The Incubator should be placed in a well ventilated room
away from direct sunlight. The temperature in this room should be
regulated between 18 and 26°C.
The incubator should not be placed
directly on the floor as this may affect the performance. Place the
machine on a wooden pallet or any other platform that clears it from the
We recommend you set humidity at 60% and temperature at 37.5°C for
chicken eggs, quail and peacock eggs. Settings may differ for waterfowl
and other bird eggs.
The egg trays turn automatically and the user can set the frequency
of turns as desired depending on the model of the machine. Refer to
The incubator should be cleaned after each and every hatch with an
incubator disinfectant or equivalent. Continuous use without
disinfection will gradually reduce hatchability and increase mortalities
in the shell.
Eggs to be incubated should come from a flock with a rooster and the
hens ideally should be laying for 4-8 weeks to ensure good fertility.
Eggs from the supermarket are not fertile and as such will yield no
Eggs should be stored with the large end up and rotated twice a day
at an angle of 45 degrees.
The egg storage temperature should be between 16 and 20°C
Eggs should be stored for not more that 7 days if good results are to be
expected on incubation. As from day 10 the fertility decreases rapidly
and a moderate hatch should be expected from such eggs if incubated.
Fertile egg after 9 days of
Eggs that have been couriered or transported for a
long distance should be allowed to stand for at least 24 hours before
Eggs for incubation should be loaded onto trays with the sharp-end
Fresh eggs can be loaded into the machine every week (selected
models) and similarly a weekly hatch can be expected. Eggs should be
taken out of storage and placed in the incubator room 24 hours prior to
placement in the Setter. This allows the egg temperature to adjust to
Never incubate cracked or deformed eggs. The chances of these eggs
hatching are very remote. It is recommended you candle eggs at day 10
and remove all infertile and/or damaged eggs as these may spoil your
On day 18/19 chicken eggs are ready to be transferred into the
Hatcher which is usually a basket or mat for combination machines.
Remove eggs from the tray and place into the basket. Hatching should
start on day 20 and be complete on day 21/22. Please note these
timelines apply to chicken eggs and may vary for other types of poultry.
Once eggs have been transferred to the hatcher avoid opening the
machine as this leads to losses in humidity and subsequently suffocation
of chicks which are to hatch.
Setting your eggs
Eggs have the best hatch rate when stored for no more than 7
days before beginning to incubate. Allow cool eggs to warm slowly to room
temperature before placing in the incubator.
Abrupt warming from 55 degrees to 100 degrees can cause moisture
condensation on the egg shell which can lead to disease and reduced hatches.
Humidity is controlled in order to prevent unnecessary loss
of egg moisture. The ideal humidity level for hatching
eggs is still being debated among experts, but many agree that it should
not fall below 25% or above 60% between setting and three days prior to
hatching. During the last three days (the "lock-down" period), the humidity
level should be increased to between 70-80%. Keeping an adequate humidity
range inside your incubator is quite simple. The Little
Giant and Hova-Bator
incubatorscome with simple instructions on how to use the water channels
in the floor of the incubator. Follow the instructions that come with the
incubators. Please note that the humidity in your area will have an impact
on how much water you'll need in the incubator to keep it within the correct
humidity range. Check the water level periodically to ensure they don't dry
Humidity Tip: If you find that you are having a difficult
time seeing the water in the channels to know if there is enough water, try
this little trick: just add a drop or two of food coloring to the water. As
the water level decreases, you'll notice the color of the water (due to the
food coloring) start to darken. It will change again when the water channel
is actually dry. In the Little Giant, this will color the foam. This will
not hurt the incubator, though it sure makes it easier to tell if you have
Another Tip: Having a hard time getting the humidity high
enough? Try placing small sponges inside the incubator. This will increase
the surface area that is wet, allowing more water to evaporate into the air
which increases the humidity.
Many experts agree that a common cause of poor hatch rates is
TOO MUCH humidity during the first part of incubating and NOT ENOUGH during
the last three days (the "lock-down" period). Follow the instructions above
and the further details you will find in your incubator's instruction guide.
Turning the Eggs
Eggs must be turned at
least 2-3 times daily during the incubation period. Many experts say if you
can turn them 4-5 times a day it is even better. Do not turn
eggs during the last three days before hatching. The embryos are moving into
hatching position and need no turning. Keep the incubator closed during
hatching to maintain proper temperature and humidity. If you are using an automatic
egg turner, then that will take care of the turning for you. Just be
sure to remove them from the turner and lay them on the floor of the
incubator (most come with a wire floor) three days before hatch.
If you do not have an automatic
egg turner, the eggs are set in the incubator horizontally with the
large end slightly elevated. This is the way eggs naturally settle when
placed on their sides. This enables the embryo to remain oriented in a
proper position for hatching. Never set eggs with the small end upward.
