Successful hatching of peafowl eggs in incubator offers new hope for abandoned eggs

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Indian peafowl eggs, for the first time in the country, have been successfully hatched in an incubator. The artificial homemade incubator was set up at the Ela Transit treatment center, a joint venture of Maharashtra’s forest department and Ela Foundation — an NGO engaged in nature conservation.

“The peafowl chicks are now three weeks old and this offers new hope for abandoned eggs,” said Dr Satish Pande who is the Director of Ela Transit treatment centre at Pingori — a village around 66 kms away from Pune. Dr Pande said that there were no previously published Indian reports about this technique of hatching peafowl eggs.

The peafowl chicks are nidifugus (leaving the nest soon after hatching) and start eating on their own. They need fortified diet supplements for bone and feather growth. The incubator-born peafowl chicks are growing well at the center and will soon be rewilded in their natural habitat, Dr Pande said.

Peahens are very cautious during the breeding season. They lay eggs on the ground at farm bunds or conceal them in thorny vegetation. If they are found by humans or if the hens get disturbed, the peahens abandon the eggs. Since it is a Schedule 1 bird under WLP Act 1972, handling of its eggs is prohibited.

Despite that, people rescue the eggs out of sympathy and keep them under chicken for warmth in order to assist hatching. In such cases, however, due to mismatch in the size of the small brood patch of the poultry chicken and larger size of peahen eggs, the eggs most often than not, fail to hatch.

In this scenario, the Ela Foundation experts have succeeded in finding a way to hatch peafowl eggs in an artificial homemade incubator at their centre.

“We are glad that four peafowl eggs hatched with 100% success. This has happened for the first time in India and it paves the path for the survival of abandoned peafowl eggs or any other avian eggs that would otherwise be doomed,” Dr Pande said.

“Apart from human disturbance, the ground laid peafowl eggs also face threats from grazing cattle, stray dogs, civets, mongooses, foxes, jackals, wolves, raptors and other predatory birds. Some eggs survive since they are laid by peafowls in large clutches of up to seven,” Dr Pande explained.

“The surviving eggs can be quickly rescued and kept for artificial incubation in our authorised center. Timing is crucial, and the eggs should be rescued within a few hours and kept in an incubator for better hatching success. Maintaining the correct temperature and humidity along with frequent turning of the eggs is required. We can guide other Forest Department approved centers for helping the peafowl eggs to hatch,” he added.

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