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I keep hearing about the need to manage the humidity level inside my incubator.  Why is that important? 

We hear this quite often and it’s actually a great question.

In nature, the mother bird does a really good job keeping the conditions of the egg just right so the fragile embryo inside can develop as it should.  One of these conditions is the moisture that the egg is exposed to.  In an egg incubator, we call this the "relative humidity" level.  Or just RH for short.    Let's mention just briefly what it's call "relative" humidity.    

Two of the main factors that affect the the amount of moisture the air can hold are temperature and atmospheric pressure.  It’s not easy to control the atmospheric pressure, but the temperature is something we try very hard to control in an incubator.  As the temperature goes up, the amount of water (or moisture) that the air can hold (in the form of vapor) goes up.  As the temperature falls, the amount of moisture the air can hold goes down.  That is why dew forms on grass on a beautiful summer’s morning.  The temperature of the air decreased during the night so the air could not hold as much moisture, so it condensed into water droplets and we notice it on the grass. 

So why control it in an incubator?  An egg needs a certain amount of moisture to keep the egg from drying out too soon.  If it dries out too soon, the chick will not have the lubrication it needs to move around enough when it comes time to pip.  This will cause the chick to get stuck, not be able to break the shell lid open and eventually it will die.  But we also have to make sure there is not too much moisture.  Otherwise there will not be a big enough air pocket for the chick to breathe in as it pips.  So the right amount is very important. 

So how do I control it? 

Most incubators come with a simple way to manage the humidity level.  Most of these ways have to do with adding water to built-in water trays on the bottom of the incubator.  They may have several different trays so the more of them you fill, the more moisture there will be in the air.  In home-made incubators, any dish can act as a humidity tray.  In order to increase the amount of surface area (and thus increase the amount of moisture that gets into the air) you can add a sponge or a cloth to help wick the water up and allow more of the water to evaporate into the air.  Or you can simply add more containers to increase surface area.

Surface area and humidity

You will find that a simple hygrometer (like a thermometer, but used to measure humidity) can be very helpful to manage the humidity level in your incubator.  You can purchase a hygrometer for very little investment.  And the returns can be very good!   

Thermometer and Hygrometer

But for those who would like to take more control of the humidity level in your incubator, a hygrostat may be the answer.  This is like a thermostat but instead of regulating the temperature, it regulates the humidity level.  This is a more complicated topic and will be addressed in a different blog post.

Comments | Posted in How To Articles By Kip Jensen

FAQ's About Poultry Molting

11/1/2013 12:39 PM

Have you ever checked on your chicken coop and wondered if a predator got in your coop because of all of the feathers scattered around?  You check around for holes in your poultry wire and then count your chickens and joyfully find that they are all accounted for.   So where did all of the feathers come from?

Your birds are probably molting. 

What is molting?
Molting is a natural process a bird goes through.  It normally occurs at the end of the laying cycle in the Autumn.  As the days get shorter and feeding time decreases, their natural clock tells them it’s time to take a break from the rigors of laying and replenish their feathers.  Feather production requires protein, just as egg production.  So the bird stops laying eggs in order to redirect the nutrients to the production of feathers. 

Chicken Molting

Why do they do it?
It is nature’s way to giving their bodies a rest and also of keeping their feathers of high quality. 

When do they molt?
Molting normally happens once a year in the Fall.  This is most likely to happen with birds that were hatched in the Spring and kept in natural conditions.  If they are hatched at a different time of year and given artificial light, the molting process may happen at other times.

Is there a way to speed it up?
Keeping them healthy is the best way to ensure they get through the process as efficiently as possible. 

Why does egg production stop during molting?
Egg production will stop during molting to give their bodies a break and divert nutrients to feather production.

Another Chicken Molting

How long does it last?
In most poultry, the process will last about 12 weeks.  If it take significantly longer that this, it may indicate an unhealthy bird or a poor laying bird.

Is there a way to prevent it?
No.  This is nature’s way to saying, “GIVE ME A BREAK!”

Is there a way to cause all of your birds to molt at a specific time?
There are ways to help this happen.  Usually, if a batch of birds was hatched at the same time and kept in the same conditions, they will naturally molt together.  Large egg producers have tricks to ensure this is the case and it usually has to do with causing a stressful situation for the birds. 

