Incubator and incubating advice

FortCluck

Hatch-a-Long Queen
Sep 9, 2019
21,411
93,373
1,317
Central Virginia
We are looking to incubate eggs in January but I really want to learn everything that I can before we jump into it.

When you collect the fertile eggs do you just leave them out until it's time to incubate them?

Is there a period of time that the eggs should sit out before you put them in the incubator?

What's the best incubator in your opinion to hatch eggs? We will also be doing duck eggs and maybe quail. We will probably be hatching about 20 chicken eggs and 20 duck eggs, not at the same time because I know they require different humidity and such.

Is it better to manually turn your eggs or get an automatic egg turner?

What is the best humidity for the eggs when they are in the incubator?

I know that there is a process to incubating and I have watched several videos, but I want to hear different methods so I can choose what we will do.

Any advice you can offer would be great even if it doesn't have to do with the questions... Thank you
 

FortCluck

Hatch-a-Long Queen
Sep 9, 2019
21,411
93,373
1,317
Central Virginia

slordaz

hatchaholic
5 Years
Apr 15, 2015
3,456
6,394
602
Idaho
We are looking to incubate eggs in January but I really want to learn everything that I can before we jump into it.

When you collect the fertile eggs do you just leave them out until it's time to incubate them?

Is there a period of time that the eggs should sit out before you put them in the incubator?

What's the best incubator in your opinion to hatch eggs? We will also be doing duck eggs and maybe quail. We will probably be hatching about 20 chicken eggs and 20 duck eggs, not at the same time because I know they require different humidity and such.

Is it better to manually turn your eggs or get an automatic egg turner?

What is the best humidity for the eggs when they are in the incubator?

I know that there is a process to incubating and I have watched several videos, but I want to hear different methods so I can choose what we will do.

Any advice you can offer would be great even if it doesn't have to do with the questions... Thank you
They should be kept out , and pop em in the incubator by day 7.
A lot depends on your preference as to turning manually it is at least 3 times a day, what incubator you go with. Where you live, keep in mind all instructions for incubators are for sea level, so if your at a higher elevation that will also effect what and how you incubate.

Are you using eggs from your flock or buying shipped eggs. it's best to use eggs from similar elevation being layed as being hatched.

Humidity can vary what is needed due to ambient temps and humidity along with elevation.

I hatch outta my flock at 5k ft elevation and have to leave vents or plugs out the whole incubation period. I also found out the one that has them laying on their side turning them, Incuturner, works best as I don't get as many mal positioned and it doesn't fry my hatch at lock down.

Tagging one of the helpers that got me through figuring out incubator hatch issues in case I missed something

@Ridgerunner
 

FortCluck

Hatch-a-Long Queen
Sep 9, 2019
21,411
93,373
1,317
Central Virginia
They should be kept out , and pop em in the incubator by day 7.
A lot depends on your preference as to turning manually it is at least 3 times a day, what incubator you go with. Where you live, keep in mind all instructions for incubators are for sea level, so if your at a higher elevation that will also effect what and how you incubate.

Are you using eggs from your flock or buying shipped eggs. it's best to use eggs from similar elevation being layed as being hatched.

Humidity can vary what is needed due to ambient temps and humidity along with elevation.

I hatch outta my flock at 5k ft elevation and have to leave vents or plugs out the whole incubation period. I also found out the one that has them laying on their side turning them, Incuturner, works best as I don't get as many mal positioned and it doesn't fry my hatch at lock down.

Tagging one of the helpers that got me through figuring out incubator hatch issues in case I missed something

@Ridgerunner
We are going to hatch from our flock, hopefully... We have two roosters that are mating with our hens both are Jersey Giants and brothers so they get along. We were supposed to have an all female flock but somehow we ended up with someone's rooster order instead of our order of 2 Jersey Giant pullets at our local farm. I was upset about it at first, but then I realized how amazing Jersey Giant roosters are. I was planning on incubating our Barred Rock, Delaware, and Red Sex Link eggs. Our other breeds are more for show like Cochin and Bantam Polish (The JG's would kill them with one step).

I may have to buy fertilized duck eggs because I am unsure if I have a drake. My ducks are young about 2 weeks and 4 weeks old. I do believe that my Muscovy are female, but I am unsure of the breed of my younger ducklings. We went to tractor supply and the manager offered them to me for a phenomenal price so I got them. They didn't know what breed they were or really anything about them because they were assorted ducks. So far people have said that one is a Pekin and two are fawn and white Indian runners. Im most likely going to have to buy fertile eggs of these breeds to try to get good male to female ratios because I do know that Muscovy cannot breed with other ducks because their offspring will be mules (I think that is the correct term).
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
27,846
21,978
907
Southeast Louisiana
When you collect the fertile eggs do you just leave them out until it's time to incubate them? Is there a period of time that the eggs should sit out before you put them in the incubator?

