The 9 Best Egg Incubators
Raise Your Chicks Right
Depending the types of food you like to eat, eggs are considered by many to be a breakfast staple. They can be boiled, scrambled, poached, and they go great with bacon. However, those eggs you buy in the store are kept refrigerated to prevent growth of the embryos inside each egg shell. Each egg intended for sale is also inspected by the shining of a candling light designed to highlight any irregularities, such as a developing chick.
By contrast, If your reason for using eggs is to develop viable embryos into live chicks, regardless of whether you're a teacher wishing to show your students the miracle of life in a classroom or a farmer looking to ensure efficiency in sustaining a large group of hens for your livelihood, you'll need an egg incubator to help you along.
An egg incubator is a machine that creates the ideal conditions for an egg to develop and hatch by regulating its internal temperature and humidity levels. By doing so, the egg incubator plays the role of a broody hen with an instinct to lay and hatch eggs.
For farmers, egg incubators not only improve efficiency of hatching multiple eggs at the same time, but they also remove the dangers associated with a broody hen's vulnerability to predators. The egg incubator also offers continuous operation, unlike a broody hen that will stop laying eggs when sitting on them and rearing her offspring. An egg incubator also keeps internal conditions consistent throughout the twenty-one-day period during which the embryos develop.
Humidity control is one major component of importance for proper operation of an egg incubator, as it limits the unnecessary loss of egg moisture. Ideal humidity levels are between twenty-five and sixty percent from the time the incubator is set until approximately three days before hatching. During the last three days of the incubation period, the humidity level should be increased to between seventy and eighty percent.
Frequent monitoring of the water level will help to ensure adequate humidity. If maintaining humidity is a problem, adding wet sponges to the inside of the incubator can be helpful, as this increases the wet surface area for additional water evaporation, which will increase the level of humidity.
Temperature is also a very important consideration for an egg incubator. The average internal operating temperature for an egg incubator is typically around 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit (or 37.5 degrees Celsius). This can be adjusted slightly depending on what you find works best for your environment and it may take a little experimentation to perfect.
Egg turning is another crucial part of the incubation process. Eggs should be turned up to three times per day during the first eighteen days of their incubation periods. But wait, doesn't this hurt the developing embryo? Actually, quite the contrary. Whether turning the eggs manually or automatically, this action helps to prevent the developing embryos from sticking to their shells. However, during the last three days of the incubation process, the eggs should not be turned, as the embryos are getting into their hatching positions.
Egg Incubation Throughout The Centuries
Egg incubation has a long history that dates back to the times of the ancient Egyptians and Chinese. Both cultures devised unique incubation solutions that were used to hatch chicks from eggs not being reared by a broody hen. This allowed for continuous laying of eggs.
Ancient Egyptian incubators consisted of large rooms or mud huts with shelves for burning straw, dung, and charcoal. These rooms were heated by fires with attendants to turn the eggs manually. Ancient Chinese incubators were also heated by fires in large rooms featuring brick ovens.
The Chinese also made use of rotting manure for heat, while also realizing that developing embryos would release their own heat source. For this reason, those eggs in a later stage of development could be interspersed with younger, less-developed eggs to produce extra heat.
Building on the ancient incubator designs, we fast forward to the eighteenth century to French scientist Rene-Antoine Ferchault de Reaumur, who revived an interest in egg incubation around 1750 following a period of difficulty in hatching eggs in Europe due to harsh winter conditions. Reaumur's incubator was warmed by a wooden stove with a thermometer as its temperature control.
Many modern egg incubators are quite large and can handle up to a million eggs at a time.
Choosing An Egg Incbuator
Since temperature, humidity, and egg turning are three of the most important factors to consider in an egg incubator, a user must be certain to invest in one made from sturdy materials, such as ABS plastic), with automatic egg turning functionality, and a modern digital control system that maintains the proper temperature.
Assembly of the incubator should be quick and easy. If its parts are dishwasher safe, that's even better for simple cleaning.
Some incubators also offer large viewing windows for monitoring your eggs without having to open the units.
Finally, depending on your purposes, incubators come with different available capacities, so one must be sure to invest in an incubator that can handle multiple eggs simultaneously.