Is there anything I should do for my birds while they are molting?
Continue feeding them a good, healthy diet so they can finish the process and get back to laying eggs for you.

What other types of poultry molt?
All types of poultry will molt. 


Duck Molting

Comments | Posted in How To Articles By Kip Jensen

Common reasons why egg don’t hatch – Part 2

A few weeks ago I posted a list of common reasons why eggs sometimes don’t hatch.  I reviewed things like humidity, weak eggs and infection.  Here are four more things to consider.

Rough handling – It is becoming more and more common to have fertile eggs delivered to us through the post office.  With the availability of eggs from popular sites like and McMurray Hatchery, it’s getting pretty simple to find just about any kind of breed you may be looking for.  But this comes at a price.  I don’t mean a price in dollars, I mean a price in hatch rate.  Many sellers are pretty good at packaging their eggs so they make the journey un-cracked, but who knows what kind of roller coaster ride they went through to make it to your doorstep.  And occasionally the post office will X-ray packages for safety reasons.  As a general rule, when an egg comes to you through the mail, you can expect the hatch rate to be lower than if they are fresh from local birds. 

Dormant too long – Nature has designed eggs to be able to lay dormant for a period of time so the mother bird has time to lay a nice clutch before starting to sit them.  But this only goes so far.  Generally, eggs that are kept safe and cool will keep just fine for seven days.  Some folks will even go 10-14 days, but this is generally considered to be too long.  After sitting dormant too long, the viability of the embryo goes way down and hatch rates will suffer.  Also, turning the eggs once a day during the dormant period is a good idea to keep the yolk from getting stuck to the shell. 

Poor egg turning – If you ever get the chance to sit and watch a mother hen on your clutch of eggs for a few hours (not many of us get the chance), you will see the hen reach under and gently rotate her eggs.  And somehow she knows just how often and how much to do it.  We replicate this practice by using an automatic egg turner or by turning the eggs by hand.  Whichever method you choose, it is very important that the eggs get rotated!  Automatic eggs turners will generally rotate the eggs six times per day.  If doing it by hand, at least three times is recommended.  More is OK, but don’t do it less! 

Bad temperature – This one is normally pretty obvious, but even so, it’s worth mentioning.  If you notice your chicks hatching early or late, chances are that it’s because the temperature is not right.  And when they are late or early, even though some may hatch, it usually a smaller number and they tend to be not as strong.  If you hatch is a little early, turn down the temperature between 0.5 and 1.0 degrees F.  If they are a little late, turn it up 0.5 to 1.0 degrees.  Something you can be sure of is that thermometers can be wrong but nature will never lie to you.  J 

Comments | Posted in How To Articles By Kip Jensen

The Little Giant and HovaBator automatic egg turners work the same way, that is they both use an extremely slow turning motor (1/240 RPM to be exact)to gently rock the eggs back and forth. That means that for you to see the motor make any movement you would have to stare at it for about twenty minutes. Many customers do not realize that this is the case and assume that their turner is broken because it is hard to see any movement.

So how do you determine if your turner is working or not? The answer is simple; first make sure the turner is plugged in (sounds like common sense but it has happened before) and then check it every hour. The automatic turner completes one back and forth rotation every four hours so in one hour the turner should have completed a quarter turn and in two hours a half turn and so on. If you check the turner for several hours and it has moved than you can breathe a sigh of relief. If it has not moved over a couple of hours and you have verified that the turner was plugged in and noticed some other signs that it is not working like a grinding noise or a stinky odor coming from the motor you most likely need a replacement motor.

So your motor is defective, what do you do in the meantime while you wait for the replacement motor to arrive? First off all if you have eggs in the incubator or need to start some eggs you are going to need to temporarily turn them by hand while you wait. The easiest way to do this is to remove the defective motor from the egg turner, place all of the eggs in the turning racks, and then use your hand to take place of the motor and turn the turner linkage by hand. This allows you to not have to touch the eggs individually each time and to turn them all at once making the process quicker and a little less painless. Once the replacement motor arrives simply install it (remember to plug it in once it is installed) and let the turner turn the eggs automatically.

Comments | Posted in How To Articles By Evan Cornia

A common question we often get is this: What is an appropriate temperature range for my incubator? 