There are ideal conditions to store eggs for hatch. That A&M article goes into detail about them. The closer you are to ideal conditions the longer you can store eggs and them remain viable. There are a lot of different components to ideal conditions, temperature, humidity, no breeze hitting them like from an AC/Heating vent, regular turning, no direct sunlight, several different things. If you have ideal conditions you can store eggs about two weeks before they start to lose viability.

I don't have ideal conditions. Instead of 55 F I store mine at room temperature, in the 70's F. My humidity is too low. I store mine for a week and do OK, after that it starts getting dicey.

What's the best incubator in your opinion to hatch eggs? We will also be doing duck eggs and maybe quail.

I don't know. A lot of chicks are hatched in those styrofoam still air incubators. Those require more work as you hatch but they work if you do it right. Some high-end expensive models require almost nothing from you once you get them set up properly. You need to calibrate any of them to assure the temperature is working right. Any factory presets can be wrong. Humidity gauges don't always work right either.

There is a lot of personal preference in which incubators different people like. I prefer a forced air (has a fan), you can take the temperature anywhere inside and it should be accurate. Since hot air rises you have to be much more careful where you put the eggs and take temperatures in a still air.

Some people like the hard plastic, they are easier to clean than the styrofoam. They are also more expensive. I don't use mine that many times a year so I'm OK with a forced air styrofoam. If I were using it more I cold justify the added expense of a hard plastic.

Is it better to manually turn your eggs or get an automatic egg turner?

Both work. If you manually turn the eggs you have to arrange your schedule around that. With an automatic turner you don't have to. I like the convenience of an automatic turner, but that is personal preference.

What is the best humidity for the eggs when they are in the incubator?

I don't know. The eggs need to lose a certain amount of moisture so the air cell grows to a certain size before hatch. Different things affect that. Is it a forced air or still air, a breeze blowing across them might take more moisture away. Height above sea level can affect that. The temperature and humidity of the air coming into the incubator can have an effect. Then there is the issue of individual eggs. Each egg is different. Some are more porous than others so they lose moisture faster. The whites of some eggs are more runny than others. How and how long the eggs are stored can have an effect. An egg stored for a long time in dry conditions will lose a lot more moisture before incubation starts than one laid that day. That's why that A&M article mentioned wrapping eggs in saran wrap, to keep moisture from evaporating. The ideal humidity for each egg in the incubator will be different. Commercial operations that might hatch 60,000 chicks in one incubator and 1,000,000 chicks a week have found they need to tweak humidities if they move an incubator from one position to another in the same hatching room.

Sounds pretty hopeless, doesn't it. Nature was a lot kinder to us than that though. There is a pretty wide range of humidity that will work so we don't have to be that precise. You are looking for that humidity which gets most of the eggs in that window. For some of us that might be 30% humidity, for others 55% during incubation. Then for lockdown we go higher. Some are happy with 65%, others want it higher.

My suggestion is to pick a humidity and try to stay with that as well as you can. See what happens. Open unhatched eggs to see if you can determine if the humidity needs to be higher or lower next time.
 

FortCluck

Hatch-a-Long Queen
Sep 9, 2019
21,411
93,373
1,317
Central Virginia
When you collect the fertile eggs do you just leave them out until it's time to incubate them? Is there a period of time that the eggs should sit out before you put them in the incubator?

There are ideal conditions to store eggs for hatch. That A&M article goes into detail about them. The closer you are to ideal conditions the longer you can store eggs and them remain viable. There are a lot of different components to ideal conditions, temperature, humidity, no breeze hitting them like from an AC/Heating vent, regular turning, no direct sunlight, several different things. If you have ideal conditions you can store eggs about two weeks before they start to lose viability.

I don't have ideal conditions. Instead of 55 F I store mine at room temperature, in the 70's F. My humidity is too low. I store mine for a week and do OK, after that it starts getting dicey.

What's the best incubator in your opinion to hatch eggs? We will also be doing duck eggs and maybe quail.

I don't know. A lot of chicks are hatched in those styrofoam still air incubators. Those require more work as you hatch but they work if you do it right. Some high-end expensive models require almost nothing from you once you get them set up properly. You need to calibrate any of them to assure the temperature is working right. Any factory presets can be wrong. Humidity gauges don't always work right either.

There is a lot of personal preference in which incubators different people like. I prefer a forced air (has a fan), you can take the temperature anywhere inside and it should be accurate. Since hot air rises you have to be much more careful where you put the eggs and take temperatures in a still air.

