ultimate guide egg incubator

The Ultimate Egg Incubator Guide

Birds are undoubtedly one of our favorite types of animals when it comes to companionship, food, and breeding, so if there’s any way we can help them along in creating life then we’re happy to do it, and usually with an artificial incubator.

Incubators have been around for many years, and whether you’re a hobbyist hatcher or do it on a larger commercial scale, there’s so much wonder to be found with the incubation process.

Birds give birth by laying eggs, however, the egg doesn’t come out with a perfectly formed chick in it right away.

processes chicken sitting on eggs

These amazing creatures lay a fertilized egg and sit on it to keep it warm long enough so that it hatches, with the job of an incubator being to recreate those ideal conditions. They do this by creating just the right heat and humidity over a set period of time to allow the fetus inside to grow, resulting in a hopefully healthy and successful hatching.

However, sometimes there can be issues with hen’s sitting on their eggs, and other bird species too. Either they become distracted and don’t stay still during the incubation process or there are other dangers lurking outdoors that can make it unsafe. This is where the incubator comes in, and makes it far easier for the humans to take over and help them out.

The incubator has made many advancements since its first adaptation, and where traditionally these devices were used for scientific or commercial reasons, there are now many small time personal egg farmers who enjoy using an incubator for other reasons.

Whether it’s to breed birds for sale, own chickens for your yard, or even hatch reptile eggs, there are so many amazing things these machines can do.

If you’re in the market for an egg incubator and looking to start a new hobby, or perhaps have years of experience behind you, you’ll be amazed to see what these machines can do. Where once it was a completely manual process, there are many devices now that operate fully automatically so you’re able to witness the thrill and satisfaction of hatching your own eggs.

History Of Egg Incubators

The very first instances of egg incubators looked completely different to the modern ones we know today, and they went through quite a few changes in their time. Traditional incubators dated back as early as Ancient Egypt and featured a cylindrical building which would collect ash from a fire in which a basket of eggs would sit upon, which was a vast improvement from how it was performed before.

During World War 2, egg incubators consisted of a curtain, wooden box, and hot water, which allowed the eggs to cook over time. There are reports that prior to this, egg incubators were heated using fresh manure from animals and relying on the humidity and heat coming off them to grow the eggs.

Old Incubator Hatcking Eggs

When you consider the smell and mess that might have come from this system, it’s nice to know that modern egg incubators have advanced far beyond this early model.

In 1881, the first commercial incubator was made but it would be many years before these were made publically available to personal egg farmers who wanted to use them as a hobby. Today, though, there are many different variations of electrical and automatic egg incubators which have made it easier than ever for people to enjoy at home and with just a flick of a switch.

Why Incubate Eggs?

So, why would one choose to incubate eggs? In a commercial sense, having large incubators can help to speed up the process of hens laying eggs and breeding more chickens faster. This makes their output far larger and takes less time than if the hens themselves incubated them with their own warmth.

For home users of incubators, though, there are a few reasons why you might want to purchase an incubator. Most commonly, an automatic incubator is useful for:

Having A Chicken Farm

Many people like to have a few chickens in their garden as they’re great for creating fertilizer or laying eggs for eating. As chickens can have shorter life spans due to weather or predators, it can be helpful having an incubator to allow their fertilized eggs a better chance of hatching.

Breeding Birds

If you breed birds at home you might prefer to hatch the fertilized eggs yourself in an incubator so you can keep an eye on the entire process and ensure that conditions are perfect.

Hatching Reptiles

Although traditionally made for birds, a chicken incubator can also be used to hatch reptiles. Reptiles also lay eggs and require on the incubation by the mother to survive, which can be aided with an automatic incubator.

Educational Purposes

Whether it’s to teach your own kids about the circle of life or owning a sustainable garden, these make great practical tools to show children. Most digital incubators these days also have a viewing window so it’s easier to see.

Digital Eggs incubator full with eggs

Whatever your reason, owning an incubator and being witness to the spectacle of eggs hatching is one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do. Whether you’re hatching them for your own garden or simply helping out your animals in their breeding process, an incubator is a satisfying investment that will give you years of benefits.

The Benefits Of Owning An Incubator At Home

There are many reasons why one might invest in a small incubator for home, as these handy little devices can be a wonderful way to source food, make money, and even keep your garden growing. Here are a few ways you can benefit from using an incubator at your house.

