Everyone may have tried hatching eggs when they were young, but in modern society, how to hatch eggs efficiently and reliably has become an important issue-to ensure enough laying hens to produce enough eggs to meet human needs. Hatching eggshas also changed from relying on the hen itself to relying on various incubators.
In traditional breeding, due to the small number of breeds, the work of incubating eggs is completely done by the hens themselves. Most hens will choose a good position before laying eggs, make a nest, lay eggs, and carry out a period of nearly 21 days for egg incubation.
With the enlargement of the breeding scale, relying on hens to incubate eggs by themselves can no longer meet people's needs, and various devices that imitate hens to incubate eggs have gradually emerged. The incubator is summarized as a device that simulates poultry hatching and maintains the temperature, humidity, and stirring required for egg hatching in various ways.
In 400 BC, the Egyptians had already adopted an artificial hatching method. Eggs are incubated on ashes in baskets or other containers by means of buildings with a fire at the bottom.
The temperature of the eggs is measured by placing them on the eyelids and controlled by heating or raking the fire. Humidity requirements and air cell size are judged by the sound they make when rolling two eggs together with one hand.
And in China, it seems that in 1000 BC, there were also two methods. One involves laying the eggs on top of the dung and wrapping them in a mixture of crushed straw and rice husks; the other is similar to the Egyptian method but differs in that the eggs are placed in a muslin bag covered with an insulating layer of rice shell, the bag is constantly moved back and forth to facilitate turning the eggs.
At the same time, there are records in some areas that use human body heat to incubate eggs.
The evolution of the incubator
Since then, with the advancement of technology, incubators that can detect temperature have also been invented.
French naturalist and scientist Réaumur designed an alcohol thermometer in 1730 and reported to the Academy of Sciences a temperature-measurable incubator based on this design in 1747, and in 1749, developed the first mechanical incubator.
As technology developed further, Lyman Byce created the kerosene lamp incubator in 1879.
None of these incubators were truly commercialized until 1881 when Hearson invented the original water bed incubator - the first successful commercial incubator.
In 1896, when various incubators could only hatch 300 eggs at a time, Charles Cyphers built the first large-scale incubator capable of incubating 20,000 eggs.
In 1992, with the popularization of electric technology, Ira M. Petersime invented the first electric egg incubator, which realized the automation of hatching eggs.
So far, incubators have come in various styles, such as large-volume automatic incubators based on large-scale breeding purposes, small incubators based on household uses, and even DIY incubators based on special purposes.
The birth of the incubator stems from people's breakthroughs in traditional breeding, and its continuous changing process is the crystallization of technological development in different eras. Nowadays, incubators for various needs have been invented and created to meet the individual needs of the public.
Why on earth would anyone bother hatching eggs in an incubator when it’s so much easier to let a broody hen do all the work? Assuming you want to hatch out your own chicks in the first place, and you are ready to deal with the 50 to 60% of the chicks that turn out to be roosters, here are eight reasons to hatch eggs in an incubator and why some of us backyard chicken keepers become incurable hatchaholics.
1. You don’t have a reliable setting hen. A hen that decides to brood for the first time may give up before her eggs hatch. If you have fertile eggs that are particularly valuable, you might not want to trust them to a hen with no proven track record in the hatching department.
2. Your chosen breed is generally not known for having reliable setters and good mothers. Light, flighty breeds selectively bred for high egg production particularly don’t have strong mothering instincts, although occasionally one of these hens fails to read the owner’s manual.
3. You have no private place where the hen can brood. A hen that decides to set in a community nest, for instance, may take a brief excursion off the nest, another hen enters the nest to lay an egg, and the broody returns to find her original spot occupied — so she settles on the wrong eggs. Even when a hen successfully hatches eggs in a coop among other chickens, the other birds may pick on the little ones after they hatch.
4. Unavoidable disturbances, such as from local wildlife or household pets, may create an unfavorable environment for brooding. If a setting hen leaves her nest early, falls victim to a predator in midterm, or makes her nest in an environment that would be unsafe for hatchlings, you can save the day by gathering up the eggs and hatching them in an incubator.
5. You want to hatch more chicks than a setting hen can accommodate. Most hens can cover 12 to 18 eggs of the size they lay. Let’s say you’re working to restore an endangered breed, or you are trying to produce the perfect show bird — you would better accomplish your purpose by hatching out as many chicks as possible.
6. You may want all your hens to continue laying eggs. Laying stops when the setting starts, and a broody hen won’t begin laying again for another month or so after her eggs hatch. If you wish to hatch out large numbers of chicks, or you rely on your hens’ eggs for family meals or for sale, a broody hen can put a crimp in production numbers.
7. You maintain a sustainable flock that is acclimated to your particular locale. When you have your own breeder flock, hatch their eggs, and raise their chicks on your own property, your chickens will be better acclimated to your environment than birds brought in from elsewhere.
8. You are seeking a fun and educational activity for yourself, your children, or your students. Nothing is more exciting or sparks livelier conversations, than watching an egg go from an oval thing with a hard shell to a fluffy, peeping, bright-eyed energetic baby chick.
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