Types of incubators
No doubt a broody hen is the easiest way to hatch eggs, but what if you want to hatch eggs on your time schedule and not the hens. You will need an incubator. An incubator is a device that simulates the incubation process usually carried out by the mother hen. The incubator keeps the eggs warm and the correct humidity. You can also add an automatic egg turner to most incubators that will rotate your eggs side to side. The mother hen turns her eggs several times throughout the day, and a turner will take the guess work out of "did I turn them already" or forgetting to turn them altogether. There are so many different types and styles of incubators nowadays it can be tough to decided which is best for you. Prices vary greatly on different models, some are small basic tabletop incubators, while others are large cabinet style designed for incubating a large number of eggs at one time. We will describe the differences here and hopefully give you the confidence that you are making the best choice.
Small tabletop incubator- This style incubator is great for classrooms, 4-H, or other educational groups. These models are usually an all in one design, that generally include automatic egg turning, pre-set temperature, digital temp readout, and clear sides for easy viewing. They are usually 110 volts/18 watts, and can hold around 6 or 7 chicken eggs.
Styrofoam incubator- There are a several different varieties of this style incubator, great for classrooms, or even small hobby farms. This style incubator can generally hold 30-40 chickens eggs. It can be purchased in a basic still air design, or can be upgraded with a forced air fan kit for a more unified temperature. You can also buy an automatic egg turner to rotate your eggs for you. These can be purchased in a very basic model and upgraded as you go, or they can be purchased as a complete kit.
Cabinet incubator- The cabinet incubator is for those who want to hatch a large number of eggs at one time. These can generally hold around 216 chicken eggs. They are usually equipped with LCD display of temperature and humidity, and have automatic egg turning racks. These can also be purchased in incubator/hatcher combo. The cabinet incubator is great for the serious poultry breeder or even a small business hobby farm.
Precision large capacity incubator- These incubators are generally only used in commercial settings. They are very large and can hold hundreds of eggs. They can even be used with staggered hatching so that a new batch is ready every week. These units are computer operated for precise management of all parameters of the incubation process. These units have fantastic hatch rates and the price tag to go with them.