Best Incubator: Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

Best Incubator: Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

On our farm we’ve hatched a lot of eggs, and now know the best incubator will track both the temperature and humidity. But that’s not all there is to discovering the perfect incubator to hatch chicks. There are various types of chicken egg incubators for sale out there that range from basic to fully automatic.

 

Choosing the best incubator for your particular situation and budget is an important step to ensure a successful hatch.

 

In this article, you’ll learn about the available products on the market, and possibly discover the best incubator for your flock. You’ll also find basic tips to successfully hatch tiny quail eggs to chicken eggs to large goose and duck eggs.

 

What’s the best incubator to buy?

These are our choices for the best incubators for small, medium and large hatch sizes:

Best incubator for chicken eggs rated by size

Small – as a beginner, it’s worth starting with smaller units. They’re budget friendly and hatch just a few eggs. Nothing is worse than an unsuccessful hatch where you need to throw out 50+ half-developed chicken eggs. When starting, most people only need a single small incubator which holds 7 eggs. This is our pick: Brinsea Mini Advance Hatching Egg Incubator (this is a Brinsea manual egg incubator)

 

You can also check the customer comments for an honest 7 egg incubator review of this Brinsea product sold on Amazon.

 

Medium – as you scale up and improve you can move onto more complicated bigger units like ones that can hold 50+ eggs. You’ll also want a dedicated digital thermometer and humidity reader, along with an automatic egg turner.

 

This is our pick:

 

You can read our Brinsea Ovation 56 ex review here.

 

Large – if you’re ready to scale up and start hatching backyard chicken eggs to sell chicks professionally (or just want a really, really big flock), then large systems that can hold 400 or more eggs are ideal.

 

This is our pick for the best cabinet incubator

 

Best fully automatic egg incubator

For your egg incubator 2019 options, we’ve listed the best options below.

 

Runners up (You can buy these incubators on Amazon, Tractor Supply, or sometimes at Walmart):

 

Best Incubator For Goose Eggs

Goose eggs can be large, so the cups must hold the eggs securely and safely. Similarly, it also must have enough room for the goslings (which can be quite large) so they won’t be burnt by the heating element. If you’re using a forced air incubator, you need to make sure there’s enough clearance around the fan, as well.

 

Best Incubator For Quail Eggs

Since these eggs are so tiny, the best incubator for quail eggs must include turners that safely turn the eggs, as well as safety features so the chicks don’t get caught in the heating element or a forced-air fan if you’re using one.

 

Best Duck Egg Incubator

Ducks can be fairly large, and so to accommodate this, the best duck egg incubator should have cups that hold the eggs securely and safely.

 

Where can I buy an incubator?

If you’re looking for a chicken incubator for sale, you have quite a few options. Our favorite places to buy them are Tractor Supply, Amazon, and Walmart (although Amazon gives the best and most reliable selection).

 

How much does egg incubator cost?

You can pay anything from $50 to several thousand dollars – it just depends on the make, model, and how many bells and whistles the incubator has. A fully automatic incubator that’ll hatch 50 eggs costs approximately $500. If you want to professionally hatch eggs, you’ll probably pay $2,000 – $3,000.

 

A starter egg incubator price can range from $50 to a couple hundred, but that’s for a very basic styrofoam model that doesn’t include any automatic turners or forced air elements. If you don’t mind manually turning the chicken eggs yourself 3 to 5 times a day, then these budget incubators might be for you.

 

While pretty inexpensive, the downside to these incubators is that the temperature can fluctuate quickly. You’ll need a digital thermometer and humidity reader, and you’ll have to keep an eye on it.

 

That being said, we’ve had successes in hatching chicken using this type of incubator and we recommend using a Little Giant incubator.

 

We’ve also used a $500 incubator that’s fully automatic with a forced air fan.

 

It was much easier to use since it’s basically a “set and forget it” incubator with a digital thermometer that automatically tracked the temperature.

 

If the temp inside the incubator got too hot or cold, it corrected itself. For us, this is the best incubator because we don’t need to worry about whether the conditions are optimal for our hatch.

 

If you want to be a professional and hatch chickens for a living, then investing in a large scale incubator – which could set you back $2,000 or more – would work best. Take note that you would need an NPIP certification if you want to ship chicks in the mail commercially.

 

How does an incubator work?

