit over the day... say 88.3 to 88.8) and read in the low 90F (not in the low 90s, but I mean like 90.2F, 90.3F) a little over a week before we expected the eggs to begin pipping. (my partner actually put the probe right in the centre of where the eggs are to ensure he was getting a close reading on them). We didn't have these probes in all the time, we only checked periodically throughout development (when eggs were put in, halfway through, and around day 50). When checking, the egg box was only outside the incubator for under a minute when we inserted and removed the probe, and our home is very warm. The incubator thermostat only read a very small drop (less than than 1F) at this time.


    Points of note/thoughts we've had:
    • This clutch hatched at almost the exact same time as the bum one did last year. We would assume the change of season has something to do with it but it doesn't seem to explain why eggs would be going bad at a weirdly high rate throughout the year in other clutches, and whenever we checked on the incubator, we didn't see any spikes/drops.
    • The incubator door is glass. In our climate (we are in the PNW) we find glass does not work well, but as all our probe readings seem consistent, we assume it is working. A boyfriend had a thought that perhaps even though the temps are stable, maybe the heat tape is working overtime, and that creates warm spots, but he has since tested this by putting a temp probe in different parts of an egg box, and the temperature is stable throughout.
    • The incubator door is just a sliding glass door with no insulation between the cracks. This is much less insulated than the mini fridges that we're used to, but again, as temp readings have been consistent, we wouldn't think it would be an issue?
    • Does the incubator have issues?? While testing, we notice that temperatures are different on different shelves. Is this normal in a larger incubator? The temps vary only about 1.5F, except the bottom shelf is 5F cooler (it will never be used because of this). As a note, we have still never had more than two clutches in there at once at this time, and we have always had them on the middle rack.


    What we're going to be doing:
    • I ordered a SensorPush wireless thermometer so I can track the temperatures with more accuracy throughout the day (rather than having to go to the incubator and see what the reading is) in case we are somehow missing some spikes or trends that we don't see from our quick checks. Should be arriving tomorrow.
    • I ordered some felt tape to try and create some insulation between the small opening between the sliding glass doors. I was expecting it to arrive today, but guess it will be here tomorrow (hopefully!)


    If anyone has any thoughts or experiences with an incubator like this, please let us know. We are so torn up about this... We got this incubator because it seemed like it would be something professional and reliable (it is the same kind as used at Mutation Creation, and we get our enclosures from the same place and love them) but we find ourselves wishing we had stuck to mini fridges.

    In the meanwhile too, does anyone have any suggestions on an emergency incubator we could use if another female lays? We don't have anyone due near as we can tell, but we've been surprised a few times before by females going at unexpected times, and we're so worried this will happen again and we'll have to use the incubator again without knowing what's wrong...

    Thank you again for reading all of this. The advice given out here is always so appreciated. I really need to start posting more when we AREN'T having a crisis!!

  2. #2
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    Re: Incubator Help - Something is wrong and we don't know what is causing it!!

    Was this clutch of eggs from the same parents as last years clutch?

    I have a theory that a lot of kinks and still births are the result of borderline vitamin deficiencies in the parents. This was after I lost a female Burmese python and her whole known fertile clutch of eggs because her food items had had the liver removed. Liver is the major vit A repository.

    I suggest putting a drop of a good cage bird liquid multivitamin in the belly of a dead rodent before feeding it to the breeders, once a month. I suggest a cage bird vitamin because birds use Vit D3, as do snakes, and human vitamins have D2, which is not as good. Ball pythons should get plenty of calcium from rodent bones.

    For what it's worth, I use Avitron, from Lambert-Kaye, simply because the local pet shop had it on their shelves. I have never given this stuff to ball pythons, because I don't keep ball pythons. But I have given it to half a dozen corn snakes without obvious ill effects. Good luck.

  3. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to paulh For This Useful Post:

    Bogertophis (Yesterday),Gemini Pythons (11-26-2020)

  4. #3
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    Re: Incubator Help - Something is wrong and we don't know what is causing it!!

    Quote Originally Posted by paulh View Post
    Was this clutch of eggs from the same parents as last years clutch?
    It is not. But I can give more info on the parents: The males are of the same line, but the females are both entirely different lines from different breeders. I'm disinclined to think it is the males as one of the males has produced a few healthy clutches for us before. All of them are mature (the mothers of the two clutches are 7 and 8, and fathers are 7 and 3) and we never breed our snakes unless they have gained at least 100g from the weight they were at the previous season (many of our females get a year off in between while we wait for this, and we never overfeed to speed up weight gain)

    That is very interesting about your vitamin theory! Unfortunately though, these problems didn't begin until we got a new incubator last year, and there has been no change in feed or our supplier. I appreciate the information about vitamins and what you use though! I always love new info and ideas :-)

  5. #4
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    Double-check the perlite to make sure it's not the kind with added fertilizer. I think that can cause issues like you're describing.

  6. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to bcr229 For This Useful Post:

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  7. #5
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    Re: Incubator Help - Something is wrong and we don't know what is causing it!!

    Quote Originally Posted by bcr229 View Post
    Double-check the perlite to make sure it's not the kind with added fertilizer. I think that can cause issues like you're describing.
    Thank you for the tip, but unfortunately that isn't it. We use the Hatchrite brand perlite, not the kind from a gardening or home shop where there could be fertilizer. I appreciate the response though! :-)

  8. #6
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    Re: Incubator Help - Something is wrong and we don't know what is causing it!!

    Did you all ever figure out what was causing your issues?

  9. #7
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    Haven't bred/incubated yet (just to clarify my experience), but only thing that kinda stands out or maybe missed- where are you keeping your probe for temps? The stickied topic mentions having a dummy tub setup and adjust thermostat off of that and leaving it in play for keeping temps. If temp is only being tracked outside of tubs that could be an issue maybe?

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