- How to keep chickens at home




Breeding Chickens: Setting Up Your Incubator

Ensuring your incubator is correctly set up is the key to successful hatching

Before setting up your incubator to hatch your own chickens, be sure to read the section on incubating chicken eggs.

For best results you should set up and run your incubator for 24 hrs prior to setting the eggs.
During this time monitor the temperature and humidity settings closely and and check for correct functioning of the ventilation and egg turning mechanisms. Only when you are completely satisfied that the incubator is functioning normally should you set the eggs for hatching.

All incubators operate in slightly different ways so it is important to follow the manufacturers instructions closely and familiarise your self fully with the controls and settings before you first use it.

In this example we can see how to set up an RCOM 20 digital incubator. This model, although at the upper end of the scale when it comes to commercially available incubators, is one of the most popular types as it is very reliable and easy to set up and use.

Brinsea RCOM 20
The RCOM 20 Digital incubator. This model is easy to use and consistantly produces high hatch rates.

 incubator-top off
1) Unclip the latches on the main body and lift off the top. Thoroughly clean and sanitise the unit if it has been previously used.
 Brinsea incubator-Moisture control contacts
2) On digital incubators there may be some contact points inside for the various moisture and temperature sensors. Make sure that they are clean and free of corrosian or you may get false readings on the display
 Brinsea incubator-Moisture reservoir
3) notice the contact points here are a little corroded. Clean and apply a small drop of penetrating oil such as WD40 to ensure proper contact. You can easily remove any corrosian with fine emery paper or steel wool.
 brinsea incubator- new moisture pad
4) This model also uses a moisture pad to maintain the correct moisture level during incubation. It is recommended to replace this pad for each new hatch although if the pad is stored wet it can be used a number of times.
 Brinsea incubator-moisture pad in place
5) Once installed the pad will absorb water and expand to fit the space provided in the moisture chamber. From here the moist air is drawn into the hatching chamber and the correct moisture content is maintained electronicly.
 brinsea incubator-dividers set
6) Replace the upper body of the incubator and close the latches. Set the egg dividers so that there is just enough room for the eggs to sit loosely between them. This model has an automatic turning mechanism so be sure the eggs can move freely as the base rotates beneath them.
 Brinsea incubator-eggs set
7) Some breeders dip the eggs in a sanitising fluid before setting them for hatching. Although this isn't essential it will greatly improve your chances of a successful hatch. Sanitising fluid is available from most good poultry suppliers. Make sure to fill the water reservoir to the correct level (* see note)

 Binsea incubator-LCD display
8) Close the lid and switch on the incubator. The LCD display will light up and you can set the parameters as follows-
Temperature: 99.5 °F or 37.5°C
Humidity: 45 - 47%
You may get a low temp reading and a high humidity reading depending on ambient conditions as shown in the picture but these will gradually stabilise at your preferred settings.

 Brinsea incubator-LCD display
10) For the first couple of hours monitor the readings for temp and humidity and check that they stabilise.
Once they reach the correct settings check them at least once a day to ensure they remain constant. Check the level in the water reservoir to ensure the correct humidity is maintained at all times.
* Use distilled water when filling the   reservoir as contaminants in tap water may have a detrimental effect on your hatch rate.
It also helps to prevent corrosin and scaling in the incubator itself.

Once the incubator is set up and running you will only need to top up the water reservoir and make periodic checks to the temperature and humidity readings throughout the incubation period which, in the case of chickens, is about 21 days.