If you are looking to hatch your own chicks or other poultry, then having a reliable incubator is a big asset. While the various units and parts do cost money up front, they can save you a lot in the long run if you want to hatch chicks often.
It is easy to make some estimates on whether an incubator is worth the cost. Let’s say that hatching eggs are $5/egg or $60/dozen. But purchasing the chicks (of heritage breeds) typically cost as much as $8 to 12/chick (sometimes even more). Therefore a dozen chicks may be $96- $144. It really doesn’t take long to make an incubator worth while if you want to produce heritage birds yourself.
I use three different incubators here at Rose Hill Farm. These are products I have come to rely on for my hatching needs:
(1) Brinsea Products Ovation 28 EX Fully Automatic Egg Incubator with Humidity Control
The Ovation is a reliable machine that takes the guesswork out of hatching eggs. You can adjust the temperature, humidity and timing of turning. You can even set a cooling period which is handy for some hatching jobs, such as for duck eggs. The 28 chicken egg capacity is great. I love the automatic humidity control and turning features. This is an excellent choice for difficult to hatch breeds like Marans. This style of Brinsea also comes in a 56 egg model: Brinsea Productions Ovation 56
(2) Brinsea Maxi II Ex
This is a handy machine – still fully automatic like the larger Ovation 28, but handling only 14 chicken eggs at a time. I particularly like to use this machine for my Marans eggs, hatching a dozen or so at a time lets me keep track of specific groups that I am breeding. The automatic humidity control is excellent for thick shelled eggs, like the Marans.
This picture below is the Brinsea Maxi II Eco model which has no automatic features beyond temperature control. With this model you have to turn the eggs by hand and adjust the humidity manually. Unfortunately Amazon.ca does not currently list the Brinsea Maxi II Ex, only the Eco version. You can try searching for this or other incubators on the site.Search Chicken Egg Incubators
This incubator is less expensive than the Brinsea models, but I find it to be a reliable machine that gives me good hatching results. It has a foam body instead of plastic. Unfortunately you have purchase the turning apparatus separately from the machine itself, but the simplicity of having automatic turning is worth the additional cost. I also use a digital humidity measuring device – called a hygrometer – to help track the humidity during incubation in the Hovabator. If your budget doesn’t allow for a Brinsea, then I would recommend the Hovabator as my next choice.
It is also great to have a candler that is easy to use. I prefer the Brinsea candler, either the standard or high intensity version.
Once you hit Day 18 (of a 21 Day chicken egg incubation cycle) you can separate the eggs you want to track during the hatch by locking the eggs into mesh laundry bags. You want to choose laundry bags that are meant for delicate clothes, so that the mesh is very fine and the zippers are strong. Separate the eggs you want to track by placing them into the zippered bags. Then, when the chicks hatch, you know exactly which chicks came from which eggs! The bonus advantage of this method is that the chicks also tend to dry faster because they are rubbing against the mesh bags!