Guide to Incubators


There are incubators out there that will incubate as many as 1400 eggs or more at one time. Those are way beyond what will be discussed here. The incubators I am familiar with are the ones normally used for small properties and backyard chook lovers! The most these incubators hold would be 60 eggs or under.
There are a two basic types of these incubators on the market:
  • Still Air- These have no air circulating within the incubator.

  • Moving air- The air inside the incubator is circulated by a fan which greatly helps to keep temperature even throughout the incubator.

The fan assisted incubators run a few degrees cooler than the still air type and are more reliable in that the temperature is more stable throughout the incubator. This fact alone will increase your chances of a good hatch considerably.
The other thing to consider, is whether the incubator is auto turn or manual.
  • Auto turn simply means that there is a  mechanical device inside which cradles the eggs and turns them automatically. If you were to stare at the eggs expecting to see this action it would be quite awhile before you noticed the movement. However, looking, then going away for 15 minutes or so then come back; you would notice the eggs are in a different position. When it comes to hatching time the eggs must be removed from the cradle and placed back in the incubator to hatch.

  • Manual turn means just that; you have to turn the eggs by hand twice daily. Actually – there is a rising belief that three times a day is better.

I have had many ask me, “Which incubator is better - Auto turn or Manual turn?” Well, that is not an easy question to answer. It really depends on you!
Some of the least expensive incubators (usually made of Plastic or Styrofoam) are just as adept at hatching eggs as the newest fandangle machine you can buy. Our fist incubator was an old Styrofoam cooler we had lying around. Two light bulbs for heat and a plastic container for water. Growing up, my Dad used a wooden incubator he had made. Worked like a charm!
The more bells and whistles the incubator has, the less time you will spend tending to the eggs. There are incubators that will turn your precious cargo automatically. Some will even stop turning on the 18th day. Automatic temp control and some at least come with a hygrometer to measure Relative Humidity for you. So, all things considered, these are, to some extent, almost set and forget.
With a simple manual turn incubator you have the opportunity to get to know your developing chicks on a much more personal level. You are going to take the place of Mother hen – it will be up to the you to see that the eggs are warm enough but not too hot, that they get turned as needed, and moisture / Relative Humidity is within limits. And this is for 21 days straight. There are a few with some upgrades that do make things easier. That's why we use the one we advertise here.
Whether manual or auto - the eggs should be candled at certain times so there is still a few things that you will need to do. You will also have to check and recheck to make sure Temp and Humidity are correct, too. These things you do not want to leave to chance.
What is important, I believe, is that your incubator be able to maintain Heat and Humidity, be easy to work with, and doesn't crowd your budget too much.  A good question to ask would be whether you just want to incubate a few eggs now and then or whether are you going to do more. It's often much cheaper to go at least a step above what will suffice now and have a better quality machine than have to buy a second one because you have outgrown the first.
Take the time and do a bit of research - get the best you can afford the first time - At least that way, if you should decide to not use it anymore, it will be much easier to sell!
So, which incubator is right for you? If you do not want to spend time with the developing chicks, then maybe an auto turn is best. Don't mind or want to spend more time with the hatching process? Then a manual machine would fit your needs.
When it comes down to it, incubating eggs is incubating eggs. Your new chicks will not be affected in any way by the type of incubator you choose nor will they be impressed by how much you paid for it.

Most importantly - Have Fun!!