An egg incubator allows humans to artificially hatch fertilized eggs, usually chicken eggs, by eliminating the external factors that might damage the eggs and prevent it from hatching. It mimics the conditions under a broody hen including ideal temperature, humidity,  and ventilation levels. For chicken eggs, this means the ambient temperature inside the incubator will be between 99.5 and 101 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

Also, the incubator, kind of like the bloom, protects eggs from spoilage and damage, which is not very easy to control in nature.

 

How do you incubate eggs?

We’ve created a step by step guide on how you can successfully hatch chicken eggs here. If you’re incubating chicken eggs, they’ll take approximately 21 days to hatch. Duck eggs (except Muscovy ducks) need approximately 28 days to hatch. Muscovy duck eggs require 35 days of incubation. For Quail eggs it also varies by breed, the Coturnix quail eggs need 17 days to hatch, while the Bobwhite quail need about 24 days.

 

It’s best to choose eggs that are fresh – and be sure to NOT choose abnormal eggs because they’re less likely to hatch. Once the chicks are born, you’ll need a waterer, chicken feeder (no waste is best), and brooder to keep them warm.

 

How warm should an egg incubator be?

The temperature will largely depend on what kinds of eggs you will be incubating. For most domestic poultry, including chicken, duck, goose, or quail eggs, the best egg incubator temperature is between 99.5 degrees F and 101 degrees F. Any warmer or colder, and your eggs might not hatch.

 

Is it necessary to have an automatic turner?

Having an automatic turner is not necessary, but it is preferred by the best incubator experts and makes life easier. Without it, you’ll need to manually turn the eggs. Be sure that the automatic turner can be removed since it’s not needed for the last few days of egg incubation. You’ll also want to clean and sterilize the turners when your hatch is complete.

 

When choosing an incubator, the best incubators have turning cups that can accommodate all egg sizes, from tiny quail eggs to goose eggs (which can be quite large).


Is a forced air incubator necessary?

Forced air is not necessary, but it makes maintaining a consistent and ideal temperature much easier which is crucial for successful hatching. The best incubators on the market all used forced air.

 

We think this is the best incubator in the market that doesn’t used forced air, and it’s one of the best startup incubators if you’re brand new to hatching eggs.

 

One of my favorite Little Giant Incubator tips is to put a digital thermometer that also tracks humidity inside, right next to your eggs. You’ll easily be able to track the temperature and humidity!

 

Whether you choose a budget incubator or a professional one that costs thousands, remember that the best incubator is the one that fits your life and lets you hatch chicken eggs successfully!




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Will we have new chicks??? Confessions from the Coop (TM)

Will we have new chicks??? Confessions from the Coop (TM)

It finally happened (backyard chicken style).

 

The baby bantams have started laying!

 

My buff cochin hens have started laying the tiniest, perfect brown eggs.

 

I KNOW they’re fertile (thanks to my silkie roosters!), so I’m going to start collecting to hatch them.

 

How cute will that be?

 

Out of all my chickens, the cochin bantams are the friendliest, so having more of them would be fun.

 

They’re also very smart — perfect for any chicken flock!

 

 

They’ll start getting more Best Eggs Ever! which has extra calcium (oyster shells AND oat straw!) so they’re able to lay healthy eggs with strong shells.

 

Want to know whether your young chickens have started laying? Go here!

 

Speaking of hatching eggs, we’re almost on Day 10 of this latest hatch in the Brinsea incubator.

 

I haven’t checked the eggs yet, but I probably will tonight – keep your fingers crossed that we have lots of little embryos!

 

I can’t believe how fast the ducklings grew – they’re almost the same size as full grown adults now! I’ve mostly been feeding them Fluffiest Feathers Ever! mixed with Brewer’s Yeast – lots of protein and vitamins!

duckling backyard chicken flock

Naughty Ducks! Confessions from the Coop (TM)

Naughty Ducks! Confessions from the Coop (TM)

Yesterday, I noticed my ducks aimlessly wandering around the yard, which isn’t supposed to happen – I shut their run door.

 

Yet, there they were, happy as clams, playing in the horse waterers.

 

When I checked the coop, the door was open. Don’t ask me how.

 

But here’s what’s funny: NONE of the chickens bothered to escape! LOL! They must be happy in their coop, if they don’t want the sweet taste of freedom when it’s offered!

