The anticipated day has arrived. Our tortoise eggs have started to hatch. Yesterday we saw several crumbs of the shell on the ground next to one of the eggs. The process will take about three days to complete, but it is great fun to watch the progress.
Each baby has a pipping tooth to break the shell. Once we notice that the shell is pipped we move the egg to a hatching tank.
That tank continues to provide the heat that was used for the incubation period, but it also has a smooth surface for the process to continue. Waxed paper is put under the egg and the egg is stabilized on top of a disc - one of the kids old toys. This prevents the egg from rolling over as the baby is emerging from the egg.
This is twenty four hours after pipping.
Over the next few days we will see just the nostrils from the small hole. It is during this period that the baby tortoise is absorbing the yolk sac which it will live off of for several days. We once had a baby who was way too eager to be free from the egg and ended up "sitting" on top of the yolk for the several days that it took to absorb it. As you can see, and please pardon the blurry photo, his feet did not even reach the ground. It's tough to get around that way! In the photo he also still has some egg membrane stuck to his face.
Gradually the egg will develop cracks throughout. As the baby stretches out, the egg shell falls away. Since there is still a small yolk on the plastron (bottom shell) the wax paper provides an area where the yolk will not stick and rupture which could kill the baby.
Once they are completely free of the egg they do a lot of soaking in shallow water. Their shells are very sensitive to the touch and they "jump" each time they run into each other. They are also very high maintenance during the initial outing period because they climb over everything and end up flipping themselves upside down.
I try to imagine them hatching in the ground. They would have to go through all of the above, make it to the surface and then be prey to every bird flying overhead. I guess we baby ours.
I will keep you updated on the progress.