The next question is to do with the ambient environment where the machine is to be used. If the machine is to be used in an air conditioned building, then even the most basic machine can produce good results. If however the machine is to be used out in an uninsulated, breezy back shed, where the temperature is close to freezing at night and boiling hot during the day; then even the best machine will not perform as well as its potential, and the basic machines will be an absolute flop. Most manufacturers specify a room temperature between 20 and 25 degrees Celcius, and humidity of average 50% RH for best results.
Next is the question of simplicity of operation. In the simple machines, there is usually more to do with regards to adjustment, monitoring of humidity, and turning the eggs. The use situation may dictate that automatic turning is important, eg. when the incubator is at a school or if it is unattended overnight or weekends. The turning rate effects hatchability and eggs need to be turned 2 to 3 times a day minimum to achieve good results, with rare, or difficult species requiring more frequent turning. This is one of the limits to hatching with the simple machines, as the conditions are upset by opening the machine too often, and so turning twice to three times a day is the maximum practical. Turning can also take quite a while in the larger still air machines. A point worth remembering here is that price can bear little resemblance to the ability to hatch eggs. Often a larger more complex machine will produce similar results but with less work, or in a fashion which allows a different management system.
The most significant factors effecting hatchability are often not part of the machine at all. Most commercially produced today will work well. The handling and storage of the fertile eggs, and the breeder nutrition, are of major importance in achieving a high rate of success. These are often the factors which mean, that one person hatches well from a certain incubator and another person cannot. We firmly recommend the use of a vitamin supplement either in the breeder rations or in the water for a minimum of 2 weeks before the fertile eggs are to be collected for setting. Vitamin supplements should continue for the whole of the breeding period.
DEFINITIONS WHICH MAY HELP
INCUBATOR CAPACITY (How many eggs can I fit in?)
There are 2 styles of incubators, one style has fixed size trays, and usually speciies the capacity according to the number of holes in the egg trays. So 50 egg means 50 holes, such as in the Rcom 50 Pro egg incubator. But check as these days many trays will only hold 55-60 gram eggs, and there are some breeds which have 65 or 70 gram eggs which will not fit easily in the trays. The sales staff should be able to help with this question.
INCUBATOR OPERATING SYSTEM
Fan forced or still air. A lot of debate rages about the two systems. Neither is better, or worse. The usual complaints about either system are caused by application of the principles of one system to the other. However still air with mechanical control is certainly very different to electronic control. ( my manufacturers bias shows)
DIGITAL VS ANALOGUE
Digital controls are the "new" technology. though they have been around for many years in large scale incubators.Analogue means turn a knob until the desired temp is achieved.
However there are a lot of machines being called Digital which are not!!. Digital control means Press a button, select the number of the temperature required, then set. The machine goes to the set figure. Analogue control may have either a glass thermometer or a digital thermometer, but has a knob for changing the temperature. Turn the knob, wait a while, check to see if its right, turn some more or less until the required temperature is obtained.
Digital temperature controls come in 2 types. The best type has the ability to "calibrate"the digital control against a glass reference themometer. A number of machines have no such facility so the "digital control or readout" cannot be made to agree with a reference themometer inside the machine. This is the source of much confusion by operators, who ask "Which one is right, the digital display?, or the glass thermometer? So a digital control with no calibration facility is severely limited in usefulness.
Lastly, digital humidity is the latest addition to many machines. It is necessary to ask if the Humidity Control is included in the price or an option, or in some cases whether it exists al all. One popular brand advertises Digital Humidity Control but the control involves opening the lid and pouring some water into it.
EGG TURNING SYSTEMS
There are 4 main turning systems available in incubators, and usually the difference is between price and convenience rather than performance. Remember turning is about feeding the embryo in the egg, and is directly related to the quality of the nutrients in the egg from the parent.
System 1. Manual turning. Incubators with these systems have no grids or racks, but have eggs on the floor of the incubator, and each egg is turned individually, usually twice or 3 times per day.
System 2. Semi Automatic turning. This has a rack or grid, which is turned by the operator as often as is required. This is usually simpler than manual turning as the machine doesn't need to be opened. It is usual to turn 2 or three times per day. Some of these machines have tilting trays, some have rolling trays. The effect is the same, the movement of the egg causes the embryo to move to fresh nutrient in the egg.
System 3. and system 4 have automatic turning of the eggs. These systems have a motor drive to turn the eggs. They usually turn the eggs more frequesntly at the optimum turning times based on science research, and usually that is about hourly. Systems vary according to manufacturer. Some have continous slow turning, some have times turning so they move quickly at set times.
System 3. Have tilt trays or tilt the whole incubator, no difference in the actual performance.
System 4. have rolling trays which can be adjusted a little more easily and tend to be preferred for small eggs like cage birds and parrots.
We often hear today that Polystyrene is not suited to incubation because it is hard to clean. However, the real issue is how soon after hatch the machine is cleaned. Even the best materials and best designs will not halp with bacterial contamination if the machine is not cleaned properly. Simple materials mean lower cost incubators, but more careful attention to cleaning is required.
The Author has had over the last 30 years of service of almost every brand of incubator and I can say with perhaps greater authority than most, that incubators do not like 2 things. One is being left for weeks after hatch before cleaning, they should be washed as soon as the hatch has finished. The other is washing out the machine and not drying it before it is put away. All incubators need to be run dry for at least 24 hours after wash down before the machine is shut down, and stored
PLACE OF MANUFACTURE
Today almost all the Incubators are made in other countries, to say nothing of the conditions of the workers who do the job.... Its all about the form of words. So "made exclusively for us in Australia" does not mean manufactured in Australia, just made somewhere else for an Australian company. So ask where they are really made, its usually not Australia, and often not even in the country which exported them to Australia, and so claims to be the place of manufacture. The Bellsouth 100 egg incubator is not made overseas.
Compare egg incubators by hatch size, energy, consumption and price.