  • According to energy savings specialists, having chickens at home can be one of the easiest ways to lower energy costs and provide your family with free and organic supplies. Chickens can be eaten as a full bird or their eggs can be consumed, saving your family hundreds in costs over the years.
  • Owning chickens in the garden that you hatched is a great way to reduce waste and food scraps, as they can feed on these for free. In return, they can even create some of the most effective manure known to mankind for your garden.
  • When you decide to raise your own chickens, you’re helping to decrease the use of hen farms around the country. As more and more people become aware of the plight of these factory farmed hens, it becomes more important than ever to do your part to save them.
  • If you’re looking to make some extra money, an incubator can be a helpful tool for people who want to breed birds. A chicken egg incubator can usually fit a few different species of bird eggs within, so there’s no need to limit yourself to just poultry, and you can sell for offspring for a good profit.
  • There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction and enjoyment that comes from watching an egg hatch, and in particular knowing that you helped to create this life. These simple devices can bring you years of joy and they can help to teach your children about the importance of life and a sustainable garden.
homemade eggs incubator

Whether you want to incubate birds or reptiles, there’s no shortage of enjoyment that these simple devices can bring you. All you need to do is decide why incubator is right for your goals and dreams, and then have fun choosing the right one.

Types Of Incubators

The incubator market can be a daunting one, particularly if you’re new to the whole area, however for small time egg farmers and hobbyists, there’s just a little you need to know about the types of incubators available.

Still Incubators

A still air incubator is intended to mimic the exact conditions of a brooding hen, however, they can be difficult to get an even temperature within. These models are more suited to hatchers who know what they’re doing.

Moving Air Incubators

This more modern approach uses a small fan to move the air around so that it can be evenly distributed around the incubator.

Automatic Incubators

An automatic incubator refers to one that offers fully rotates the eggs with a timer or other function, so there’s no need for human interaction at all. A self turning incubator such as this can eliminate drops and breakages that sometimes occur with egg hatching.

chicken manual egg incubator

Semi Automatic Incubators

A semi automatic rotator will require someone to move the object to rotate the eggs, so it’s still not done by hand but the timing and movement are dictated by the egg farmer.

Manual Incubators

The manual kind relies solely on the egg farmer to turn their eggs at the recommended interval using their hands and requires an extra lot of care to be taken.

How Does An Incubator Work?

Traditionally, incubators are used in science as a way to harvest bacteria. The warm and humid conditions allow things to grow faster than if they were outside, and the results can be closely monitored.

The same type of logic is applied to premature human infants and reptile eggs, however, the most common usage is a chicken egg incubator. There are three ways it gets this done; warmth, humidity, and air control.

The warmth in an incubator should be at around 100 degrees Fahrenheit to be an ideal temperature for eggs to hatch. This heat is intended to mimic the body heat that comes from a hen as it heats her eggs. An incubator matches this temperature and ensures that it doesn’t fluctuate, making ideal conditions for growth.

Humidity is another important factor, and a mother hen who sits on her eggs can provide this also. Another unique function of the mother hen is she knows when and where on her eggs requires moisture so they can adjust their position perfectly. Eggs lose up to 12 percent of their weight during incubation and the humidity is responsible for losing this at safe intervals.

Newborn Chickens In Incubator

Finally, the air circulation in an incubator is the last piece of the puzzle. Just like all living organisms, air and circulation are vital to life and growth. Since the incubator is completely controlled, they should have adequate air supply and ventilation to allow growth. This is usually done with a fan or other ventilation spots.

When all three of these work together they can recreate the exact conditions that a mother hen would do, but do so in a controlled environment. After a set amount of days, the fetus inside the egg will have grown to the right size and will hatch free of the egg, beginning the next chapter of life.

What Types Of Eggs Can You Incubate?

When you own an egg incubator, there are usually a number of species that will fit inside. However, each of these comes with their own rules about temperatures, humidity, and hatching times, so you’ll have to adjust to meet each one.

The most popular egg is a chicken egg, and knowing how long does it take for a chicken egg to hatch is a general guide to the other species. Chicken eggs specifically are 21 days, but this can change depending on conditions. If you’re hoping to hatch turkey eggs, for example, you will need to wait a full 28 days for results.

Most incubators can cater to all types of birds, with everything from ducks to geese being able to fit inside a standard incubator. For those who are interested in hatching reptiles, this can differ again. Lizards can take around four to six weeks to hatch, and if you were to incubate a wild lizard such as a Komodo then this can take up to eight months.

Measuring Internal Egg Temp

When you purchase a modern egg incubator kit, these usually have a helpful guide which discusses the different species, their optimal incubation conditions, and how long you can expect to wait for a hatchling. Although incubating eggs can be rewarding, it also requires a great deal of patience to wait for the big event.

