5. Choosing the right Egg Incubator
An egg incubator is a machine that artificially provides an egg with the correct environmental conditions to successful grow and hatch a chick.
When purchasing an egg incubator
or egg incubation
equipment it is always recommended to purchase the absolute best you can afford. There are many egg incubators for sale on the market so it is very important to conduct a little research before deciding on an incubator. Many people choose to borrow an egg incubator from a friend before they purchase; so they can try hatching eggs and begin to understand the egg incubation process.
When searching for suppliers of egg incubation equipment, check on the support available and the after-sales service offered. Cheap egg incubators are often supplied with little to no after-sales support so be sure to purchase your egg incubator from a reputable incubator shop
Still air or fan-assisted?
Egg incubators can be still air or fan assisted (also known as "forced air"). In still air egg incubators, air circulates by convection; as the warm air rises in the incubator, it displaces colder air. This cycle creates natural air circulation. However, in still air egg incubators, it can be much harder to establish the correct incubation and hatching temperature. This is due to the fact that some parts of a still air incubator are cooler than others. If the incubating eggs are on more than one level, a still air egg incubator can produce poorer hatch rates.
The alternative to still air egg incubators is fan-assisted, or forced-air, egg incubators; in which the air is forced over the eggs and throughout the incubator by means of a fan. Fan-assisted egg incubators are becoming increasingly popular due to their increased chances of success. Larger, cabinet incubators
need to be fan-assisted due to the volume of warm air needed inside the egg chamber.
There are three main types of egg incubator available on the market;
Manual Egg Incubators
are simply a heated box controlled with a thermostat. Eggs need to be turned individually by hand. For people looking for cheap egg incubators, manual egg incubators are often a popular choice; homemade egg incubators
are often manual.
Semi-automatic egg incubators
do not require eggs to be individually turned; instead, the whole batch of hatching eggs is turned at the same time by an external control or lever. The turning method on semi-automatic egg incubators
differs from model to model.
Full automatic incubators
will automatically turn the eggs throughout the day. The way in which the eggs are turned varies from model to model, however the most popular methods are via a moving floor; or by sitting the egg incubator
in a turning cradle
, the machine is then electronically tilted from side to side.
Temperature and Humidity Control
In modern incubators, the heating element is almost always powered electrically through a standard rated electricity supply. The incubator’s thermostat plays a key role in ensuring the correct incubation temperature is present throughout the incubation period. Modern, electronic thermostats are much more accurate than their traditional counterparts; such as the “wafer thermostat”
. The main benefit of digital thermostats is their acute sensitivity to temperature fluctuations; they are able to respond instantly to environmental changes, turning heat on or off as necessary.
An accurate and easy to read thermometer is also an incubation necessity. Today’s thermometers are either liquid in glass
or digital. Many people have individual preferences to their chosen thermometers; however with both types it is vital that the thermometer’s probe is as close to the eggs as possible. This will give the most accurate estimate of the temperature inside the incubating egg. Some still-air incubators may have cold patches inside the egg chamber so be sure to think carefully about the positioning of the thermometer. It is always highly recommended to follow manufacturer’s instructions wherever possible.
Many incubators control humidity using a simple water reservoir in the base of the egg chamber; such reservoirs are topped up manually as many times as is advised by the manufacturer. Other machines use a humidity block or pad
that need to be kept moist throughout the incubation period. When topping up an incubator’s water levels, it is important that the water is not too cold; this can result in a dramatic temperature reduction within the egg chamber. Similarly, it is just as important that the water is not too hot. Try where possible to ensure that the water is around 37.5°C.
Of course, some modern incubators are fitted with highly accurate digital humidity pumps. These take human guesswork away from incubation, leading to much more accurate humidity levels. This level of accuracy, although desirable, is not vital to successful egg incubation.