Let’s talk about incubators for hatching baby chicks. You can find them for sale online, or at retail stores. They’re inexpensive, quite expensive, and somewhere in between. The difference in price is usually a reflection of the features and the quality of construction that goes into each unit. If you’ve had chickens for a while, and you don’t want to go down to the farm store to buy new baby chicks in the spring, then you might want to try your hand at hatching your own birds. So what is the best egg incubator for beginners?
DIY Low Cost Incubator. Low/No Cost
By far the least expensive way to obtain an incubator is to build one yourself. You probably have the materials needed already. What the potential little bundles of joy need is heat and humidity, and eggs should be turned regularly on a schedule that you can accommodate so that the chicks don’t get stuck to the shell as they grow.
The ideal temperature to incubate eggs is 38 degrees Celsius – that’s 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Humidity needs to be between 25%-65% for 18 days, then 70% for the last few days of incubation.
Temperature and humidity control are crucial to a successful hatch. Keep a pan of water in your DIY incubator and don’t let it go dry. Measure the temperature of the incubator about a quarter of an inch from where the egg touches the floor of your unit. – that’s where you want the bulb of your thermometer when measuring.
Okay – Now let’s learn…
How to Build Your Incubator
What you need is a box that you can secure an incandescent light bulb into, a thermometer, a pan of water for humidity, some window screen, 1×2 pine or sticks from outside to tack your screen to, and some fertile eggs.
Get a box that is approximately ten inches cubed (10x10x10). Anything close will do. Fashion a frame out of your sticks or 1×2 so that it fits inside the bottom of your box. Tack your screen to the frame. The screen keeps the eggs off the floor and allows the eggs to breathe. It also provides a surface for the chicks to walk on after they hatch. Put your pan in the bottom section of the box and lay the screen over the pan. You’ll fill the pan through the screen. Set your light up. To do this, you can lay a small lamp on its side and poke the socket through the side of the box. Just make sure you don’t set your box ablaze.
Now, you can get a hygrometer to watch your humidity, or you can make certain that your pan always has water in it. The bigger the pan, the higher the humidity you will have.
This incubator will work. Eggs must be turned several times per day to keep the yolk from adhering to the shell wall.
Buying an Incubator. Bells and Whistles.
If the DIY incubator is not exactly what you had in mind, then there are brands and types aplenty that you can choose from, depending on your goals. There are a couple of considerations that you might want to thoroughly understand before you decide to incubate eggs.
Once your little darlin’s hatch, and they will, they’ll need a place to stay for a while that is safe and warm before they can mingle with your flock, the big birds, the bullies. Baby chicks are fragile. They can be crushed in an instant by accident should your dog decide to play with them. They need to stay warm. Chicks won’t have their feather coats for 5-6 weeks of age. Even then, they should only go out when it’s warm. So you will need a brooder – another topic for another time.
Incubators come in sizes and with options for all, from the elementary school science class to commercial hatcheries. If you want six birds, or 60, there is an incubator for you. Some are bare-bones with heat and a thermometer only. Some have digital readouts that tell you what the temperature and humidity is, that turn your eggs for you, and that adjust the humidity according to the time of the hatching cycle. I have such a unit. It’s amazing. It cost $130.00. I went 8 out of 9 in my last hatch.
A fully automated tabletop incubator can cost up to a thousand dollars. That’s totally unnecessary for a backyard application. $100-$300 will get all the incubator you will need. My $130.00 model holds 48 eggs.
I highly recommend getting a model with the temperature and humidity readouts and with the automatic egg turner. It will save you a lot of worry over the 21-day waiting period.
I took a look at two incubators. They are similar in capacity and features. The Brinsea goes for $232.00 at Amazon and Chewy. I couldn’t find anyone who had anything bad to say about this incubator. I’m seriously thinking about picking this one up. It’s a great size, and it really does everything for you except add water. It also has a 3-year warranty subject to registration.
Brinsea Maxi 24 Advance Automatic 24 Egg Incubator
- Clear walls mean egg-cellent visibility of the egg chamber without lifting the lid.
- It can hold 24 chicken eggs or 12 larger eggs.
- Flexible, mix-and-match egg quadrant insert system with two sizes of inserts included!
- Enjoy the ease of digital, menu-driven controls with temperature alarms, temperature display, and a countdown to hatch.
- Features programmable, automatic egg turning with auto-stop.
This one is from Harris Farms. It has good reviews. Some people complained that it had some problems, but it is a nice unit for $174.00 at Tractor Supply.
Harris Farms 22-Egg Capacity Nurture Right 360 Egg Incubator
- Auto-stop: Nurture Right 360 incubator will stop turning eggs three days before hatch day
- Automatic egg turner: Eases the incubation process and helps stimulate hen hatch for a higher hatch rate
- 360 visibility: Clear top on the incubator makes it great for educational observation
- 360-induced airflow: Nurture Right 360 incubator provides optimal air circulation & temperature stability
- 22 egg capacity: Easy-to-use incubator can hold up to 22 chicken eggs, 12-18 duck eggs, and 22-24 pheasant eggs
The Best Choice is…
The one you make. The best egg incubator for beginners is the one that fits their needs. Only you can decide what your price cap is, or what your goals are as far as flock size.
Thanks for reading. Let me know if you have any questions.