Some people like the hard plastic, they are easier to clean than the styrofoam. They are also more expensive. I don't use mine that many times a year so I'm OK with a forced air styrofoam. If I were using it more I cold justify the added expense of a hard plastic.

Is it better to manually turn your eggs or get an automatic egg turner?

Both work. If you manually turn the eggs you have to arrange your schedule around that. With an automatic turner you don't have to. I like the convenience of an automatic turner, but that is personal preference.

What is the best humidity for the eggs when they are in the incubator?

I don't know. The eggs need to lose a certain amount of moisture so the air cell grows to a certain size before hatch. Different things affect that. Is it a forced air or still air, a breeze blowing across them might take more moisture away. Height above sea level can affect that. The temperature and humidity of the air coming into the incubator can have an effect. Then there is the issue of individual eggs. Each egg is different. Some are more porous than others so they lose moisture faster. The whites of some eggs are more runny than others. How and how long the eggs are stored can have an effect. An egg stored for a long time in dry conditions will lose a lot more moisture before incubation starts than one laid that day. That's why that A&M article mentioned wrapping eggs in saran wrap, to keep moisture from evaporating. The ideal humidity for each egg in the incubator will be different. Commercial operations that might hatch 60,000 chicks in one incubator and 1,000,000 chicks a week have found they need to tweak humidities if they move an incubator from one position to another in the same hatching room.

Sounds pretty hopeless, doesn't it. Nature was a lot kinder to us than that though. There is a pretty wide range of humidity that will work so we don't have to be that precise. You are looking for that humidity which gets most of the eggs in that window. For some of us that might be 30% humidity, for others 55% during incubation. Then for lockdown we go higher. Some are happy with 65%, others want it higher.

My suggestion is to pick a humidity and try to stay with that as well as you can. See what happens. Open unhatched eggs to see if you can determine if the humidity needs to be higher or lower next time.
I just ordered an incubator... The farm innovator 4250. Hopefully it's not a bad one, I looked at reviews on Amazon before purchasing and there were so many good ones, but that doesn't always mean it's the greatest.
 

Phunktacular

Songster
Oct 29, 2016
230
314
131
Fulton, NY
I have had 2 of the foam incubators and though they did hatch eggs, they are very unreliable. I have about $200 wrapped into the foam incubators with the actual incubators, turners, air circulating fans, etc.... I found a small beverage cooler that was out of operation and gutted it, bought a temp/humidity controller off amazon, a small heater, and a usb mister and have had nearly 90% hatches ever since. I actually have 2 of the coolers and the first 1 was going to be my test run. Now that I know it is a success, I'm purchasing all the materials to make the new incubator. I'm going to use the old as a hatcher because, I left the shelving in it to use the turner for the foam incubator. I'll get a link to all the mats that I used in it and the prices that I paid. May vary a little. In all, I paid less than $50, I think. Will know with next post.
 

FortCluck

Hatch-a-Long Queen
Sep 9, 2019
21,411
93,373
1,317
Central Virginia
I have had 2 of the foam incubators and though they did hatch eggs, they are very unreliable. I have about $200 wrapped into the foam incubators with the actual incubators, turners, air circulating fans, etc.... I found a small beverage cooler that was out of operation and gutted it, bought a temp/humidity controller off amazon, a small heater, and a usb mister and have had nearly 90% hatches ever since. I actually have 2 of the coolers and the first 1 was going to be my test run. Now that I know it is a success, I'm purchasing all the materials to make the new incubator. I'm going to use the old as a hatcher because, I left the shelving in it to use the turner for the foam incubator. I'll get a link to all the mats that I used in it and the prices that I paid. May vary a little. In all, I paid less than $50, I think. Will know with next post.
I don't think I could make my own because I'm not good with that type of stuff. That's why I bought one that works already and I don't have to put too much thought into making something that could or could not work...

Let me know how it works out for you because I may be fairing someday and do it myself
 

Phunktacular

Songster
Oct 29, 2016
230
314
131
Fulton, NY
I was, very much, intimidated to try and build my own, as well. Once I started and realized the simplicity in what it takes to do it, I knew I wanted a larger and more universal incubator. I'll list what I used to build it and I'll also give my input on how it worked and what I'm planning on doing differently with my next build.