We all know that the target temperature for incubating most bird eggs is 99.5 degrees F.  But we also know that getting an incubator to stay at exactly 99.5 degrees is just about impossible.  Egg incubators naturally have a temperature range that occurs as the thermostat controls the power going to the heating system.  In an on/off thermostat, the power turns completely off and then back on at full power.  As the heater cools down and then heats back up there is a delay before the air inside the incubator starts feeling the effect of the heating and cooling cycle.  This results in the temperature range that you will see as you monitor the thermometer in your incubator.  Even in a proportional style thermostat there is still a temperature range, though it is often less. 

So what is an appropriate range?  It turns out that that is a pretty tough question to answer because it depends on several things.  A better question is, “What is a good cycle time?”  The cycle time is the time it takes the incubator to go from the highest temperature (during the heating cycle) to the lowest temperature (during the cooling cycle).  Let’s discuss that a bit. 

Let’s say, for example, that your highest point is 102.5 degrees and your lowest is 96.5 degrees.  This gives us a total range of 6.0 degrees.  That seems huge and really bad.  However, if the cycle time is fast enough, this range would be just fine.  But wait, if my eggs reach 102.5 degrees that’s really bad, right?  Yes, that is correct.  But we have to remember that the air inside your incubator is warming and cooling much, much faster than your eggs.  So if the temperature cycles between that high and low temperature within just a couple of minutes, your eggs have experienced almost no temperature change.  The key is to get the AVERAGE temperature really close to 99.5 degrees and then make sure that the cycle time is short enough so the eggs stay very close to that average.  Most incubators will cycle between the high and low points within just a couple of minutes and that is very appropriate for keeping the eggs at the average temperature. 

Another example would be a high temperature of 101.0 and a low of 98.0.  But with a cycle time of 15 minutes.  The average is still 99.5 degrees and the range is only 3 degrees.  That’s better, right?  Well, no.  The cycle time is pretty long and gives the eggs a lot of time to heat and cool.  The eggs in the first scenario would be better off than this second scenario. 

We have found that keeping the cycle time short and then ensuring that the average temperature is very close to 99.5 degrees is the best way to ensure your eggs have the best opportunity for a great hatch.

Comments | Posted in How To Articles By Kip Jensen

Many of our customers have been asking about our soon-to-be released IncuView.  The IncuView is an all-in-one egg incubator that has some unique features that we are very excited about.  But the main question we are getting is when will it be available?  We hoped this would be available for the main incubation season this year.  But as is often the case, developing this new product has taken longer than expected.  The good news is that we are very close.  And the even better news is that our test results have been superb! 

This incubator combines some of the best features from some of the best incubators out there and combines them all in one. 

Here are some of the key features that we are very excited about.  First of all, this is very easy to use.  It provides a full panoramic view of what is happening inside the incubator.  This is SO cool when it comes time to watch your little chicks break out of their shells.  It comes with an integrated universal automatic egg turner.  The control module is easy to read and comes pre-set (but easy to adjust, if necessary).  The heaters and forced air fan are built in, along with the humidity monitor (hygrometer).  It plugs into your wall outlet but converts the power to 12V DC power so it is electrically very safe inside.  It can be powered by both 110/120V AC as well as 220/240V AC so it can be used anywhere in the world.  And it has a durable plastic shell which makes it easy to clean, easy to store and long lasting. 

Perhaps the best feature of all is that it won’t cost a fortune to own!  The specific price has not been set yet, but it will be very affordable for the type of incubator that it is. 

So far this has been tested with chicken, quail, duck, goose, turkey and pheasant eggs.  Please stand by because we are only a few weeks away from making this available.     

1 Comments | Posted in Incubator Warehouse News By Kip Jensen

What is the difference between a proportional thermostat and an on/off thermostat?

An off/off style thermostat turns the heater on full power when the temperature gets too low.  Then it turns it completely off when the temperature gets too high.  This style create a wider swing in temperature because the temperature has to get too high or low before the thermostat responds.  The proportional style thermostat adjusts the power up and down as the temperature starts getting close to the set-point (your target temperature).  It will reduce the amount of power going to the heater as the temperature gets close to the set-point.  Then it will increase the power as the temperature starts falling away from the set-point.  This allows the temperature swing to be much less than the on/off style thermostat.  When incubating eggs, accuracy counts!  That is why a proportional style thermostat is preferred.

Comments | Posted in Product Details By Kip Jensen
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