When the eggs are turned by hand, it may be helpful to place
an "X" on one side of each egg and an "O" on the other side, using a pencil.
This serves as an aide to determine whether all eggs are turned. When
turning, be sure your hands are free of all greasy or dusty substances. Eggs
soiled with oils suffer from reduced hatchability. Take extra precautions
when turning eggs during the first week of incubation. The developing
embryos have delicate blood vessels that rupture easily when severely
jarred or shaken, so take care to handle the eggs carefully. Turn the eggs
until three days before they are due to hatch.
What Temperature is Best For Incubating Eggs?
For the most commonly hatched bird eggs (chicken, duck,
quail, goose, pheasant, etc), the commonly accepted "ideal" temperature is
99.5F. Even so, some people have their own preferences and will adjust this
up or down just a little based on their own experience. The results of
having your temperature too high or too low will be seen in your hatching
experience. If the temperature is too high, but not too high to kill the
embryo, your eggs may hatch sooner than the normal hatch time. You may
think this is a good thing, but in fact it is not. This goes against what
nature has prescribed and often results in weak birds that get sick and die
easily or in birth defects, such as deformed feet or heads.
If the temperature is too low, but not low enough to kill the
embryo, the eggs may hatch later than the normal time. This often results
in too much moisture loss so they have a difficult time getting out of their
shell. It also can have the same affect as having the temperature too high;
weak birds that are more prone to disease and death.
To measure temperature, a good thermometer is
required. The simple glass bulb type thermometers that come with the Little
Giant and Hova-Bator incubators can do the trick as long as you calibrate
them against a thermometer you know to be accurate. Many people prefer a
digital thermometer because it is so much easier to read the exact
temperature that the unit is displaying. You will also find thermometer
options that include a hygrometer,
which is what is used to measure humidity.
Which size egg turner rails should I use?
There are three basic sizes of turner
rail options to choose from. The Little Giant brand has two of them,
the Hova-Bator has all three. The Little Giant can fit the quail rails
(small) and the universal size (medium). It does not accommodate the
goose-size (large) since the ceiling on the Little Giant is too low and a
goose-size egg would be too close to the heating element.
The Hova-Bator can accommodate all three options. Since it
has a higher ceiling, it also provides a goose-sized option. Note that the
universal size (medium) rails can accommodate eggs as large as some duck
eggs (if they are particularly large duck eggs, you will be better off using
goose rails) and all the way down to quail eggs. You only really need quail
rails for quail if you want to set more than 40 of them, since the quail
rails will allow you to set up to 120 at a time.
Please note that the rails designed for the Hova-Bator and
Little Giant are NOT interchangable. They look a lot alike, but they are
different enough that they WILL NOT interchange with each other. In other
words, the rails for the Hova-Bator turner will NOT fit in the Little
Giant. And visa-versa.
How long to incubate eggs
The time required for an egg to hatch is dependant mostly on
the type of egg. The other key factor that has an affect is the temperature
of the incubator. If the temperature is a little higher than the correct
temperature for that type of egg, the embryo will develop faster than normal
and the bird will hatch early (this is not a good thing). If the
temperature is lower than the correct temperature for that type of egg, the
embryo will develop slower than normal and the bird will hatch later than
normal. Neither case is ideal. You should always target having your eggs
hatch during the target window that is appropriate for that king of bird.
For a list of normal incubation periods for various kinds of
birds, see this chart: Incubation
How do I set the temperature in my incubator?
Setting the correct temperature in your incubator is the
single most important thing you can do to get a good hatch. However, it's
not as simple as it may seem. As you plug in and turn on your incubator and
wait for the temperature to stabilize, it's important to understand a few
simple things about thermal dynamics (that's just a fancy way of saying "how
The more eggs you have in your incubator, the longer it will
take to come up to temperature and stabilize. As the temperature gets close
to the set point (the temperature your thermostat is set to), the rate the
temperature changes will slow down. You'll find that the incubator will
start heating up very quickly at first, but the last little bit can take
several hours. This is perfectly normal. It's just how the physics work.
This means that as you wait for the temperature to stabilize,
you really do have to be patient and wait awhile (just like your incubator
instructions say). And it also means that everytime you adjust the control
(change the set point), you have to again be patient and wait for the
temperature to stabilize. Keep in mind, the more eggs you have in your
incubator, the longer it will take to come up to the set point and
What is a hygrometer? Do I really need one?
A hygrometer is a device the measures the amount of humidity
in the air. Just as a thermometer measures temperature, a hygrometer
measures humidity. Humidity is simply the moisture that is in the air.
