Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The incubator, of course! If you’re interested in hand-raising your own animals, whether for pets or for food, an incubator is a necessary part of the process. But how do you know which is best for your needs?
We’ve rounded up some of the top-rated incubators on the market in order to compare, contrast, and lambast! Ready to see the contenders?
Your Egg Incubator Options
For those looking for a wonderful (but basic) circulated air incubator, the Farm Innovators 2250 offers a full-featured digital display. This display shows the temperature, humidity level, and remaining number of days until the hatch.
The built-in Incutek Heater is factory-set to heat to the ideal 100 degrees Fahrenheit in just a few minutes. There is even a notification light that will flash when the temperature is outside of the ideal range. An integrated fan helps to circulate the air and maintain the right temperature.
One of our favorite features with the 2250 is the picture window – large enough to give an unobstructed view of all your eggs. This makes it a great choice for classrooms, or anyone who is curious about the life cycle of their animals. The deep tray is big enough to hold even large eggs, such as those from geese and ducks.
Additionally, this unit helps reduce the impact on the environment by insulating with recycled polystyrene foam. This is a great choice for insulation as it helps keep the majority of heat in the tray, where it belongs.
We found that this incubator was comparable to some of the more expensive professional models, while being inexpensive enough even for beginners. This is a great choice for anyone looking to have a hands-on experience with their eggs.
The Genesis HovaBator is one of the greatest choices for those who want to hatch larger egg sizes (or just a larger quantity of eggs). There are no automatic turning features or special bonus features here – this is a basic incubator with a large capacity.
Genesis incubators come highly recommended by poultry technicians because they have all the features you need, and no unnecessary bits to inflate the cost. If you’re looking for an automatic system that does all the work for you, look elsewhere. But if you’re looking for a fully-functional incubator that will keep your eggs at the optimum temperature, the HovaBator does exactly that.
The biggest downside of the HovaBator is the lack of an exterior plastic shell over the Styrofoam body. Even though Styrofoam is one of the best choices of insulation material, it can be completely destroyed if there are any cracks in the foam.
Since this unit doesn’t automatically turn the eggs for you, you’ll be opening it every few hours – increasing the chance that something can happen. As long as you’re careful with it, this should last a while – but we wouldn’t recommend this one for children.
For the beginner looking to jump headfirst into the world of poultry husbandry, the RCOM MX20 offers a fully-automated experience that removes all the guesswork from hatching. Well, almost – the instruction manual does a good job providing entertainment with its not-quite-right English translation.
Once you understand what it is you’re expecting from your incubator, you will probably realize that there is not an egg separator tray included – if you’re looking to keep your eggs still and in their proper spots, you will need to buy this separately.
We did find that this didn’t hold quite as many eggs as advertised, but for beginning chicken raisers, trying to hatch too many eggs at once can create problems – particularly when the entire batch is successful (as can often be the case). The price is a bit high when compared to other incubators on our list, but those who can afford the investment are sure to be impressed with the MX20.
4. Brinsea Mini Advance Hatching
Brinsea is undeniably one of the most easily-recognized names in home incubators, and for good reason. The Brinsea Mini Advance in particular offers a small footprint and automatic turning – taking most of the work out of small hatches. We have noticed higher hatch rates when the eggs are consistently monitored, but sometimes you just want something you can set up and go.
If you’re looking to let your kids hatch their own friend, this is a great choice that can help teach them responsibility over new life.
Of course, no system is entirely foolproof, and we do recommend getting a hydrometer if you purchase this unit – it doesn’t come with one. Experiment to see how much water you need in the reservoir to get the humidity in the proper range, and be sure to adjust for the relative humidity in the room that will hold the incubator.
If you’re just looking for a highly portable incubator that will do most of the work for you (and you don’t mind if the hatch rate isn’t 100%), the Brinsea Mini Advance has everything you need to learn the ropes. More experienced users will probably want a higher-end device, but this one works well for those just starting out, and the price isn’t too bad, either. (Full review here.)
In our detailed review of the model, we praised its high hatch rates, ease of assembly, use, and cleaning, super high capacity, and accurate sensors. There’s some room for improvement in terms of setting the desired humidity.
This Incuview All-In-One is a powerhouse incubator that’s durable and reliable. Strangely, the humidity gauge doesn’t seem to be quite accurate, so for best results check your unit with another humidity checker before using. That done, you’ll get good results – though it does mean the unit can’t really claim ‘all in one’ status.
Still, the manufacturers have really, really good customer service and over time, as you get used to the quirks of the system and tailor its use to your particular environment, you’re sure to grow to love it.
Other Egg Incubators We Checked Out
Brinsea Octagon 20 Advance
Note – this seems to have vanished from the shelves and we’re looking into replacing it on this list.
Ready to step up from the Mini Advance but don’t want to stray from the Brinsea name you trust? The Brinsea Octagon 20 Advance offers as close to an automatic experience as you can reasonably expect from a home incubator. The design is unmatched by competitors and offers the ability to plug-and-play.
