hen sitting on her newly hatched hicks

Best Egg Incubator

OK so you made up your mind and you want to buy an egg incubator. Congratulations! This is a wonderful experience that you (and your children?) will remember for a lifetime.

Now first off, you should know that successful chicken egg incubation is all about controlling three main environmental factors: temperature, humidity, and egg turning.

Obviously, any incubator you purchase should excel in these three areas, as a minimum. There are also important incubator features that can make your life a while lot easier, especially if you plan on incubating chicken eggs regularly. We will tell you about about those features as well in this article.

Finally, we will summarize our review of chicken egg incubators and make recommendations for “Best Overall” , “Best Overall Runner Up” , “Best Value” (aka, Best Small Egg Incubator) and “Best Value Runner up”.

Incubation Temperature

The  ideal temperature for incubating your chicken eggs is 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature can safely range from 99-100. If the temperature is too low, the internal organs will be underdeveloped and hatching will be delayed or simply will not occur. On the other hand, if the temperature is too high, your chicks can overheat and die! There are some caveats you should be aware of regarding  the consistency of incubation temperature. For example, I think you should know what to do if you suddenly lose power for a half hour or so. Brinsea has studied the effect of temperature changes on chicken development and has come up with some interesting findings:

thermometer
Temperature must be carefully monitored

1-Cooling your eggs over short periods of time, say 30-40 minutes, should have no detrimental effect on your survival of your chicks. Short periods of cooling actually simulates the typical time a brooding hen might be away from her clutch of eggs during the day. So, if your power goes off for that amount of time, nothing to worry about!

2-Now, regarding heat, early chick embryos, say, six days old or less, are susceptible to heat injury. They will die if exposed to temperatures of 105 for only a few hours.  Older embryos, however, those  which are approaching hatching time, are able to withstand temperatures of up to 110 for several hours.  

What About Incubation Humidity? 

OK, you may need to put on a second pot of coffee for this next section!

combination thermometer and hygrometer
Humidity and temperature monitor

Well, humidity actually has a very big role to play in the development of the chick embryo, through its impact on the egg shell.  Egg shells are actually quite porous things, and during egg incubation, a significant amount of moisture is lost through that shell. This loss of moisture causes the air sac inside the egg to increase in size. As hatching occurs, the membrane surrounding the air sac becomes brittle enough for the chick to break through it, get some air, and then finally (triumphantly!) break through its shell. 

Now, if the humidity is too high while the egg is being incubated, less moisture is lost from the egg, the air sac doesn’t get large enough to stretch the membrane that the chick must break through. As a result, the chick has a hard time trying to break through it, and can actually die from expending too much energy in doing so.

On the other hand, having the humidity too low will cause your eggs to lose too much weight. This means that the air space in the egg will become too large, casuing the chick to get crowded, resulting in a smaller chick. And smaller chicks are less likely to hatch (and if they do, they are more likely to die.)  

What is the Proper Humidity Level for Chicken Egg Incubation? 

It varies pending on the age of the chick embryo. 

From days 1-17 of the incubation, the humidity level should be from 50-55%. From days 18-21, it should be higher: 70%.

How do you regulate the humidity during egg incubation? Most good incubators will come with water channels that run along the base of the incubator. You will need to fill these channels periodically to maintain the proper humidity. Lower-priced incubators do not have these channels, and instead you will need to keep a supplied internal sponge moist during the incubation.  

Many good incubators come with a humidity gauge (an hygrometer) with an LED display. When in doubt, its always a good idea to buy a separate hygrometer-they don’t cost much- both to check the reading that you are getting, and also to calibrate the hygrometer in the incubator.

Turning Eggs 

Eggs need to be turned!  Why? Turning prevent the embryo from sticking to the shell, which would hinder the development of the embryo and eventually kill it. Also, by turning the eggs, the embryo is exposed to fresh nutrients and oxygen, while also removing wastes. Watch a hen lying on its eggs and you will see how well she not only turns them, but also rotates them from the outer to the inner perimeter of her nest, and then back out again.

Eggs should be turned three to five times a day, traditionally an odd number of turns, so that the embryo is never lying on the same side for two nights in a row. Urban legend? Maybe. But on the other hand, would you really want to step on a crack if there was the possibility of breaking your mother’s back?  

Eggs should not be turned past Day 18. The chicks need to position themselves for hatching, and any rotation of their eggs will hinder this process.

