How important is air circulation in a cabinet style incubator?


In the Brooder
8 Years
May 18, 2011
I have one large cabinet style 360 egg capacity incubator as well as other styrofoams (hova-bator, little giant, and 1 other that is so old its unrecognizable anymore) and i'm wondering how important is the air circulation to my (3 ft. tall, 2.5 ft. deep, 2ft. wide) cabinet style incubator. I have one still incubator (styrofoam, no fan) one forced air (styrofoam, fan on 24/7) and one forced air (strofoam, fan only comes on when element is put to work) and frankly I only use these three as hatchers. Between the three i have noted many pros and cons (depending on eggs size, type of bird etc, etc.) my best hatcher for regular chicken eggs (not bantam) is the forced air, fan on only when element comes on. My best for smaller eggs (bantam, silkie, and other small eggs) is my forced air fan-on 24/7, and then my duck turkey hatcher being my still air. I've come to have a real rhythm using these hatchers and I pretty much do all of my initial growth incubating in my large cabinet style incubator (many types of eggs at one time but only for growth and for hatching they go to their own personal hatcher). Now for reasons of wanting to lower energy use and just down right experimental understanding would anyone see any possible disadvantages to me changing my cabinet incubator from being a 24/7 fan to a intermitten fan (only coming on when element is heating up), I fully understand the need of the fan to be in use to get the heat to all parts of the incubator, element comes on about every tenminutes and lasts for about 40 seconds, anyone with personal experience think that this would be feasible to reach ideal heat circulation and not affect growth rates? or what are your opinions?

I'm not sure what fan you have in your unit. I use:

Which is 80 watts. 80 watts 24x7 for 21 days is $5.46 per hatch per unit. The heating element is a lot more tricky to calculate as it blinks off and on regularly but I would guesstimate $10 - $15 on that (Mines 500 watts). Total incubator running cost roughly $20 +/- per hatch. Not sure how many your incubator holds but mine is 600 so it ads about $0.03 per egg.

Assuming an 80 % hatch rate thats about $0.05 per chick in electrical costs.

Now further assuming you are hatching your own eggs and your layer feed is about $16.05 per bag and your annual feed cost is about $25 per bird per year and your birds lay an average of 180 eggs per year and 80% of those are incubated thats 144 eggs. So 144 eggs that get loaded into the incubator costs $0.18 / ea.

So your loaded per egg cost is about $0.21, a 600 capacity loaded incubator costs $126 per hatch. With an 80% hatch rate thats $0.27 per chick.

None of that includes labor of course.

Short response :) below

Electricity is at most 15 - 20% of the costs of your chicks where as the parent stock is 80 - 85% of your costs. If you start adding in labor costs your electrical goes down to an even smaller percentage. I wouldnt mess with the incubator circulation and risk creating poor hatch results over cents per hatch as the end result would in fact raise the cost of running the incubator.

The heating element blinks off an on frequently, so I would further worry about burning out the motor. If it cuts in and out to fast you will not get the full effect of circulation and it will cause it to kick off and on more, create hot / cool spots, etc leading to the dreaded underhatch.
One more thought, if your fan isnt running it would cause the heating element to kick on more (as I mentioned) which is a lot more expensive to run than the fan.
I always thought the idea of a fan was to circulate the heat giving an incubator an even temperature. The Incubator you have where the fan only runs when the heat element is on isn't normal. Was this one retrofitted with a fan sometime later? If it was, or even if it wasn't I would think it was wired incorrectly.
The issue I see with rewiring your fan to run only when the element is on in your cabinet style incubator is that because of its size (height) the air would layer inside (stratisify) with all heat rising to the top , thus the thermostat would remain warm while the bottom cooled off, probably enough to affect egg development. I could see it easily being 3 or 4 degrees different, maybe more.
The only way to know for sure is to re-wire it & check to see what the temperatures are at different levels within the incubator

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