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In a ‘manual’ incubator, eggs must be turned ‘manually’, meaning you must turn each egg by hand usually around 3-4 times a day.
Automatic incubators will automatically turn the eggs for you. On some automatic machines, you can set the timings of the turns, as well as the duration or angle of the turn. This can be important if you’re incubating specialist birds such as falcons or exotic birds.
Semi-automatic incubators don’t require you to turn each egg by hand, but equally there is no motor to turn them for you either. So, normally semi-automatic machines have a handle or lever that you push and pull to roll or rock all the eggs at the same time. Alternatively, some incubators have specially shaped bases that allow you to tilt the entire machine back and forth.
Please note that ‘manual’ and ‘automatic’, when used in the item name, only refers to the type of 'egg turning'. It does not relate to the humidity control or to any other feature.
Fully automatic incubators feature fully automated egg turning. Once the machine is set-up, egg turning is achieved automatically via a cradle to rock the incubator, or a moving floor. Some fully automatic incubators, such as the Hova-Bator Automatic Incubator (pictured above) include a motorised egg tray which slowly tips the eggs from side to side.
The term 'automatic' is often misinterpreted by new incubator users as meaning full temperature control. To clarify this point it is important to note that all incubators (manual, semi-automatic and fully-automatic) will control temperature automatically. Without this basic function, a machine would cease to become an 'incubator' and would simply be a warm box. In all incubators, temperature is automatically controlled via a digital thermostat, or an analog thermostat. In both cases, the thermostat with fluctuate between its ‘high tolerance’ and ‘low tolerance’. The thermostat will click-on and click-off periodically in order to maintain an average temperature throughout incubation (the process is very similar to how an electric oven works, just at much lower temperatures).
When you first introduce the eggs into the incubator, the temperature will drop as the cooler eggs take a little while to warm up. Once the eggs reach temperature, they will maintain their core heat allowing the incubator to warm up and cool down as necessary, all controlled from the thermostat. This process is the same for all incubators; regardless and completely independent of their egg-turning ability.
During storage, eggs should be turned a minimum of once a day; two or three times per day is much better.
When turning eggs, try to make sure that each egg is turned 45 degrees each way, totalling 90° over the course of a day. Turning the egg during storage ensures the egg's outer membrane does not stick to the shell.
The method you use to turn your eggs is up to you. Some people prefer to turn their eggs manually by hand, whereas some prefer to place their eggs 'pointy side down' in an egg box at an angle, and change the angle of the egg box two or three times a day. However a growing number of people use their egg incubators to turn their eggs before incubation. This can be achieved simply by using removable automatic egg trays, or by placing the eggs in the bottom of a rocking incubator with just the rocking motor on.
If you have an incubator which has either manual or semi-automatic turning, your eggs need to be turned at least 3-4 times a day. Ensure that you always alternate which way you turn them. Always turn them the opposite way to the way you turned them previously.
For automatic turning incubators, they will all have different settings, varying from turning every hour, every 2 hour or every 3 hours. There is not anything to say what is the maximum you can turn your eggs, just that they need to be turned - ideally -at least 3-4 times per day.
Some rare and exotic breeds do have to be turned a specific amount of times or more frequently and is recommended they are turned by a certain amount. Ensure that you do your research beforehand if you're incubating rare or exotic eggs to make sure you know exactly how much they need to be turned and the angle they need to be turned at. This also helps with choosing the right machine.
If your eggs need to be turned at a certain and specific angle you need to use a machine which has this option available, such as the Rcom 10 PRO, Rcom 10 PRO+, Rcom 20 PRO and Rcom 50 PRO. These machines the Pro is that it offers much more tailored turning options. Note: You can also set the machine to turn the eggs from 45° up to 180° at 15° intervals (based on a typical hen-egg size) on the Rcom 20 and 50 PROs’ .
Lastly with larger eggs such as large fowl, it helps to give them an extra turn every day - not from 'side to side' but from 'top to bottom', flipping the egg over.
The 'egg turning interval' as it is called on some incubators - which is how often or how frequently they turn- is up to you. You can have then turn as often as you want, as long as they are being turned at least 3-4 times a day.
The 'egg turning angle' depends on the size of the egg. You will need to experiment with the settings on your incubator to find the correct angle. Some incubators show the angle in seconds (how long it turns for). The smaller the egg, the less time they want to turn for. The larger the egg, the longer they want to turn for. You want the seconds to be set so that the egg turns 180°. TIP: 'the Higher the seconds are, the Longer the turn.'
On machines which have the angle as angles for example on the Rcom 20 and Rcom 50 PRO, you set the angle from 45° up to 180° at 15° intervals (based on a typical hen-egg size). Same as with the settings: the smaller the egg, the more it will turn. If, for example, you have small eggs, in order for them to turn 180°, it may want to be set at a 90° angle. We do recommend that you test this and find the correct angle before setting your eggs.
Some rare and exotic breeds do have to be turned a specific amount of times or more frequently and is recommended they are turned by a certain amount. Ensure you do your research beforehand if you are incubating rare or exotic eggs to make sure you know exactly how much they need to be turned and the angle they need to be turned at. This also helps with choosing the right machine.
Checking the 'egg turning' on incubators is different for every incubator. There are, however, here a few basic points to check which can apply to all automatic turning incubators.
1. First of all check that the 'egg turning' is switched on and check both the turning interval and angle. Not all incubators have a changeable turning angle but if it does and you do not think your eggs are turning, it's always a good idea to increase the turning angle as a test.
TIP: 'The smaller the angle the less the eggs will turn and bigger the angle the more they will turn'. Small eggs like quail require a smaller turning angle, whereas larger eggs such as goose need a bigger turning angle.
2. Check that the eggs are in the tray or carriers correctly and that the egg tray and carriers are in correctly. The manufacturer's instructions should offer further guidance on how your egg tray/carriers should be fitted in the incubator.
3. Ensure that nothing is caught up with or wrapped around the turning motor. It is common - if machines are not cleaned regularly - for feathers and shell to end up caught and trapped within the cog of the turning motor. When this occurs, it can either cause it to fail or cause the cog to jam, stopping it from turning.
4. Make note of where your eggs are and create a marker of their position and return when you believe they should have next turned or just before. Not all incubators have a changeable turning interval such as the River Systems ET Super 12, 24 and 49. If this is the case, we would suggest returning roughly after an hour.
5. On some incubators you can 'force' a turn. This is slightly different for each machine but for most Brinsea incubators you need to press the 'OK' and '–' button at the same time. On the Rcom 10 PRO and PRO+ incubators, you need to press and hold the 'OK' button. For the Rcom 20 & 50 MAX, you press and hold the 'turn' button for 5 seconds. Finally, on the Rcom 20 & 50 PRO incubators, you press and hold the 'Enter' button for 5 seconds. If a 'force turn' works, the chances are that the turning is working, but always be sure to check that the automatic function is switched on.
If you are still having issues, you may want to check out the 'egg turning' questions specific to the brand/model of your machine. These can be found on either: Brinsea technical help, Rcom technical help or River Systems ET technical help.
Please check the following things:
You may want to try a force with and without your eggs in the machine. If the force turning works, then your egg turning will work and your settings may just need tweaking. For example: larger eggs need a larger turning angle in order to turn correctly. Smaller eggs, however, need a smaller turning angle otherwise they will end up doing a full 360 degree turn and it will look like they haven’t turned.