Main Parts list:
1: The controller - I used the SHT-2000 Temp/humidity controller. This controller has been amazing. I priced all sorts of incubator controllers and realized that the market is very small for US type controllers that actually read out in Fahrenheit degrees. So, I spent less than half of an inkbird and got this for only $25. It will only read in Celcius but, once you know the conversion, you just set it and the temperature never really changes. What do I care what the controller reads?
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07HB1F7N6/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o09_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

2: Heater - I looked at all sorts of heat sources, as well. From PTC heaters, heat tape, 12V heaters for car defrosters and ended up with a small heater that I found in the clearance section at Wal-Mart for $2.50. I think regular price is about $10. Still not that bad.
https://www.walmart.com/ip/Mainstays-Mini-Ceramic-Heater-DQ1723-BLK-Black/205984526

3: Humidity - I looked on all of the incubator source sites and the least I'd get a humidity device for was near $50. That's a tin pan with slots to put a sponge of some sort for evaporation of water. I wanted something that the controller could turn on when needed and off once it was high enough. I ended up going the absolute cheapest route I could and bought a USB donut mister. It is exactly as simple as it sounds. It has a cord that about 6-8 inches long and is only about a 2 inch diameter float and you just put it in a bowl of water and when power is supplied via USB it shoots a light mist into the air directly above it. You can find these for about $4 on amazon. If you are willing to wait a month for delivery, you can get them for $1.50 each from AliExpress. You'll want extras. I originally bought 2 of them and the first one stopped working after the second week. I ordered 2 more, in case they fail every 2 weeks but, the next one lasted the next 6 weeks while I hatched several batches of quail.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B077ZBFC76/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
or
https://www.aliexpress.com/item/400...rchweb0_0,searchweb201602_,searchweb201603_55

SUMMARY

The only complicated thing involved in the build is, you need to rout the power through the controller. The controller only applies power when the parameters are reached that you establish. For example, it maintains an open circuit until the temperature drops below what you set it to and then it closes the circuit and the heater comes on until the temperature you tell it to stop. You'll need to do this for both the humidifier and the heater.
For the heater, it was simple. I just clicked it on and routed through controller. When the controller activated the heater, a little red LED would light on the controller and I could confirm the heater was working because, there was also a light on the switch of the heater that lit.
The misting donut, this also had a small LED in it so, while it was running it would light up and I'd see the mist coming out of it. I put in a Rubbermaid storage bowl without the lid. I'll link it at the end of this section. I always used hot tap water when I filled it. That served 2 purposes. The temperature of the water never went below the ambient temp of the incubator and it also helped raise the humidity when the door was opened to fill the bowl. I never had to worry about eggs being misted with cold water. Now, because the misting donut was powered by USB, I didn't wire it directly to the controller. I chose to use a USB extension to wire to the controller. That way, upon failure, I could just unplug the old and plug in the new. I didn't actually do this intentionally for this reason but, my laziness turned out to be brilliant because, I needed to replace it after 2 weeks.
Water Bowl -
https://www.walmart.com/ip/Rubbermaid-TakeAlongs-Deep-Rectangle-Food-Storage-Container-Set-of-2-8-Cups/170583278?athcpid=170583278&athpgid=athenaItemPage&athcgid=null&athznid=PWVUB&athieid=v0&athstid=CS020&athguid=b985534a-097-16d94986bba037&athancid=null&athena=true
USB extension -
https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Extension-Cable-Male-Female/dp/B00NH136GE/ref=sxin_2_pb?crid=2EBJIXDW6OMXF&keywords=usb+extension+cable&pd_rd_i=B00NH136GE&pd_rd_r=42de22a8-34b8-43ec-a3ef-218929189ac2&pd_rd_w=6jnEw&pd_rd_wg=xDtt2&pf_rd_p=50bbfd25-5ef7-41a2-86d6-74d854b30e30&pf_rd_r=1SC3Q7GWZHZYV9GTTWXK&qid=1570156143&s=electronics&sprefix=USB+ext%2Cinstant-video%2C163

Now, you'll need some external wire to connect all of the items to the controller but, you can find that in any Lowes or Home Depot. I think I got mine at Tractor Supply.
I used the turner for my Little Giant incubator and it worked as expected. The cooler that I have has a magnetic seal on the glass front door. Using a magnetic mounted AccuRite thermometer/hygrometer that I bought from TSC for about $12, in any 36 hour period the temperature never dropped below 99 deg F or over 100 deg F. Humidity hovered between 50-55%. I chose 50% as a low because it's a mid range for incubation and low for hatching and 55% as the high because its the high for incubation and the mid for hatching. I used the same incubator as the hatcher as I incubated other eggs.

Every batch I had over 6 weeks, I averaged nearly 90% hatch rate and every bird that hatched lived. I didn't lose a single bird after hatch while brooding.

I'll go back and read over this and see if I missed anything that I feel is relevant and post on it later.

Thanks for listening. I'm very proud of the success of it and I'm crazy anxious for my next build and will do my best to document every step of the build.
 

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