Improve Hatch Rates with the Right Incubator

Reader Contribution by Troy Griepentrog
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Our final chicken egg incubation test for the Community Chickens project is complete. We set eggs from Gabbard Farms in a Brinsea Octagon 20 Eco and Brinsea Mini Advance. I had great success incubating duck eggs in the Octagon Eco and wanted to see how the Mini would compare.

We received eggs of three breeds of white-egg layers: Golden Penciled Hamburgs, Silver Spangled Hamburgs and Appenzeller Spitzhaubens. Overall, 75 percent of the eggs were fertile. That’s good this time of year. Usually, fertility starts to drop in April or May and hits a low point between June and August (this varies depending on your location and climate). The eggs we set were laid in July, so fertility levels above 70 percent are perfectly acceptable. And I didn’t open the eggs that were “clear” when I candled them, so more may have been fertile. Shipping eggs lowers the hatch rate, too.

Once again, the Brinsea incubators performed above expectations. All six of the fertile eggs in the Mini hatched (100 percent), and 15 of the 17 fertile eggs in the Octagon Eco hatched (88 percent hatch rate). Overall hatch rates, not accounting for fertility, were 62.5 percent for the Octagon Eco and 85.7 percent for the Mini.

And the incubators were easy to operate. Both incubators have automatic turning, and I set the Mini to turn eggs every hour for a fair comparison. The Mini can be set to turn eggs as frequently as every 45 minutes. Turning the eggs during incubation prevents the embryos from sticking to the shells and exercises the chicks. (See How to Improve Hatch Rates.)

The digital features of the Mini Advance make it a bit easier to set and operate, plus the range of options is a little broader than for the Octagon Eco. But you can buy a digital version of the Octagon Eco, too. It’s called the Octagon 20 Advance, and digital humidity display is a wonderful feature of the Octagon Advance. Humidity is such an important part of good incubation, and other methods of determining humidity levels are not precise.

If you’re planning to hatch a small number of eggs (such as in a classroom setting or as part of a small backyard poultry hobby), the Mini Advance is a great choice. You can see the eggs and hatching chicks just a bit better in this model. If you want to hatch a few more eggs at a time (up to 24 chicken eggs), buy the Octagon Eco or Advance. The value of more healthy, live chicks per hatch easily makes up for the cost difference between these incubators and the small Styrofoam incubators.

We’ve been hatching eggs in incubators for more than 12 years, and my wife’s comment sums it all up: “Using these incubators makes hatching eggs much more fun. More chicks hatch, and they don’t need help hatching.”

Here are the some photos of the two-day-old chicks.

Golden Penciled Hamburg chicks

Silver Spangled Hamburg chicks

Appenzeller Spitzhauben chicks

All the chicks in our GQF brooder. We put paper towels over the wire floor for the first few days so we can scatter feed on the floor until the chicks learn where the feeders are.

Photos by Troy Griepentrog

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