Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Incubator

I figured instead of buying some baby chicks or ducks I should just use the money to buy an incubator.  So today I bought an incubator from Tractor Supply.  I'm the kind of person who can figure out how to make something on my own if I've seen an example in person.  Looking at pictures on the Internet isn't always good enough.  I could have easily made the incubator with only purchasing a few items but the egg turner is something I would have still wanted to buy.  The incubator cost $40 and the egg turner cost the same.  My last purchase from Murray McMurray hatchery was more than that! 

Since I only have two roosters in with the hens they would not end up being purebred chicks.  Does this matter?  I doubt it but maybe someone else can chime in on this.  If I should raise purebreds then it would mean separating the "chick layers" from the rest of the "egg layers".  Now I can just gather eggs and call it good.  The types of hens we have lay brown, white, and blue/green eggs.  No one chicken doesn't lay all colors, we have about 10 different types of hens. 

Tractor Supply is getting baby chicks in on Wednesday.  According to one person working there they will be sold out by Thursday!  They are selling them between two and three dollars each.  Baby ducks are over four dollars a piece.  You can also order from Tractor Supply.  You need a minimum of 25, just like Murray McMurray.  Tractor Supply requires you order at least five of each type but with MM you can go down the list and get one of each as long as you get the 25 minimum.

Right now we have three ducks left and one of them is laying like crazy.  Instead of this first go around with the incubator raising chickens I decided to raise ducklings.  Or at least try.  I had girl go out to the barn and bring in 20 eggs from the nest.  I told her to take the ones on top as those would be the newest.  It doesn't really matter as I've heard eggs will last over two months while waiting to be set.  

How does this work?  The mother, duck or chicken, lays only one egg a day.  They usually lay 5 or 6 eggs per week, it's not usually one every single day.  They don't normally sit on the eggs until they have the right amount, whatever that number is.  Until then the eggs are left out in the cold.  They are sort of in a dormant state.  When the mother is ready to hatch the eggs she will start to sit on them to keep them warm.  Because it's normal for the eggs to sit out in the cold until she's ready to lay on them it makes it easy to gather a bunch of eggs for the incubator.  If I wanted to use chicken eggs I'd probably just go out and gather a day or two worth of eggs and use them all rather than using eggs that had been sitting around for a while.

The incubator keeps them at the proper temperature.  For chickens and ducks it's 99.5 degrees.  Chickens will hatch in 21 days, ducks in 28 so they can't be in the incubator at the same time.  You put water into the space meant to hold water in this incubator.  That will keep the humidity at the proper level.  The automatic egg turner means that I don't have to turn the eggs three times per day.  I know that I will never in the foreseeable future be home every single day for 28 days to turn the eggs!  If I was home all the time then it wouldn't be a problem but I already know that next week we will be gone for five days.  I don't think I'd be able to get someone to come in to turn the eggs.  I'm hoping the water lasts in the container for a week, if not I will have to have someone come in to add water.

After about a week we can candle the eggs to see if the embryos are growing properly.  Three days before the eggs are supposed to hatch you turn the incubator off and remove the egg turning cups.  You don't turn the eggs you just leave them in the incubator.  During this time the chick is supposed to be preparing itself for its out of egg appearance. 

I have only bought day old chicks and ducks.  I've never raised eggs in an incubator.  The only person I know who has was my nephew in his preschool class.  They were the ones that ended up giving us their chickens which almost all turned out to be roosters - and delicious ones at that!  


  1. I have raised chickens the way mother nature intended with the hen doing all the work, and with an incubator. I have chronicled my most recent "natural" trials on my blog.

    For the most success, use the incubator, as mother nature is not always nice. I would collect eggs and put the eggs in a cooler with one or two ice packs, you don't want them cold, but they can't get too warm, about 55 degrees. Then, when you have enough eggs, I put them in the incubator with the egg turner. It takes 21-22 days.

    Introducing them to the flock is another concern. We have a "nursery" really just a separate pen we use for chicks of injured animals. When they are big enough, about 2-3 months, we introduce them and it takes about a week for the pecking order to be established, but then, no worries.

    Good luck!

  2. I bought an incubator last year and did a trial run with 5 chicken eggs. Only three hatched and they were all roosters. The first hatched at 19 days so definitely keep an eye on them.