What is an Egg Incubator

What is an egg incubator?

In Short, an egg incubator artificially simulates the role that a broody hen does in nature.

An incubator is a mechanical device which regulates the temperature and humidity at perfect levels therefore creating the ideal conditions which allows the chick to develop inside the fertilised egg with optimal hatch rates.

Incubators are much more successful at hatching than hens and have been driving force behind the huge expansion in the poultry industry in the last hundred years. For example, a hen can only hatch 20 – 30 eggs per year however, by using an incubator that same hen can produce almost 300 chicks per year.

How it works;

Incubators are built to include a motor and a fan which work at keeping the temperature at the required levels which vary from species to species. As the temperature inside the incubator must be kept constant it is best to keep the incubator in a room where there are little to no fluctuations in temperature.

The eggs are placed on a tray inside the incubator and need to be turned at least 3 times a day.

Water needs to be added to the incubator each day to maintain the humidity within the incubator. The humidity increase foe the last few days of incubation. There is usually a hole in the base of the incubator which allows for the water to be filled externally to reduce the need to open the lid while eggs are in the incubator. Therefore, reducing any major fluctuations in temperature.

There are manual and Automatic egg incubators available. As the eggs have to be turned multiple times per day the model of incubator will determine whether the eggs must be turned manually by you or automatically by the incubator itself.

Manual Incubators VS Automatic Incubators

One of the major advantages of an automatic egg incubator is that it turns the eggs for you, so you don’t have to. The eggs sit in compartments on a specially designed tray. The tray is turned automatically by a motor which causes the eggs to rotate.

If you want to be more involved in the incubation process, then a manual egg incubator is for you because with a manual egg incubator, you are required to turn the eggs at least three times a day by hand. It is best that you mark one side of the eggs so that you can track when they were last turned. It is important that eggs are turned regularly as the chick can stick to the inside of the shell.

Manual -V- Automatic Egg Incubator

One of the major advantages of an automatic egg incubator is that it turns the eggs for you, so you don’t have to. The eggs sit in compartments on a specially designed tray. The tray is turned automatically by a motor which causes the eggs to rotate.

If you want to be more involved in the incubation process, then a manual egg incubator is for you because with a manual egg incubator, you are required to turn the eggs at least three times a day by hand. It is best that you mark one side of the eggs so that you can track when they were last turned. It is important that eggs are turned regularly as the chick can stick to the inside of the shell.

Storing Eggs for Incubation

The proper collection, handling and storage of eggs are key factors in the success of every hatch. The quality of your chicks is determined by how the eggs are handled from then time they are laid to when they are placed in the incubator.

A fertile egg contains living cells, where the embryo starts to develop even before incubation. Once an egg is laid, the goal is to maintain the chances that it will hatch. It is not possible to improve the chances of hatching at this stage however, the chances of hatching can be harmed if the eggs are not stored and handled correctly.

Egg Collection & Nesting Areas

Nesting Areas must be kept clean and free of droppings as very dirty eggs are not suitable for incubation, due to the risk of bacteria entering the egg or contaminating the incubator. Eggs should be collected twice daily.

Egg Selection

Any dirty or damaged eggs should be discarded. A very slightly dirty eggs can generally be used for hatching, without washing it. Washing an egg is very risky as it can remove the protective film that is on an egg shell. If this film is removed bacteria can enter into the egg reducing the chances of it hatching. Washing is best avoided unless using a suitable washing solution such as Chictec Egg Wash

Egg Shape Quality is very important. Oblong eggs should not be used for hatching, as they will almost certainly either lead to it not hatching or that the chick will not survive. The idea is to the have to egg as close to perfect as possible.

Egg Storage

Find a suitable place for egg storage where they can safely be stored at room temperature (Between 14 – 18 degrees Celsius) Embryos stored below 5 degrees or above 26 degrees could die.

Once eggs are collected place them in a clean plastic egg tray point down

Each Day Rotate the egg i.e. Day 1 – Point Down Day -2 Point Up etc. Repeat this process for the period that eggs are being stored

Set them in the incubator as soon as you have collected enough eggs.

After 10 days the chance of the hatching is less than 40%

Preparing for your Chickens for the first time.

So you have decided to take up chicken keeping for the first time or perhaps you may have had hens before and just want to brush up on your chicken keeping skills! Like caring for other pets, it is mostly common sense. A little tender, love and care can go a long way.

We’ve done our best to put together a short guide answering the most common questions that we get asked by first time chicken keepers.