 

They got extra black soldier fly larvae as a treat!

 

I think this year, every chicken on the farm has decided to molt. There’s feathers EVERYWHERE.

 

I’ve been putting out the Fluffiest Feathers Ever! like mad because while the warm weather usually lasts through October here, it’s been such a weird year, that I don’t want them to get cold if it suddenly decides to snow!

 

We’re having a lot of fun picking up feathers.

 

One of the roosters is a barred rock, and very beautiful. I have no idea what we’ll do with all these feathers, but I’ll think of something!

Eggs/Ducks

I got my hatching eggs in, and the incubator has been fired up! And I couldn’t resist….I stuck some duck eggs in there.

 

The ducklings have feathered out, and they’re very beautiful. I couldn’t resist trying for more!

 

We definitely have a mix of male and female, so next spring, I’m going to have to bring in a couple new drakes and hens to keep the gene pool diverse.

 

In the incubator, we have a GREAT mixture. Some are my barnyard mix (it’s always fun to see what those chicks look like) and some purebred lavender orpingtons, silver laced polish bantams, russian orloffs, and a couple others.

 

I’m probably going to build additional runs and coops for the pure bred chickens, and possibly bring in some outside blood from a second breeder.

How to Hatch Chicken Eggs (Even Without Incubators)

How to Hatch Chicken Eggs (Even Without Incubators)

Fluffy chicks are the best and learning how to hatch chicken eggs (and hatch eggs at home without an incubator) is a ton of fun!

 

Letting Mother Nature (who knows how to incubate chicken eggs perfectly) do her thing is always best, but if your hens aren’t broody (wanting to sit on eggs) or if you want to maintain a precise environment for your hatching eggs, incubating them is a good option.

 

If you want to know how to hatch chicken eggs without an incubator, we’ll cover that, too.


Buy Now

 

wpid-img1046.jpgFirst things first. It usually takes 21 days for a chicken egg to fully incubate. A day is the full 24 hours after you put the egg in the incubator, so I write the next day’s date on the egg to remind myself what day I started incubating. So, if I put eggs in the incubator on January 18, I write 1/19 on the egg. I tend to see external pipping (when the chick starts to break the egg) on day 19, but it can take up to 28 days in some cases. (Full disclosure: I’ve never personally had an egg take that long to hatch but it reportedly happens on occasion). I use a Little Giant Still Air incubator that I bought locally for about $50. I’ve had a good hatch rate with it, it’s easy to figure out, and it’s a great starter incubator. It’s important to run it for 24 hours before you put eggs in to ensure the temperature is correct and stays steady.

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These eggs were fresh and were fertile.

1. Choosing eggs to incubate. Don’t incubate eggs older than 10 days, and eggs no older than 7 days are best. If you come across a bunch of eggs you’re not sure about, and want a test, put the egg gently in water and do an egg float test.

If you’re saving eggs for a few days before putting them in the incubator, store them at room temperature. I use an old egg carton, and I store them pointy side down. This is to protect the air bubble at the fat end. More on that later.

Do not refrigerate them. (note: if it’s winter, the sooner you gather the eggs the better, but if they’re cold for a couple hours, it’s ok. Bring them back to room temp before incubating). Put only unbroken eggs in your incubator.

You can make sure they don’t have any cracks by candling them before you put them in the incubator. (If you’re wondering how to hatch eggs from the grocery store, you can’t because they’re not fertile. If you don’t have any chickens, or if you don’t have a rooster, you can check out Craigslist and see if anyone’s selling hatching eggs near you).

(Hint: Keep small hands away from the incubator! While this might seem intuitive, if you’re an obsessive temperature and humidity checker like me, you can inadvertently place the incubator in a place where children can get inside. And you might just find an omelette on your floor. Not fun for anyone (ok maybe for your kids).

2. Maintain a temperature between 100°-102° with a still air incubator and 99-99.5 with a forced air incubator. Your goal is to keep the temperature inside the egg as close to 99.5° as possible. Since you can’t actually take the temperature inside the egg, the best you can do is maintain a slightly higher temp outside the egg.

I’ll admit it. Occasionally I’ve let the incubator get too hot, especially when I was first starting out. It got as high as 113° one day while I was out running errands, and I swore I killed all the chicks. I had an 80% hatch rate, which means I’m either incredibly lucky or small, short changes in temperature do not necessarily mean disaster. By all means, keep your temperature between 100°-102°, but if the worse happens, don’t panic and assume all is lost.

