Types of Chicken Incubators
Still air vs Forced air incubators
There are two general types of chicken incubators, still air incubators and forced air incubators. The primary difference between the two types of incubators is the inclusion of a fan in the forced air incuabators to keep the tempurature more consistent throughout the chicken incubator. For this reason the larger commercial chicken incubators are forced air. At the hobby level it is possible to get either a forced air incubator or a still air incubator.
When evaluating home chicken incubators you will find that most are made of styrofoam with a viewing window on the top. Depending on the purpose of the chicken incubator it may be desirable to look at the models that have the entire top clear for easier viewing of the eggs and the actual hatch. This would be a good option for a chicken incubator used in a class room or similar setting.
Another option in incubators is the inclusion of a thermostat or not. Without a thermostat it is necessary for the user to manually control the temperature in the incubator. This is usually done by adjusting the distance that an expanding wafer is from a connectivity point. This is not exactly a precise setting, but the results must be precise or risk over heating the eggs in the incubator. If using a chicken incubator without a thermostat be sure to set the incubator up several days before introducing eggs to it, to get the tempurature correct.
Another precaution to take with any incubator is to use it out of direct sunsight in an environmentally controlled area. If the room temperature the incubator is in fluctuates too quickly the incubator may not be able to adjust to the change quickly enough. This also goes for direct sunlight. If the incubator is placed somewhere that it can get hit by direct sunlight the eggs may overheat as the incubator gets hot from the sun.
Additional Chicken Incubator Accessories
When running a chicken incubator, it is necessary to turn the eggs several times a day. If the project is for kids, as an education project, this may be desirable, but for someone looking to get a consistent hatch with minimal effort an incubator turn is in order.
Adding the turner to the incubator does cut down on the number of eggs that can be placed in the incubator. But it makes up for it by only requiring the user to check the water level in the bottom of the incubator once a day. A turner should be removed a couple days before the hatch is to begin to keep the chicks from getting caught up the turner.
Another accessory that you may think about for your chicken incubator doesn't necessisarily related directly to egg hatching and you may already one around the house. An uninterruptable powery supply (UPS) can save the entire hatch if the electricity goes off for a significant amount of time. A blink of two of the lights isn't going to hurt the eggs, but if electricity to the chicken incubator is cut off for a couple hours you may be lucky to get any eggs to hatch.
How much will a chicken incubator cost?
If you are resourceful and handy you may be able to build a still air incubator out of an old cooler or styrofoam box and a light bulb. If you are looking for a ready made solution you should figure on spending about $40 - $100 for a still air chicken incubator, depending on size. The forced air incubators are going to be a little more expensive running in the area of $80 - $120, depending on the size and options.
If interested in a turner for the incubator be sure to consider that when looking at the incubators to make sure they are compatible. A turner is going to cost around $50. The UPS isn't absolutely necessary, but could be added to the mix for about $50 or less.
It would be possible to spend a lot more money than this. But for $200 a very nice chicken incubator setup could be purchased. With proper care it should last for several years and many hatches.