What is the ideal type of egg incubator for the hobbyist and the small farmer? Why prefer D.I.Y.?
Most small incubator users and wannabe D.I.Y. incubator constructors are either:
- Hobbyists and students. They incubate eggs for fun or study and don’t necessarily want to make a business out of incubating eggs. Capacity needed from 20 to 100 eggs.
- Family farms that raise poultry for their own consumption and backyard farmers. Capacity needed from 50 to 150 eggs.
- Future professional farmers that want just to “test the waters” and their needs are limited. Capacity needed from 100 to 300 eggs.
A capacity from 50 to 150 eggs has been proved to be the most economical in the long term. Incubators of this capacity are the most common in the market of commercial incubators.
But why does this happen?
Let’s assume that we place a number of fertile eggs into an incubator. Even if they are all fertile, the success rate is not usually higher than 60% to 95%.
Note that the overall cost of the chicks you produce includes the buying price of the eggs for hatching, the costs of labor, feed and the energy (electrical or other type) you will need to keep them warm for the first weeks of their life.
The energy cost is the same whether you have to raise 15 chicks (which are the outcome of a 20 eggs incubator) or 35 to 50 chicks (which are the outcome of a 50 eggs incubator). This happens because you must always use the same 150-250 Watts infrared lamp. So the energy cost is the same. Energy is not always cheap.
Do we need a flexible and sophisticated incubator? YES!
Usually the users need to incubate eggs from different species of birds (of course this can only be done in different batches since mixing the eggs from different species is absolutely wrong).
Different species of birds need different settings of incubator temperature humidity and ventilation in order to hatch successfully.
Moreover the incubation time is very different among species and some bird eggs require even more special handling and have their own tricks and do’s and don’ts (like goose eggs).
Which problems can occur at the cheap commercial incubators(40-100 egg capacity)?
These devices are in fact small capacity, forced air circulation, combined setters-hatchers. They are designed for an all in-all out operation, they are single or double tiered, with an egg capacity from 40 to 100.
Their degree of sophistication and automatization varies.
For example let’s take into consideration the simple editions. They have a fixed temperature, come equipped with thermometers and sometimes with hygrometers. Their box is made of cheap p.v.c., abs plastic or Styrofoam (some of the Styrofoam ones are really dangerous), they usually have bad quality electronical boards and their fans are unsuitable for humid environments. They usually break down fast, within 6 to 18 months from the purchase date, sometimes even earlier. Their actual life expectancy is one to one and a half year.
Their buying price lies between 50 and 100 € for the 50 egg incubators with manual or semi-auto egg turning and up to 150-250 € for the incubators equipped with automatic turners. Their temperature is not adjustable but most models have a rather fixed or tricky temperature control. The thermometers and hygrometers used in these cheap models are completely inaccurate.
Their manufacturers claim that you can hatch all types of bird eggs.
From our personal and professional experience (we have been marketing such an Eastern European made incubator with this capacity and price for nearly 2 years) we recommend you to avoid it by all means!! It is a good toy to play but not a real tool for the serious users of incubators. They are a total nightmare for the dealer and for the end user.
For example most of these 50 egg capacity incubators we used to market broke down after 3 to 6 months of use. But we had already signed a 1 year guarantee for each of our customers. Since we keep our promises you can imagine what happened!!
What about the expensive ones?
Another choice that the incubator user has, is to spend from 650 to 1000 € for sophisticated auto turning devices from respectable manufacturers (of the same capacity as the ones mentioned above), with good box construction and accurate temperature and humidity control. Their incubator box is not made of plastic but of polyurethane panel with painted aluminum or stainless steel surfaces (these incubators cost over 1000 €) or of laminated plywood. Usually the humidity control of these machines is optional and costs extra 150-200 Euros. The air exchange is done by regulating rosettes and holes in the box.
Why dont you make one yourself?
The cheaper solution is to make your own high performance incubator by D.I.Y.
Michael J. Mavridis D.V.M
CEO / Founder of Mavridis Zootechniki Ltd.