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Busy chicks in their brooder, checking things out.

3. Keep your humidity between 40-50% days 1-18, then increase to 50%-60% on days 18-21. Humidity is important, especially in the last days of incubation. If the humidity is too low, you run the chance of your chicks getting “shrink-wrapped”, and unable to break out of the egg. The last thing anyone wants is to get super excited for hatch day, only to have fewer eggs hatch because the chicks died. I keep a digital thermometer in the incubator that measures both temperature and humidity. It’s been a lifesaver (literally) and it keeps me from guessing. I try to adjust the temperature by opening and closing the vents instead of turning the dial. It’s a slower and less dramatic change.

4. Turn your eggs at least 3 times a day from days 1-18, then don’t turn them at all on days 18-21. Turning your eggs an odd number of times each day is important for embryo development. In nature, a hen turns her eggs constantly. Don’t turn your eggs after day 18 – let the chick orient itself to break the shell and hatch. Remember the air bubble I mentioned? When the chick is being born, it “pips” (breaks) into that air bubble, then pips into the external world. To help the chick hatch, keep the incubator shut (we call this time “lockdown”) and don’t open it unless necessary.

5. Candle your eggs starting on day 7. If you have darker eggs, you might have to wait until day 10, but you definitely want to candle them at some point. Candling an egg just means looking at the inside by shining a light through the egg. You should see veins and eventually a chick moving in there (which is the coolest thing ever, aside from seeing a human in the womb). If by day 10, you only see the yolk (looks like a shadow and the rest of the egg clear), then the egg either wasn’t fertile or the embryo never developed. Eggs that don’t develop need to be removed.

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A new chick just born! The light keeps him from getting cold.

6. Once they’re born, move the chicks to the brooder. Congrats! You made it to day 21, and now you have baby chicks. You can leave chicks in the incubator up to 3 days. When you move them to the brooder (I do it the day after they’re born, once they can stand and walk ok), make sure your brooder is at least 95° but not too hot or the chicks will overheat (you’ll know if they start panting). I usually keep mine 95° – 100°.

Newborn chicks have a harder time regulating their own temperature, so I keep a thermometer in the brooder too. I use straw in my brooder because we have it on hand. Some people use wood chips; if you use wood chips, use larger ones so the chicks don’t try to eat the finer shavings.

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I gave these chicks a probiotic the same day they were born, and they’ve grown up very healthy.

7. Give your chicks a probiotic in their water. I used to think probiotics were a useless trend, but after losing some newborn chicks inexplicably, I gave them a try on a friend’s recommendation, and every one since (knock on wood) has been very healthy. All you do is add it to their water, and I heavily recommend them. The probiotics help establish good gut flora and aid in helping the chicks poop correctly, and avoid pasty butt (pasty butt is when a chick’s feces dry and cover their vent, and they’re no longer able to poop correctly). Pasty butt is a #1 killer of newborn chicks.

What if you’re off-grid? If you’re interested in how to incubate chicken eggs with a heat lamp, or how to hatch eggs at home without an incubator, or how to incubate chicken eggs without electricity, for example if you’re off-grid, as long as the temperature in the incubator is at these levels, you’re doing ok. Make sure whatever you’re using as an incubator is able to consistently maintain these temperatures. Newspaper makes a good insulator, as do styrofoam ice coolers (that you buy at the grocery store). The styrofoam will be less of a fire hazard and easier to maintain the temperature. You will also need a cover for your homemade incubator, as well as a way to turn the eggs easily without disrupting the temperature or humidity.

You can always let the hen incubate the eggs for you if you’re off grid. Silkies are a good choice, since the breed tends to go broody.

If you want to improve the quality of your chicken eggs for hatching, give the girls a calcium supplement, such as crushed egg shells (mine go NUTS for these) or oyster shells. The added calcium increases the strength of the shells.

Hatching eggs really is that easy! If all your eggs don’t hatch, don’t worry. A 80% hatch rate is normal, and if your first hatch yields a 50% hatch rate, you’re doing great! Have fun, watching the chicks grow up is a blast!

Want to see a chick being born? Check out my video! http://youtu.be/dg5nXWU0n9k