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Published: 21/07/2014

Which Incubator is Best?

Deciding what incubator to buy can be daunting. There are, after all, a vast amount of egg incubators now available, and many of them offer virtually identical benefits. Research is critical, and hopefully this post will show you the key areas to decide on when buying an incubator.

 

1. How many eggs?

The first thing to decide when choosing which incubator to buy is the egg capacity of the machine. Incubator capacities are usually measured by comparing how many chicken eggs it will hold. The incubators for sale at The Incubator Shop can range between 7 and 576 hen egg capacity, so by deciding on the amount of eggs you wish to hatch, you can quickly narrow down that choice.

To work out the egg capacity you require, you need to be honest with how many hens you wish to have. There is no way to control the sex of the chicks so you must expect a 50:50 ratio of male and female chicks to hatch. Additionally, regardless of the fantastic technology of egg incubators today, you cannot expect a 100% hatch rate and it is much safer to assume a 50-80% hatch rate. Therefore, if you wish to hatch and raise ten hens, the maths is as follows:

[25 eggs] x [Hatch rate of approx. 80%] x [Hen to Cockerel ratio of 50:50] = 10 hen chicks.

Obviously, these results can vary depending on the fertility of your eggs and other external factors.


2. Egg Turning Requirements

All poultry incubators &  exotic bird incubators require eggs to be turned a minimum of three times every day throughout incubation, excluding the final three days known as the hatching period. When deciding which egg incubator is best for you, one of the key decisions you will need to make is on the egg turning method. All egg incubators can be divided into three categories; manual egg turning, semi-automatic and fully automatic incubators.

Manual Egg Turning

Manual egg turning incubators are the simplest machines on the market and require the user to lift the lid of the incubator and turn the eggs by hand. When doing this, it is best practice to mark the eggs with a pencil to ensure you know how you have moved them. The method of turning eggs is not an exact science and there is no need to turn them in a particular way. The important thing is that the egg has moved enough to ensure that the contents of the egg have shifted in some way. Do not worry about lifting the lid of the incubator as the turning only takes a minute or so.

Benefits of Manual Turning Incubators Drawbacks of Manual Turn Incubators
A more hands-on approach can be very enjoyable It can be time consuming.
You are more likely to notice any breaks or cracks early You need to be nearby the incubator at least three times per day.
Manual incubators are often cheaper Manual turning egg incubators are usually limited in size.


Semi-Automatic Egg Turning

Semi-Automatic incubators make the process of egg turning much simpler. Instead of lifting the lid and turning each egg by hand, all the eggs are turned at the same time with the push or pull of a rod, or by moving the whole incubator.

There are two main methods of egg turning in semi-automatic incubators. A moving floor controled by an external rod (see the ET Incubators or Corti Incubators), or the full incubator is turned onto its side (see the Brinsea Octagon incubators).

Fully Automatic Egg Turning

A fully automatic incubator performs exactly as it sounds: eggs are turned by the incubator completely automatically with no work required by the user.

The benefits of fully automatic incubation is that once the machine is set up, there is very little else the user needs to do over the course of the incubation period. Some of the most advanced incubators are also programmed to stop egg turning in time for the hatching period, but for most fully automatic incubators it is up to the user to disconnect the turning motor for the last three days of incubation. This is usually a five minute excersize and very easy to do.

Fully automatic egg incubators are usually more expensive than other incubators but they will save you significant time and work over the lifespan of the machine.


3. Final things to consider

If you're still not sure which is the best incubator to buy there are a few final things to consider. Namely the price you want to spend, the brand you prefer and any extra features you would like.

Price

These days, price is very important to the decision making process. But as the old saying goes... "you get what you pay for!

The egg incubator market is now more competitive than ever and its easy to make the mistake of buying a cheap, imported incubator from the far east, and expecting it to work to the standard you expect. Proceed with extreme caution when buying cheap incubators from uncompleted and amature websites as well as price-cutting sites such as eBay and Amazon. Not only will these machines fail to hatch any eggs, many are not fit for the UK market and risk serious danger to the users. The incubator's for sale at The Incubator Shop start at £69.95 and anything that can be found cheaper online is likely to be inferior and potentially dangerous.

Brand

The brand of incubator you choose is very important when it comes to repairs or replacement parts as well as support and advice. Generally it is best practice to look for recommendations when it comes to brand. If your friend uses a Brinsea incubator, for example, and enjoys a good hatch rate from it, it is a good bet that you will too. Of course, feel free to contact us at The Incubator Shop for our recommendations too.

Generally, the brands of incubators are easily recognisable by the machine's colours. Brinsea incubators are typically yellow and black, Corti are typically blue and ET incubators are green and red. Brinsea are made in the UK in Somerset, whereas Corti and ET incubators are produced in Italy. The HovaBator incubators are typically white in colour and produced in the USA. In the upcoming blog posts we will go into more detail on the incubator brands and their histories.

Extra Features

Many incubators offer an array of different features but the most common feature people require is that of humidity control. If you're wondering what is the best chicken egg incubator on the market today, it is unlikely that it needs to have such finite humidity controls. All incubators come equipt with water trays and vents from which you can change the humidity, it is only the very advanced incubators such as the Brinsea Octagon 20 Advance EX that offer precise humidity control. It is important to remember that, although accurate humidity control helps, it is by no means essential and may cause unnecessary complication to your decision making.

As for other additional features, some machines may offer several different egg trays, anti-microbial plastics as well as species selectors and 'cooling options'. All these features can be fantastic but it is important to put them into perspective. If your budget will allow it, upgrading to these extra features is recommended, but take care to remember the basics first as these features are quite often not the deciding factors of a successful hatch!


Hopefully this article has helped you to make those crucial incubator-buying decisions. But if you still have questions, pop them in the comments box below and we'll do our best to help you.

Best of luck and Happy Hatching!

Michael White

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