Where can my chickens live?

What can I feed them?

How will I keep them safe from predators?

Where can my chickens live?

Chickens are quiet hardy and are outdoor animals however, it is essential that they have a safe, dry and sheltered place that they can call home. It is best to invest in a chicken coop.

If you are the handy type by all means go ahead and build one yourself. We have an article that outlines all of the key principles of a well-designed chicken coop.


If you are looking to buy a chicken coop we have a full article on finding the perfect coop too.

What Will I Feed Them?

Chickens need a balanced diet and a fresh supply of water to keep healthy. Hens are very productive laying almost an egg a day. Laying Hens are essentially high performing athletes. Getting the right nutrients and minerals in the right quantities is very important but don’t stress as Layers Pellets has been specially formulated to meet all of the hens requirements. Layers Pellets are available from most local hardware and pet stores. However, as the hens grow older we would recommend trying some oyster shells or some vitamins to prolong their laying life.

Fresh, clean water and feed should be available at all times and contamination must be avoided. The easiest way to ensure a fresh supply of feed and water and to avoid contamination is to buy Poultry Feeders/Drinkers. They are inexpensive and by far one of the best investments you can make for your new girls.

How can I keep them Safe from Predators?

Foxes are the biggest threat to backyard flocks in Ireland however, it is not unheard of for domestic pets such as dogs to also take a fancy to your girls. You should always be mindful of having your chickens out during the day and ensure that they are in an enclosed area to keep them from wandering too far.

By feeding your indoors or choosing the right outdoor feeder you also reduce the risk of exposure to wild birds and rodents. We have a full article on choosing the best chicken feeder right here

We have tried our best to keep this article short and simple.

Pure Breed -V- Hybrid

It may come as a surprise to you but not all hens primary purpose is to lay eggs. Some hens can lay less than 100 eggs per year whereas others can produce in excess of 300 eggs per year and it’s not pot luck. It’s all to do with the breed of chicken.

There are Hundreds of Breeds of laying chickens to choose from and it can be a little daunting if you are new to the scene. Although we have already made the task quiet simple by selecting what we feel are the 15 best breeds suited to backyard flocks in Ireland we thought that you all might like to see how we have drawn our conclusions.

There are two main types of chickens;

  1. Pure Breeds
  2. Hybrids

Pure Breeds

There is quiet a selection of Pure Breeds Birds to choose from. They come in all sizes and colours from Large Fowl to their Bantam Equivalents. They can be very pretty however, they are not very productive and can be quiet aggressive. They are normally only hatched and raised by small backyard hobbyists and it is very unlikely that they are vaccinated.


Hybrid Chickens are very strong and robust. They are both docile and productive. They are great with kids and can lay in excess of 300 eggs per year.

Our advice to you is;

If you are looking for a good laying hen that is easy to keep in a family environment then a good hybrid hen is hard to beat. We have over 15 breeds which are high producers, great with kids and very attractive.

Find out more about our Hybrid Chicken Breeds

Health Benefits of Free Range Eggs

Eggs are Nutrient Rich

  • 40% of your daily vitamin D requirements.
  • 25% of your daily folate requirements.
  • 12% of your daily riboflavin (Vitamin B2) requirements.
  • 20% of your daily selenium requirements.
  • Eggs also contain vitamins A, E, B5, B12, as well as iron, iodine and phosphorus.

Free-range eggs contain up to a third less cholesterol than conventional supermarket eggs. A standard egg contains an average of 423 milligrams of cholesterol, while free-range eggs contain an average of 277 milligrams. If cholesterol is a concern for you, free-range eggs are a smart choice.

With only 72 calories in a single free-range egg, you can fill up with a hearty, healthy scramble at breakfast without wrecking your MyFitnessPal numbers before you leave for work.

And you’ll stay full until lunch, thanks to the one-two punch of protein and healthy fats that eggs offer.

Can you say that about your bowl of cereal?

Most free-range eggs will have more deeply coloured yolks because they’re laid by hens on a varied, nutrient-rich diet.

Now, imagine those gorgeous golden yolks spilling out as you dig into that plate of home cooked fry next Sunday morning.

10 Interesting Facts

Chickens know who’s boss—they form complex social structures known as “pecking orders,” and every chicken knows his or her place on the social ladder.

Chickens have full-color vision—no color-blindness here!

 Who likes to sunbathe? Apparently everyone—humans, cats, dogs, and chickens too! You can’t blame them, and they don’t even need sunscreen.

