Kim Stoddart speaks to the experts to find out how to keep your incubator in tip-top condition
If you keep even a very small number of poultry, it’s most likely that at one time or another the idea of hatching some eggs has crossed your mind. Buying in chickens, ducks, quails or geese can be incredibly expensive and, as well as the cost saving implications, there is a great satisfaction to be had for adults and children alike in home incubation.
Whether you’re planning to hatch chicks from your existing brood, or buying in fertile eggs for new varieties, you can’t fail to be won over by the sight of a newly hatched batch of birds. As with any and all livestock, the nurturing in of new life onto your smallholding brings with it a sense of awe and wonder. Especially at this time of year, after a seemingly long, dark, wet and cold winter, it is part of
the process of spring renewal of which us smallholders are lucky enough to play a closer part than most.
No matter if you are starting out with a brand spanking new incubator, or are about to dig out an older model from storage, there are some general maintenance tips worth knowing for now, and the future, to keep it working at its best.
Here is some advice from the incubator experts, Brinsea
BEFORE PLUGGING IN…
Clean your incubator thoroughly. Being warm and wet, they are ideal breeding grounds for bacteria and, if they have been left with debris from last year, they will harbour germs which are highly likely to damage your next hatch. After removing any old shells, fluff and dirt, it is best to soak non-electrical parts such as egg trays in a disinfectant solution for an hour before scrubbing clean by hand.
Clean around heaters and fans with a brush or slightly damp cloth using the same disinfectant solution, and again, wipe with a clean damp cloth. Be very careful not to let water get near any electrical parts including motors, heaters and control housings. Brinsea Incubation Disinfectant, which is both powerful and safe, has been specially formulated to kill bacteria and fungi associated with birds and is available on their website.
Leave the incubator parts to dry thoroughly.
CHECK FOR RODENT (AND OTHER) DAMAGE:
Incubators stored in garages, sheds and barns can attract vermin. In particular it’s important to make sure that cables and covers of electrical parts haven’t been nibbled.
Inspect the glass thermometer (if fitted) for damage and air bubbles in the liquid which will result in inaccurate temperature readings.
If other parts have been ravaged by time or accidents or smaller parts such as egg dividers have been lost, replacement parts can be bought from Brinsea’s website.
Monitor the temperature. Ensure correct set temperature (see instructions), is reached for at least an hour before setting eggs – ideally leave overnight. If the temperature control indicator is working correctly, (this is either a red light or * on the digital display next to the temperature), it should flash on and off indicating that the controlled temperature has been reached.
Check the turning by observation. This can be very tedious for incubators with slow continuous turning so place an egg inside with a coin on top. After one hour at most the coin should have fallen off. If the turning isn’t working refer to the user instructions.
Next make sure the fan is working but please do not use your fingers!
Where applicable, humidity readers also need to be looked and, in the case of digital systems, readings checked for consistency. In the case of a wet bulb thermometer product, you need to check the wick is clean and the reservoir topped up with water.
Ideally you want to run your incubator for a few days to make sure it’s running smoothly and re-check the above before setting your eggs. For a full range of incubators, related equipment, advice and fact sheets on all areas of incubation see www.brinsea.co. uk or call 0345 226 0120.
It is part of the process of spring renewal
TOP: Make sure your incubator is clean for the spring hatch LEFT: A new arrival
TOP RIGHT: Just hatched! ABOVE RIGHT: Do you want to expand your flock? BOTTOM: Ducklings in particular grow very quickly