A baby chick incubator that has an automatic turner (an “auto turning incubator”) with automatic shutoff at the 18th day, will save you alot of time. Having automatic egg turning has other benefits as well: since you won’t have to open and close the unit, it is much easier to maintain a constant temperature and humidity level. There is also less of a chance of contaminating your eggs with bacteria from your hands.

What Makes an Egg Incubator a “Best Egg Incubator”?

1. A good instruction manual! Number one, this is probably the most important feature of any egg incubator. Face it, most of the electronic devices sold in this country are manufactured in China. That doesn’t mean that the instructions have to be written there as well.

instruction manual
OMG, instructions!!!

The instruction manual for our top pick, below, was rated “excellent” by several reviewers. One reviewer specifically proclaimed, “No chinglese”! (I didn’t know that was a word, but it certainly describes many of those poorly written instructions we often receive with our electronic purchases).

2. Durability! Are you planing on using an egg incubator regularly, or is this a “one off” thing? Reviewers of less expensive incubators remarked on how their units lasted one season only, or that the lids were cracked during shipment.

strong little  girl
Strong AND durable is what you are looking for

Mid to larger-sized incubators, in general, seem to be built with durability in mind, and there are fewer complaints about their construction.

3. Temperature and humidity stability. “Best egg incubators” will include an LED display of the temperature and humidity levels inside the unit. You will need to purchase a separate device that includes both an electronic thermometer and hygrometer to calibrate your incubator. Once calibrated, though, a “best egg incubator” should be able to maintain the proper temperature for the 21 days it will take to hatch chicken eggs. Similarly, your incubator shock be able to maintain a stable humidity level for the first 18 days, and then be capable of raising this level for the last 3 days before hatch.

4. Egg turning with automatic shut-off from day 18 to 21. Egg incubators that have automatic turners and automatic shutoff at the 18th day can save you alot of time. I mentioned other advantages of have automatic egg turning above: easier to maintain a constant temperature and humidity, and less chance of contaminating your egg with microorganisms from your hands.

5. An internal fan. An internal fan is an important factor in maintaining even temperature and humidity levels throughout your egg clutch, ie, no hot or cold spots. 

6. Ease of Cleaning. You are going to have to do some serious clean up after each hatching. Some incubators are easily cleaned while others need to be disassembled before cleaning. Amazon reviewers talk about cleaning egg parts from the motors of some of the lower cost incubators, for example. 

7. Egg Capacity. Incubators come in all sizes, from a “hobby size” unit that can hold only 7 eggs, all the way up to a cabinet incubator that can hatch up to 270 eggs at a time. 

We did find that the smaller the incubator, the less stable the temperature and humidity control. This may partly be due to their lids being less sturdy, and not fitting snuggly into the base of the machine. Some less expensive models come packed in a styrofoam container which buyers use to maintain a more constant temperature in the incubator.

We did find that the smaller the incubator, the less stable the temperature and humidity control. This may partly be due to their lids being less sturdy, and not fitting snuggly into the base of the machine. Some less expensive models come packed in a styrofoam container which buyers use to maintain a more constant temperature in the incubator.

8. Price. This is a definitely a key factor. On the other hand, what else were you planning on doing with your stimulus checks? 

man holding money
You get what you pay for!

In the world of egg incubators, you definitely get what you pay for, so go for the most expensive one you can afford, especially if you plan on using it regularly.

Check out our “Best Egg Incubator ” comparison table below. You will see that the more expensive ones “check all the boxes” that I discussed above.

Best Overall
Best Overall Runner Up

Best Value 

Best Value Runner Up

Harris Farms NR 360 

Farm Innovators 2450 

Apdo Egg Incubator

HBlife 9-12
  • Excellent instructions

  • LED displays temp, humidity, "days to hatch" 

  • Egg turner with auto shut-off at "lockdown"

  • Internal fan

  • Easy to clean 

  • 22 Egg capcity

  • Sturdy

  • LED candler

  • LED displays temp, humidity, "days to hatch" 

  • Auto egg turner, but no auto shut-off at "lockdown"  

  • Internal fan 

  • Easy to clean 

  • 44 Egg capacity

  • LED Candler

  • LED displays temp only

  • Need to buy hygrometer 

  • Auto egg turner, but no auto shut off at "lockdown"

  • Internal fan

  • 12 Egg capacity

  • LED Candler

  • LED displays temp only 

  • Need to buy hygrometer/ temp gauge 

  • Auto egg turner, but no auto shut off 

  • No internal fan 

  • Easy to clean

  • 9 Egg capacity