Chickens are real sleeping beauties—they experience rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which means they dream just like we do.

Chickens have more than 30 types of vocalizations to distinguish between threats.

When chickens feel stressed, they start to loose their feathers.

A chickens heart beats from 220 to 360 times per minute.

Most eggs are typically laid in the morning between 7am and 11am.

Chickens prefer to bathe in dust, rather than in water, dust bathing both controls external parasites and helps condition a chickens feathers.

Believe it or not, the chicken is the closest living relative to the Tyrannosaurus Rex !

Taking Care of Baby Chicks

Raising chicks is one of the most rewarding hobbies out there. It is a great experience for kids and adults alike and when you finally get to the stage when your chicks have grown and lay their first egg there is a great feeling of satisfaction. It is something that fortunately, we get to experience time and time again here at Freeway Poultry which we are all very grateful for.

So, whether you are embarking on a new adventure or an experienced poultry keeper this short guide will make sure that your chicks get the best possible start in life.

Raising Chicks

Setting up your brooder

Your brooder should be clean and disinfected prior to the arrival of your chicks.

Your brooder should have been pre heated for 2 – 3 hours before the arrival of your birds. Using either a heat lamp or a chick heat plate. What’s the difference between a heat lamp and a heat plate?

We recommend that your brooder should be 30 degrees Celsius at chick height when they are being placed.

Spread 5 – 10cm of Wood Shavings evenly throughout the brooder. Why should I use Wood Shavings in my brooder?

Ensure that feed and water are available to the chicks immediately upon arrival to the brooder.

A quality chick crumb is vital and will determine how well your chick is going to develop. If the pellet is too big or the feed is full of the dust it could have severe consequences on your birds. 

The bedding, feed and water should be topped up at regular intervals for the first 4 days.

Do not give full sized pellets until the birds are at least 18 days of age.

It is essential that you monitor chick behavior to ensure that brooding conditions are correct.

If the chicks are all chirping and huddling underneath the heat source it means that they are too cold so it would be advisable to either lower the heat source or add another one.

If the chicks are all around the edges of your brooder or visibly panting, they are too hot, we recommend raising the heat source or increasing the size of your brooder.

In either circumstance you must check back on the birds regularly for the next 2 hours.

If the chicks are spread out evenly and alert, then no action is required.

Drinking Requirements

Birds should have access to clean, fresh, good quality drinking water 24 hours a day.

Your birds should have to travel no more than 2m or 6.6 ft to water. How many drinkers you require is dependent on a number of

Apple Cider Vinegar for Chickens

  • It Can be a potent replacement for the use of antibiotics
  • Decreases harmful bacteria in the gut. It makes the chickens gut a less hospitable place for worms to live. It won’t completely eradicate them, so regular worming is still very important.
  • Increases the digestive system’s ability to process and absorb nutrients
  • Increases the chicken’s immune system
  • May help with egg production
  • Helps keep algae and bacteria out of water containers.
  • It should never be used with metal drinkers. The acidity corrodes the metal. Use plastic or stoneware. 
  • Do not leave Apple Cider Vinegar in drinkers the whole time. Add it for no longer than one week in every month.
  • Do not add it to feed. Wet food is prone to develop bacteria, not prevent it.

Clipping A Chickens Wings

Chickens don’t fly as well as other birds, but they can flap their wings enough to carry them over low walls and fences.  If you have chickens in your backyard and you don’t want them escaping or getting lost, or worse in trouble with an angry dog or some other predator, then clipping the chickens wing is a must.

The more regularly you handle your chickens, the easier it will be to catch them. For some chickens this may not be an issue. For first timers, this will be a little challenging.

This is probably the first question you will ask yourself… Does wing clipping hurt ?

No …. Not if it’s done correctly. You need to be sure you are cutting the proper feathers while avoiding the secondary feathers or coverts.

If able to, aim to cut just below the smaller feathers that overlap the primary feathers and don’t take more than 6cm off. Remember; it is only necessary to trim one of the chicken’s wings, doing both will serve no useful purpose. The theory behind just one wing is that the bird will be thrown off balance enough by having just one smaller wing, that their flight capabilities will be drastically limited.

Clipping a chicken’s wings won’t really prevent it from flying, but will prevent it from flying as high because their flying won’t be as controlled anymore. Chickens don’t normally go into full flight to roost, so, it doesn’t affect their ability to roost at all.