Best Features Of An Incubator

For those in the market for their very first incubator, or looking to update the old machine they have, there are a few features you need to consider before your purchase. Here are just some of the specifications you might notice on an incubator that requires your input.


The capacity of an egg incubator refers to how many eggs it can fit, and this is usually indicated in terms of chicken eggs. Depending on the size of incubator you need, this usually starts at a dozen and can go upwards from there.


This refers to the rotator within the cabinet which will turn the eggs and your options are automatic, semi automatic, and manual. Your choice will depend on how much input you want to have and if you can be bothered to turn the eggs yourself at designated times.


Most of these are marketed as a poltry incubator, but they can usually fit other species too and sometimes reptile eggs. Check the tray in the product to see if it can be adjusted to suit other species before purchasing.

Different Types Of Eggs In Incubator

Temperature And Humidity

As the two most important functions when incubating the egg, the temperature and humidity are extremely important. Check for thermometers, hygrometers, and other devices which keep these at optimal levels. Some even feature automatic settings that can get the ideal temperature for whichever species you are hatching.


Some of the older incubators don’t have a display at all, and usually have timers and such displayed by knobs. However, the newer models feature digital displays and LCD screens so you can keep track of temperature, humidity, and even count down to hatching time.

Cabinet Material

An incubator is made out of different types of material, and each of them has their own benefits to the eggs. Popular styles include plastic, wood, fiberglass, and polyurethane. Benefits of each include sanitation, easiness to clean, and ideal temperature retention.

Before purchasing an automatic egg incubator, you need to first determine what type of egg farming you’ll do. This will indicate to you how much space you need, whether you have time for turning and temperature checking, and what species of bird you might like to hatch. Once you know this, you’ll be better equipped to look through the potential incubators and find one that’s best.

Cleaning Modern Eggs Incubator

Making A DIY Chicken Incubator

Before you purchase an incubator, you might like to try to create a homemade chicken incubator for fun. This is a great project to do with your kids, or simply to educate yourself on how the process works before you invest in a proper incubator.

  • Find a styrofoam cooler and cut a hole in the end, place inside the socket from a lamp with a 25-watt lightbulb. Place duct tape around the hole both inside and outside the cooler to reduce the risk of fire.
  • Use chicken wire or mesh to create a barrier down the box so you can separate where the lightbulb is so that the chicks and eggs don’t get burned.
  • Add a digital thermometer and hygrometer to measure the temperature and humidity. Check that they’re working correctly, then add a bowl of water and sponge for humidity.
  • Make a glass viewing panel by cutting a hole in the lid and placing the glass over the top. This will be how you keep an eye on your eggs.
  • Once it’s all set up, test the incubator by turning on the light so you can monitor heat and humidity for 24 hours. When you are satisfied with the readings, you can place your fertilized eggs in.
  • Allow 21 days for chicken eggs to hatch, provided conditions are good. Rotate the eggs a few times a day, turning just a quarter to half way round each time.
  • After one week, candle the eggs by checking them with a small flashlight or professional egg candler. This will indicate any unfertilized eggs.
  • After one week, candle the eggs by checking them with a small flashlight or professional egg candler. This will indicate any unfertilized eggs.
  • Once the eggs start to hatch, it should take 12 hours until the chicks emerge from their shells. Watch them carefully during this time and observe for any problems.
Chicks hatching in incubator

This Styrofoam egg incubator might take a little longer to use than a machine, but it gives you a good idea of how this process works. Once you’ve successfully hatched your first lot of eggs, you’ll be able to move onto a professional device and receive a higher rate of hatching.

The Importance Of Incubation

No matter your motive for owning an incubator, these devices will never lose importance in terms of helping out our bird friends. Whether you’re looking to raise chicks to provide your home with a sustainable garden, interested in breeding birds for monetary gain, or just want to use the incubator as an education tool at your school or home, these handy little devices can do the world of good.

Gone are the days where incubators were powered with little more than a heat source and a box, as we see advancements now making these more automatic than ever. For the egg farmer who wants to still be involved in the entire process, though, there are still plenty of devices that allow for this.

By helping out our animal friends in speeding up the incubation process and giving their eggs a far greater chance of surviving, we’re able to benefit for ourselves also. Not only are there plenty of benefits to be had from the outcome of these hatchlings, but the satisfaction of hatching your own eggs is one of life’s most rewarding moments.

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