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Why Do Birds Turn Their Eggs?

5-31-19 C. goose turning eggs 1B0A8783It’s common knowledge that birds periodically turn their eggs when they are incubating them, but have you ever stopped to ask why they do this. One assumes that if this action weren’t critical to the incubation process, it wouldn’t be practiced, and science bears this out. According to Audubon, birds turn their eggs to make sure the embryo gets enough albumen – the white part of the egg that contains water and protein and provides essential nutrients to the developing embryo. Too little albumen leads to an underdeveloped and often sickly chick. (Photo: Canada Goose turning eggs)

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7 responses

  1. Dave Gott

    Hi Mary – I love your posts!!!!!

    Do we know why turning the eggs produces more albumen? More access to the body heat of the sitting adult bird? Some sunlight?

    I could do some digging myself, but perhaps you already know.

    Dave

    On Wed, Jun 5, 2019 at 7:20 AM Naturally Curious with Mary Holland wrote:

    > Mary Holland posted: “It’s common knowledge that birds periodically turn > their eggs when they are incubating them, but have you ever stopped to ask > why they do this. One assumes that if this action weren’t critical to the > incubation process, it wouldn’t be practiced, and scie” >

    June 5, 2019 at 7:46 am

    • Hi Dave, Great question. All I know is that a lack of egg turning can retard the utilization of albumen by the embryo, resulting in abnormal chick development and reduced hatching success. I’m not sure exactly how it works — I assumed it had to do with different angles increasing exposure of the embryo to the albumen, but I am far from certain about this.

      June 5, 2019 at 8:07 am

  2. Kathie Fiveash

    I learned, in my experience in the classroom incubating chicken eggs, that the yolk is the heaviest part of the egg, and if you don’t turn the eggs, the yolk can sink and adhere to the inner membrane of the shell, causing deformity of the developing chick or difficulty hatching. We turned our incubating eggs to prevent this from happening. But maybe that was not true?

    June 5, 2019 at 10:51 am

    • That makes total sense, Kathie. Maybe both are factors?

      June 5, 2019 at 11:16 am

  3. Alice Pratt

    It’s amazing that a brand new, first time bird mother, would instinctually ‘know’ to turn the eggs, how would their bird Moms have taught them that.

    June 5, 2019 at 12:26 pm

    • Totally instinctive, Alice!

      June 5, 2019 at 4:44 pm

      • Alice Pratt

        We live among totally amazing creatures, on our Earth! 🥰

        June 5, 2019 at 6:03 pm

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