Are you keeping chickens on your homestead? Eggs are a fun perk of having chickens, but sooner or later, you’ll want to expand your brood.
Don’t buy chicks from the feed store—incubate your own eggs!
Incubators increase the hatch rate of your eggs in a controlled, predictable environment. They protect eggs from being eaten or damaged as they incubate.
But there are plenty of incubators on the market. It’s hard to know where to start! Use our checklist to find the best incubator for you.
How to choose your incubator
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Cheap incubators are going to save you money upfront, but they have fewer bells and whistles. That means you’ll spend more time managing the incubator.
Is your time or money worth more right now?
We recommend investing in a high-quality incubator either way. You’ll reuse this incubator again and again, so why not pay a little extra for a better machine?
On the low end, incubators will set you back $50. The nicer models start at $100 and increase in price from there.
How many eggs do you want to incubate? Smaller incubators fit 6-12 eggs, while larger ones can fit over 50 eggs.
Choose an incubator that’s the right size for you. If you don’t want to hatch dozens of chicks, go for a smaller size.
Keep egg size in mind, too. Are you hatching chicken eggs or something larger, like duck or goose eggs? Make sure the incubator is adjustable for different egg sizes.
- Brood planning
The purpose of incubating is hatching chicks. How many more chickens can you accommodate on the homestead? This comes with sheltering and feeding chickens for their entire life, so really think this through.
However, not all of the incubated eggs will hatch. Generally, 20% of your eggs will fail. So if you want 8 new chicks, incubate 10 eggs.
You can’t plop eggs in an incubator and let them sit there undisturbed. Eggs need to be turned as they incubate.
More expensive incubators have egg turners that operate on a timer. However, if you go with a cheaper model, you’ll have to turn the eggs at least once a day by hand. This can disrupt the environment in the incubator, increasing the chances your eggs won’t hatch.
- Temperature and humidity
Eggs need consistent temperature and humidity. Look for an incubator that will automatically display the temperature and humidity inside the incubator.
We say go for a digital display that’s easy to read. Some incubators even have alarms that will go off if the incubator is too hot or too cold.
To manage the humidity, you’ll need to add water to the incubator as needed. Cheaper models have a water pan in the bottom that you’ll refill. Again, this requires you to open the incubator and disturb the environment, which can decrease your hatch rate.
For consistent humidity, look for incubators that have water reservoirs on the outside.
Our favorite incubators
Now that you know what to look out for with your incubator, check out these three models. They have different features and price points so you can decide which incubator is best for you.
Magicfly Digital Mini Fully Automatic Egg Incubator
Incubate up to 12 eggs at a time in Magicfly’s incubator. It comes with an automatic egg turner and temperature control. We like the LED digital display and compact design.
And hey, you can’t beat the price!
Keep in mind that this cheaper incubator requires opening the chamber to refill water. This can disrupt the humidity and temperature in the incubator, which isn’t ideal.
Farm Innovators 2450 Digital Circulated Air Incubator
The Farm Innovators incubator has an automatic egg turner that will gently turn eggs every 4 hours. This sucker can fit up to 41 eggs, so it’s better for medium-sized homesteads looking to hatch a lot of chicks.
This incubator comes with an air circulator to regulate temperature more accurately. It also has a digital display and temperature alarms.
The water channels are on the side, so you don’t need to open the chamber to fill it with water. However, you can’t pour water into this incubator. You’ll need to use a turkey baster (not included) to add water.
The Farm Innovators incubator can also fit duck or goose eggs.
Brinsea Mini II Advance Automatic Incubator
We love the design on this incubator! The Brinsea incubator is easy to clean. Its clear design also gives you a 360-degree view of your eggs.
Brinsea’s incubator can hold up to 7 eggs. Like the other incubators, it also has a digital display and temperature alarms.
The incubator has fan-assisted airflow and can hold duck eggs. They even include an extra disk so you can hold up to 14 pheasant eggs.
The best part? The Brinsea incubator comes with a 3-year warranty.
The bottom line
Incubators aren’t incredibly expensive, but they’re still an investment in your homestead. Use this checklist to find the right incubator for your budget to grow your brood.