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Poultry Incubator Guide

This guide is to help you with choosing the right kind of incubator. With hundreds of incubators on the market, some for hatching less than half a dozen eggs, to huge industrial units that can hatch enormous numbers on a commercial scale. These can cater for a backyard chicken keeper or bigger poultry operations. This guide is to to help you understand some of the  different types of incubators available.

Price of incubators, and what it comes down to


Basically if money is tight, chances are you are looking at getting a very basic  Styrofoam model, like the Hova-bator. These hold about 60 eggs, which is probably more than most backyard chicken keepers will need to set. You can buy a standard model for under £100, however, these cheaper incubators have manual temperature control, manual turning and manual control of humidity. But if you are willing to put the time and effort in, and follow the product instructions carefully,  this type of incubator can be very efficient. These incubators are usually bought by first time hobbyists, and the hova-bator was the very first incubator I brought. I read and followed the instructions carefully, and kept a constant eye on the temperature, and humidity levels. I had many excellent hatch rates, but I did find that manually turning the eggs, at least 3 times daily, was hard going. Of course you can be very successful with these cheaper incubators, but you must be prepared and understand how much time and effort it takes to get those results.

Still Air or Forced Air Incubators

The only difference between still air, and forced air incubators,  is simply a fan. In the forced air incubator, a fan circulates the air around the incubator, thereby keeping the temperature constant in all parts of the incubator. The temperature can be measured anywhere within the airflow. In a still air incubator, there is no fan and the heat forms layers inside the incubator, making the temperature different between the top and bottom of the incubator.

Temperature should be monitored at the top of the hatching eggs, with a correction made to this according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Minor Upgrades to the Basic Incubator

The first upgrade I made to my Hova-bator was to purchase an automatic egg turner. This made the whole incubation process much less hard work on my part, as I know longer needed to turn the eggs by hand. If you wanted to avoid hot and cold spots that you get with a still air incubator, there is the option to add a fan. The fan circulates the heat so that the temperature can be measured anywhere in the incubator. However temperature and humidity control are still manual on these incubators.

Fully Automatic Incubator

With a fully automatic incubation, you can simply set your eggs and let the unit get on with things. These incubators control the temperature with no input from you. Some of the more expensive ones control humidity as well, while others at least provide a built-in hygrometer (an instrument that measures humidity) so you can more easily monitor what is going on. Automatic incubators will turn the eggs on their own and count down to hatch day and automatically stop turning on day 18. Obviously these are more expensive but if you are going to be hatching lots of eggs then it will be a good investment.

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