New to hatching chicks? Or maybe you're wanting better hatch rates for healthy chicks. A fully automatic incubator turns the eggs every day for you. It keeps temperature & humidity stable for healthy chick growth. You can watch the eggs hatch through the crystal-clear window. And that stinky smell from Styrofoam incubator is gone. Why not let yourself be mama hen for 21 days & experience this fun process with successful hatch rates? Many times over.
Electronic incubators like these might not deserve your attention & money:
- Unstable temperature & humidity
- Manual egg turning required
- Opaque view window (Kids: We want to see the chicks!)
- Little headroom for the chicks
- Loud electronics that might disturb you at night
- Broken parts after several uses
- A hassle to clean up & reuse
It comes down then to the question: to save a buck or to save a life?
For hobbyists or families, how about the Brinsea Mini II? It's fully automatic. We will see later, the Nurture Right 360, which has a built-in bright candler. But first:
The Brinsea Mini II (Automatic Egg Turner)
Small sized, the Brinsea fits on your kitchen counter. It can hold 7 chicken eggs, 12 quail eggs & about 3 bigger duck eggs. You can set the turning on auto, on, or off. On auto mode, the disk turns several times a day & stops 2 days before hatching. You can change the turning interval from 30 min to 3 hours per turn.
When you unbox the Brinsea, don't throw away the cardboard donut-like piece. Many folks thought it was just packaging stuff. It's actually the hatching mat for the chicks from day 14 onwards. There's only one & we shouldn't reuse them.
Set up your incubator
Here comes the most exciting moment. After 3-min assembling, you plug in the power, you hear "Beep beep beep beep". The name of your machine shows up: BRINSEA MI V3.0. It then fades out & you see the temperature & day countdown like this:
What to do next? Press OK next to clear letter P (short for Power). To see the settings menu, press both the + and - buttons simultaneously. You'll see "Temp" first. Press OK to get to that setting. The + increases & the - decreases temperature with 0.1 increments.
For chicken or duck eggs, set the temp to 37.5C or 99.5F. Keep pressing the + sign until you see the "Days" option. For chicken eggs, 21 days. For duck eggs, 28. Finally, save all by pressing OK.
Let it warm up for about 1 hour before using. In the meantime, why not take advantage of the 3-year warranty by entering your incubator's number on Brinsea website? It's outside the box, right where it says Serial Number. And bam, that's all done in under 10 minutes.
Before loading in your precious eggs
Test run your bator for 5-7 days. The temp displayed on the screen might be the desired temp it's aiming at–not always the current one. Depending on your ambient environment, you may need to tweak it slightly. Some folks find 37.6C the sweet spot. Some buy extra thermometers & hygrometers to confirm.
In go the eggs
At this point, you don't need the hatching mat. Just put it somewhere near & not underneath the egg disk. To tell whether the eggs are turned, mark Xs & Os around them with a pencil. They'll turn like how you're rolling on the floor, not like when we're doing cartwheels. The turning might be a bit loud. It's better to keep it outside your bedroom if you're not a heavy sleeper.
Your daily task
Check the water level on the side water tank. For the first 19 days, make sure the level is slightly below the mark on that tank. This is about 50-55% humidity. Top it up if it drops too low. For the last 2 days, fill & maintain the water level above that mark, which is about 70-75% humid. Chicks need more water vapor to soften the shell membrane when they're about to hatch.
Take the eggs out & candle them. If you see a dark spot & some blood veins, that's a good egg. If you see no dark spot & a bright color all around, the egg is not fertile. Take it out before it rots.
Do a second candling. Now you can see more blood veins developed as the chick is getting bigger. If everything is good, we go into lock down mode. After this point, just leave them as-is. Oh, and take out the egg disk, put the hatching mat in. Now, all we have to do is count down to:
Peep peep peep! You hear chicks peeping around. It's a kid's birthday, too. Don't help the chicks out by separating their shells. We don't know why but many folks & ourselves have seen the chicks die devastatingly by doing so.
The cardboard provides grip for their little feet. Once the feet are dry, you can transfer the chicks to the pre-heated brooder. Ready for the next 21 days of fun? But we do need some:
Thank God it's not Styrofoam. The smell isn't that bad. If you use alcohol, it might cloud the clear plastic dome after a while. It's good to use mild bleach or concentrated disinfection. Let it dry after that. And you can be ready for the next hatch with the Brinsea.
But wait, what about:
The Nurture Right 360 (Built-In LED Egg Candler)
You get many of the Brinsea features plus a built-in LED candler for 22 eggs. Both are at about the same price. With Amazon Prime, you can save on shipping.
The 360 ships pre-calibrated. But you might want to test run it to make sure everything's okay. For the first 18 days, fill the water in the A port while plugging the B port with a red rubber piece.
For the last 3 days, fill both ports with water. Distilled water, specifically, to prevent iron & calcium build-up. There's an air vent at the top. You can slide it open or close to adjust humidity.
The round yellowish thing is the bright LED egg candler:
In the latest version, the fan cover has narrower bars so chicks won't get their heads stuck in it. You should place the eggs pointy tip in. Eggs on the inner ring may not get turned as much as the ones outside. Before Day 14, you can open the lid & switch them around.
To open the lid, you have to use 2 hands. Some folks build a shift handle so only one hand is needed to lift it. This 360 might work for bigger eggs like turkey. But you may need to manually turn them. Because the turning may not have enough grip on those.
To clean hard-to-reach grooves, you can use Clorox wet wipes. Mild bleach solution also works. There's only Fahrenheit reading so folks in the UK may need to do a little conversion.
It's just a damn good incubator. Folks have seen 80-100% successful rates with it. Expensive, yes, but very well worth it. At less cost of lives & with much more peace of mind. This 360 only has 1-year warranty though.
The Mad Hatcher
For heavy-duty hatching up to 40 to over 1000 eggs, cabinet incubators might work for you. Prices are from $500 to $1000.