Welcome to Legal Tender Farm

Welcome to Legal Tender Farm

Monday, July 12, 2010

Incubation Impossible

Since our hens are a year old and I've read that hens are good for laying eggs for about two years, I've been thinking that we need to hatch some chicks so that we'll have a continuous supply of laying hens.  None of our hens seem inclined to hatch any on their own, so I went and bought a cheap-o incubator from Tractor Supply.  It's called a Still Air Incubator and is from Miller Manufacturing Company. 

I looked up how to incubate eggs on the net and found instructions.  Those instructions say that to hatch chicken eggs, the temperature must be a steady 99.5 degrees.  So, how hard could it be to stick some eggs in the incubator, turn them a few times a day, and hatch some chicks?  Hmmm. 

This is the incubator.  It's styrofoam, has some indentations in the bottom of it that have to be filled with water because the eggs need humidity.  They also need ventilation so there are a couple of small red plugs in the top that have to be removed.

On the top are two plexiglass observation windows through which you can see the heating element and the eggs when they are in there.  Also, there is a tiny dial that you turn to increase/decrease the temperature.  The incubator also comes with a thermometer mounted on a piece of clear plastic.

The first incubator I got didn't work properly.  No matter what the dial was set on, the incubator got so hot that the thermometer was all the way to the top - over 120 degrees.  So I took it back and exchanged it for this one.

It's supposed to be exactly the same, but the thermometer is even cheaper than the first one and is so tiny that it is unreadable.  You can't even read the whole numbers on it, much less the .5 that you're supposed to read.  I had to resort to getting Tom's fancy thermometer that just points and clicks.   The problem with that is I have to open the incubator to get a reading.  When it's open it immediately begins to cool.  Not that it really matters, it seems that it is impossible to get the incubator to the temperature of 99.5.  Too hot, too cold, too hot, too cold, too hot, too cold, too hot, too cold.  I've been adjusting the temperature dial for about 24 hours now in the tiniest increments possible trying to regulate the temperature. 

At this rate, my hens will have quit laying eggs and died before I can put any in the incubator.

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