Choosing Your Incubator
We supply quite a wide range of incubators and hatchers and many of these have customisation options. This guide is to help you understand the different options available to enable you to choose a range and a style of incubator that suits you.
Please spend some time reading and understanding this, as choosing carefully will help you get the best results and most enjoyment from your incubator and hatcher.
Brief description of the different ranges
There are two “basic” ranges: The Standard Series (Wooden) and The Turbo Series (plastic). Each of theses ranges offers high quality machines that require manual operation, but with options to add extras that you feel you might need. You can add any one or more of the following: automatic egg turning, automatic temperature control, automatic egg cooling periods, a double thermostat, and double glazing. You can therefore build your own incubator within a price range and not have to include options that you feel you do not need. These will appeal to people who want to have personal control of all or some of the functions, and have the time available to manage them.
The one thing that is not possible with either of these ranges is automatic humidity control, as the processor-control-systems of these series cannot manage this task. Humidity therefore remains a manual operation, controlled by using the triple partition water basin in the base of the machine, the vent control on the top of the machine, and the hygrometer to read the humidity level. If automatic humidity control is essential for you, then go straight to the Euro-Lux, Favourite and Olympic series.
The next two ranges are the Euro-Lux Series (wooden) and the Favourite Series (plastic). Both of these ranges have fully automatic egg turning, automatic temperature control, automatic egg cooling periods, a double thermostat, double glazing and fully automatic humidity control. These clearly, will appeal to the very serious poultry and game bird breeders who seek perfection in breeding results with the absolute minimum of supervision.
Finally there is the Olympic Series. This is the top of the range, out performing any other incubator in this class for quality of manufacturing, accuracy of controls and high hatch rates with the healthiest of chicks.
Beginners, or those uncertain about how much incubating they might want to do, are advised to choose the HEKA Format (under Starter Incubators)
Wooden or Metal/Plastic Incubator - a mostly personal choice
Your choice is the look and style of incubator that you want. You have two options:
The wooden incubators look beautiful and will fit in well in a home environment as well as smallholding and farm situations. We have been told that they look like a piece of furniture.
The metal/plastic incubators have a great modern look and tend to be the choice for high-volume incubating and hatching, as well as laboratory work, because it is easy to see and clean off any dirt on the white surface.
Choosing the right Size and number of Machines
The size and number of machines you choose will be determined by these factors:
- The number of eggs per hatch
- The frequency of hatching
- Your style of incubating (Batch or Cycle Incubating)
Our experience has shown that it is always best to go for something just a little larger than you initially need. So often, the joy of achieving great results from using such efficient machines leads to an increasing interest, resulting in a desire for larger hatching numbers, therefore, the need to buy a larger machine.
Number of Eggs per Hatch
Due to the hatching cycle, you will want to choose an incubator that can hold the number of eggs that your birds produce in a 3-week period, as a rough guide to the size of machine. Also take into consideration that you might wish to increase your flock size, so perhaps choose one a bit larger.
If you are hatching very frequently or continuously, then you may want an incubator and a separate hatcher. This means that as soon as the eggs are ready for hatching, you can transfer them to the hatcher and set a new batch of eggs in your incubator. This maximises your throughput in the incubator. As a hatcher is less complex than an incubator, it is cheaper to use a hatcher for hatching than an incubator, if you are doing high-volume breeding.
Batch or Cycle Incubating
Batch incubating is when you fill the incubator trays all in one go and all eggs hatch at the same time. Cycle incubating is when you fill one or more trays per week and have eggs at different stages of development in the machine, with some hatching in baskets at the bottom. We recommend Batch Incubating, because the environmental needs of the eggs change during the hatching cycle and it is impossible with Cycle Incubating to give each set of eggs a different humidity.
Options at the time of purchase
Each Series includes various options. You will want to choose your series and options carefully to ensure you have the right combination for your style of incubating. The Home Page has a table of the features that are included with each incubator. Each series has optional extras, so it is useful to understand these in advance of buying.
Automatic Egg Turning
Automatic, motorised egg turning is a commonly chosen option as it takes a lot of the labour out of the incubating process and also acts as a safeguard against forgetting to turn the eggs. It is included with all Incubator series except the Standard Series, for which it is an Optional Extra.
Automatic Humidity Control
This is included in the Euro-Lux, Favourite and Olympic series incubators and hatchers. Automatic Humidity control allows you easier control over the humidity levels in the incubator. Humidity levels affect the rate of development of the embryo in the egg and this can have a significant effect on the hatching results. Please see our Hatching Guide for more information. If you are unsure then we recommend that you choose an incubator that has Automatic Humidity Control.
Automatic Egg Cooling
Designed to mimic the mother bird leaving the nest for a short while, Egg Cooling has been proven to improve hatch rates. You can do this manually by opening the door of the incubator for a short while, however, this runs the risk of forgetting to close it. Automatic Cooling is a good choice for this reason.
As humidity levels are high in an incubator, it is helpful to have double glazing, as this prevents condensation on the inside of the glass. Condensation prevents you seeing into the incubator easily. If children are involved, it is better to have double glazing, so they don't keep opening the incubator door to see what is going on. Condensation can also run out of the bottom of the incubator, which might be a problem if you are using the machine in the home.
Extra Trays and Baskets
For each incubator, you can buy extra incubating trays and extra baskets. The correct ones for each incubator are shown at the bottom of the description page of each incubator.
If you want to incubate different types of eggs at different times, such as quail and goose, you can choose trays to suit the different egg types. We offer 7 different trays for each incubator.
Some incubators also have an option of plastic trays, which can take slightly more eggs than wooden trays.
You can also purchase Hatching Baskets, which enable you to turn your incubator into a hatcher. These come as un-covered as well as covered options. Un-covered baskets are suitable when you do not need to keep the eggs separate from each other. Covered baskets are ideal when you want to know which chicks came from which eggs, such as when you are breeding for genetic development.
Detailed Information about Batch and Cycle Incubating
Cycle incubating is where you choose to fill one or more egg trays per day or days, or even weekly. Then, for the final 4 days hatching the eggs are moved to hatching trays to hatch out. For example, if you chose a Standard series HEKA 6 that has 4 trays, you could choose three 72 hen egg trays for the top three, and a hatcher tray for the bottom. This would mean you could set one full tray of 72 hen eggs every 6 days, transferring them to the bottom hatching tray for their final 4 days. This principle can be applied to any combination of tray numbers, and indeed to transferring to a separate hatcher.
All the time you are using the incubator in this fashion with different ages of eggs in it, you can only use a fixed temperature of Approx 37.8C and humidity at 65 – 68%RH (for chicken eggs).
Batch Incubating is where you fill an incubator with one batch at a time, so that you have only one age group of eggs in the hatcher. Using the same illustration of the HEKA 6 therefore, you could buy 4 egg trays and an additional 4 hatcher trays and set up to 288 eggs in the 4 egg trays. On day 18 take the egg trays out, transfer the eggs to the hatcher baskets and place them in the incubator for hatching. You could also of course just fill the incubator with eggs and transfer on day 18 to a separate hatcher.
The advantage of the batch incubating system, and the one that we thoroughly recommend, is that it gives you the facility to follow our 21 day hatching guide with temperature and humidity variations, plus cooling periods. This guide ensures you are producing the healthiest and strongest chicks possible, with the highest hatch results, and we send this guide to everyone who orders one of our incubators. We are the only supplier who provides such precisely detailed information that is derived from our own 30 years practical experience in game and poultry breeding, plus our direct access to the latest practical scientific research results.