Of course, for best results (and higher yields) it’s recommended you don’t treat any incubator as automatic. Just as with any other animal husbandry, you should get to know your animals personally – and with birds and reptiles, this means taking a hands-on approach from the start. More than just handling the eggs, you should be watching all the monitors. They’re not intended to do the work for you – only to make it easier.
When it comes to the automatic features of this incubator, we found that the egg turner didn’t quite live up to the hype, and should be treated as a failsafe rather than Plan A. Reliable temperature regulation, alarms to notify you of problems, and excellent humidity control help to make the process even simpler. For those who need it, the Octagon 20 Advance is a wonderful investment piece.
For right around the same price as the Octagon, the Brinsea Manual Egg Incubator holds a few extra eggs, without an automatic turning function. The rest of the features are mostly equal – and you will get the same hatching experience that Brinsea incubators promise time and time again.
The temperature on this unit is adjusted in small increments, making it simple to gradually raise or lower it without shocking your eggs. The outer plastic shell makes it simple to clean and maintain your incubator, and the water reservoirs are just the right size to keep a constant humidity in the machine.
This unit doesn’t have any fancy extras – including insulation – so it’s best if you make sure the room you place the incubator in is within the right range (that is, 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit). Most offices and bedrooms will be around this temperature – just be sure to keep it away from direct ventilation. Something as simple as turning on or off an air conditioner or heater can have an impact on the internal temperature, so be sure to keep an eye on it.
The final product on our list is yet another Brinsea. (What can we say? They’re good at what they do!) It’s big enough to fit up to 66 quail eggs, or up to 9 goose eggs – or anything in between. Feel free to mix and match to get your own personal set-up; the Brinsea Ovation 28 Egg Incubator will offer superior performance across the board.
The price tag on this device might seem high, but when you consider that it’s a wonderful way to set it and forget it, it’s well worth the extra cost. This unit gives accurate readings – even after a power surge, it will remember the temperature you want and reset itself to reach that point again. (Of course, if the power has been out for an extended period of time, your hatch rate will likely suffer, so be sure to keep an eye on it.)
While it seems like a fully automatic incubator would be a better choice for beginners, this unit works best when you know exactly what you’re doing, and just want to amp up production. This ultra-quiet machine will even help dry your chicks after hatching, which allows you to return them to the yard even sooner. This incubator helps remove all the guesswork from the hatching experience and will very quickly pay for itself in yields and simplicity.
Incubator Buying Considerations
As with any other online purchase, there are things you’ll need to know before you begin shopping for an incubator. The best choice for you will depend on a variety of factors, as outlined below.
What Type of Incubator Do You Need?
The best incubator for you will be different depending on the hatching experience you hope to have. Forced air (or automatic) incubators are best for those who have a large number of eggs.
These models usually have a fan to circulate the air. Some may even have auto-turning features to lessen the disruption of the humidity. Still air (or manual) incubators do not have a fan, and work best when there are only a few eggs to hatch.
The person handling these eggs will need to manually turn them every few hours and pay attention to the temperature and humidity inside the device.
Many people are tricked into thinking they need more features than they actually do. Higher-end models might be preferred for professional breeders, but if you have a smaller budget, you probably don’t need the creme de la creme. Keep your personal budget in mind and prevent overpaying.
If you have a little higher demands, the features of the incubator you choose will come into play. For eggs that will be cared for by busy adults, auto-turning features are an incredible time-saver. Other features will vary by brand.
Note that different incubators can take different egg sizes.
Your Own Experience
Less experienced egg raisers will find comfort in models that offer an automated experience. More experienced raisers will get greater benefits from an incubator that gives them greater control over the outcome.
Why Do You Need an Incubator?
1. They’re helpful with a variety of different species.
There is a wide variety of egg incubators on the market that will help with different animals. The number of animals you’ll be able to incubate at one time will vary from one species to the next, and any incubators that offer an automatic turning feature will specify that it is for a particular type of egg.
Since the most common use is for incubating chicken eggs, most incubators will be rated according to how many chicken eggs they can hold at one time. More experienced incubators may want to extend their hatching to ball pythons, bearded dragons, chameleons, or a variety of other exotic pets.
2. It makes it easier to raise your new animals.
Many breeders will sell fertilized eggs for a lower price than established animals. Additionally, some species are much easier to keep as pets if you raise them from day one – ducks, for example, are known to attach to the first thing they see upon hatching.
3. It’s a wonderful way to learn about animal science.
If you’re looking for an unforgettable learning experience for your child, consider allowing them to raise their own pets from birth. An incubator allows a child to take a hands-on approach to life science, and is a wonderful way to start teaching them responsibility.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best incubator for chicken eggs?
The Digital Sportsman 1502 is the best incubator for chicken eggs for most people.
How much does an egg incubator cost?
Prices range from under 50 dollars to over $200 depending on size and function.
What is a chicken incubator?
A chicken incubator is a box that imitates the warmth and humidity a hen would give to her eggs. By copying these conditions, eggs can hatch into chickens.