Have you ever walked outside just after a rain storm and it feels extra
muggy outside? That's because there is more moisture in the air from the
rain that has fallen. The humidity level has gone up. A hygrometer
measures that amount of moisture. It is calculated in terms of "relative
humidity" (see the next section for a description of what that means) and
will always be in percent form. For example, your thermometer/hygrometer
may say that it is 99.5° F with 65% humidity.
Do I need a hygrometer? Good question! The humidity level
in your incubator is not as critical as the temperature level, so many
people choose not to use a hygrometer. They simply use the water channels
in the incubator and hope they stay within an acceptable range. However, if
it's not within an acceptable range, you won't have a way of knowing that,
and your hatch rate can be negatively affected. Our recommendation is to
use one. They are simple to use and don't cost a lot, either. The thermometer/hygrometer
combo offered by IncubatorWarehouse.com gives you an easy-to-use and
easy-to-read digital device at a very reasonable cost.
Do I need a fan kit?
That depends. Adding a fan kit to your still air incubator
is a great way to increase your hatch rate. In the Hova-Bator and Little
Giant egg incubator, the heating element wraps around the inside ceiling. In
a still air incubator (an incubator without a fan kit installed), the warm
air naturally rises, and will be warmer near the heating element. This can
cause cooler areas in your incubator, especially near the corners. The eggs
in these areas may be a few degrees cooler than the surrounding eggs and may
hatch late, if they hatch at all. That is why we have developed a
circulated air fan kit that will turn your Little Gaint or Hova-Bator still
air incubator into a forced-air incubator. It's easy to install in an egg
incubator and is reasonably priced.
A still air incubator is a good fit for someone who is not
very concerned with optimizing their hatch rate, or for incubating eggs that
do better with still air. Reptile and amphibian eggs, such as snake,
lizard, turtle, and frog are good examples.
What is "relative humidity"?
This is simply a term used
to describe the amount of water
vapor that exists in the air. The more water vapor there is, the higher
the relative humidity. It is normally stated in terms of a percentage,
which is the percentage of water vapor that is in the air as compared to how
much can be in the air at a certain temperature and pressure.
Testing the eggs: using a candler or candling box
The best way to test if an egg is "good" (fertile) or not is
to use a technique called "candling". This technique gets it's name from
the way it was done before electric light bulbs. A person would use a
candle to create enough light to try to see what is happening inside an
egg. With electric light bulbs, this has become easier and more reliable.
There are two common ways of candling an egg.
1. You can use a candler.
This is a special light, much like a flashlight, to see inside the egg.
While in a dark room, you simply hold the egg to the end of the candler and
you can see much of what is happening inside the egg. The key is to get the
egg to fit snuggly on the end of the candler so no light emmits from the
seam between the egg and the candler. Normally the candler is made in such
a way that the egg easily nestles into the end of the candler.
With a chicken egg, you should be able to see veins start to
appear within 4-5 days after you have started incubating. With quail eggs,
you may see them after just 3 days!
2. The second common method is using candling box. You make
a small hole in one side of a box, just big enough for the egg to nestle
well inside it. Then you put a bright light inside the box and close the
box (be SUPER careful not to let the bulb touch anything in the box...it's
HOT and can cause fire). Darken the room you are in and put the egg onto
the hole you have created. You should be able to see inside the egg, just
as if you were using a candler.
What should you look for when candling an egg? You are
looking for signs of life. And what you will see will depend on how far
along the eggs are in the incubation cycle. For chickens, a normal length
is 21 days. About 4-5 days into it, you should be able to see veins
spreading from the center out towards the shell. A few days later, you'll
be able to see the large eye ball forming, and you may see something
actually moving inside! As you near the end of the cycle, the egg gets very
dark and about the only thing you can see is an air pocket, which should be
at the large end of the egg.
The Lock-Down Period
The last 2-3 days before the eggs hatch is a critical time!
How do I do it correctly?
There are two important things to do during the last 2-3 days
of your hatch.
First: stop turning the eggs. If you are turning the eggs by
hand, just stop turning them. If you are using an automatic egg turner,
remove the turner from the incubator, place the eggs on the wire mesh, and
LEAVE THEM ALONE! This is the stage where the chick will move into its
final hatching position.
Second: you need to increase the humidity level in your
incubator. During the last three days (the "lock-down" period), the
humidity level should be increased to between 70-80%. For information about
how to do this, see the section above on "Humidity Control".
What if my chick has peeped but is not making any progress?
It is quite common for a baby chick to make a small hole in
its shell and then get stuck in that spot. If this happens, what should you
do? You have probably heard the old saying, "never help a chick out of the
shell or it wil die". This can be true, but it can also mean certain death
to a chick if you DON'T help it out of it's shell. How do you know if you
should help it and how? The
answer coming soon.
They have hatched...now what? The basics of brooding
Newly hatched chicks need four basic things:
1. A safe
2. A warm
3. A dry