Deciding you want to take up hatching and raising your own birds is really exciting, but also can be quite daunting. One thing you will need to do is decide what species of bird you want to hatch. Someone hatching birds for their functional use probably already knows what type of bird they want to hatch, because they are hatching the birds for the specific things that species of bird can do. But for a hobbyist, or someone just getting into hatching birds, this decision may be a little more challenging.

 

There are several things to consider. Mortality rates, the amount of effort required to hatch the eggs, the amount of resources required to hatch the eggs, useful features of the bird (for example, a good meat bird or egg laying bird), and the availability of eggs are all important things to consider. Pick whichever bird appeals most to you. You may want to look up pictures of what the chick and the adult bird look like, especially as a hobbyist or someone else who may rather have the cutest bird than the most useful one.

     

 

There are several major bird species that people commonly hatch. Here is a list of them and some pros and cons.

 

   

Eggs in Incubator


            

           Chickens:

  • High egg availability— it is not difficult to find someone selling chicken eggs.

  • Easy to hatch and care for. Chickens are among the easiest birds to incubate, especially for a novice. Also, they do not take long to hatch.

  • Small, lightweight eggs. Easy to ship and transport.

  • Useful bird— chickens are good producers of eggs and meat.

  • Chickens are more susceptible to disease and may require more vaccinations and veterinary check-ups.

  • Even if you don’t have a rooster, chickens can be somewhat loud compared to other common birds.

   

 

Ducks:

  • Quieter, relatively peaceful birds.

  • Once they are mature, they have much higher resistivity to temperature and weather changes than many other common birds, due to a layer of oily, waterproof outside feathers.

  • Able to forage for a lot of their food. This decreases feeding costs and rids the area of unwanted pests and aquatic plants.

  • A little harder to hatch, with higher mortality rates. Also slightly harder to raise to adolescense

  • Visually appealing bird as a chick and an adult.

   

 

 

Turkeys:

  • Excellent meat bird— more meat produced per pound of feed than any other common poultry bird.

  • Traditional value— Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.

  • Somewhat easier to keep alive in the first 72 hours than other birds— these first few days are some of the most dangerous for birds.

  • Larger eggs usually require a specially bought turkey egg tray, as opposed to a generic duck/chicken egg tray.

  • Harder to find eggs to buy.

  • Susceptible to ‘blackhead’ disease in some areas.

 

   

Quail:

  • Require very little space, especially in the first few days.

  • Easier to get in bulk. Quail eggs usually come in much larger quantities and many more can fit in an incubator.

  • They require very little attention, feed, or veterinary care.

  • They mature quickly.

  • They can be a very valuable bird to sell.

  • They are more resilient to disease than other birds, and have a low mortality rate.

  • Can be more easily injured. This makes them less appealing to children, who usually want to hold and pet the chicks, sometimes a little roughly. Quails are a bird that should be disturbed infrequently.

  • Also require a specially sized rack in the incubator.

 

 Fortunately, all these birds are hatched and raised in very similar ways. The incubation process and temperatures are very similar between different species, as are brooder specifications. This makes it easier to attempt multiple species (at different times, or, at least, in different incubators.

 Once you have decided what species you want to incubate, you will want to identify what breed of that species to get. For instance, if I decide I want to incubate chickens, I then need to determine whether I want Broiler, Leghorn, Brahma, etc. Use the same factors as you used to decide species.