Differences between Incubator (setter) and Hatcher

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What are incubator (setter) and hatcher

The two main equipment in the hatchery are incubator and hatcher. Incubator is also called as “setter” by many people. Take hen eggs as an example, during the entire incubation period, hen eggs need about 21 days to be hatched. And the 21 days will separate in two parts, from day 1 to day 18 eggs will be in the incubator, and on the 18th or 19th day, eggs will be transferred to the hatcher, and stay inside the hatcher for 2-3 days until most of the chicks come out.

So the whole incubation process for hen eggs is like this: 18 days inside incubator (setter) +3 days inside hatcher= 21 days for chicks to come out from eggs.

What are the differences between incubator (setter) and hatcher?

During the early incubation process, the eggs need to be rotated frequently to prevent the embryos from adhering to the surrounding membranes. Therefore, modern incubators generally design the egg tray as a structure with holes, and put the eggs in each hole, so that the rotation of the eggs can be conveniently realized by the rotation of the egg tray. This structure also facilitates the circulation of air around the eggs, for the eggs to obtain enough oxygen, and the circulation air easier to transfer heat to or from the eggs.

When the chicks are ready to come out from the shell, there is no need to rotate the eggs, and the eggs also need to be transferred to a basket to prevent the chicks from falling out of the hole in the egg tray of the incubator.

When chicks start pipping out, the chicks change to use lungs to breathe, and give out much more heat than before days. And when chicks come out from the egg shells, the water inside the eggs will also come out, and influence the humidity level inside the hatcher. So that the setting temperature and humidty are usually different between incubator and hatcher. For example, the temperature of eggs in the incubator is usually about 38°C, and the temperature of eggs in the hatcher is about 37°C.

When chicks come out, the hairy chicks’ tiny feathers will bring a lot of fluff inside the machines. So during hatching period, it will be much more dirty than incubation period.

The differences compare in a table:

Can a machine work as both incubator and hatcher?

If the two functions are not used at same time, then the incubator can be possible to be used also as a hatcher too.

The machine with two functions shall have a proper capacity. Because inside hatcher, chicks give out a lot of heat. and if there are too many chicks stay inside one machine, it will be hard to control a proper temperature inside. So practically, most incubator suppliers only make hatchers witch capacity usually 10,000~20,000 eggs, and some make upto about 40,000 eggs. Very few company make hatchers with capacity more than this. So a machine want to have both functions, then the egg capacity will be limted by the hatcher capacity.

As temperature/humidity setting for incubator and hatcher are different, so after the machine changed from incubator to hatcher, the settings shall be modified.

Both incubator trolleys with egg trays and hatcher trolleys with hatching baskets shall be equipped with the machine cabinet when buying the machine. And incubator’s egg turning function shall also come with the machine.

When an investor is buying eggs from other places, hatch chicks once every 21 days or more, then he can use the incubator like this. For example, if he only have one or two broiler farm, he may need one batch of chicks every month or more. Or if he have several layer farms, and every one month or more he need one batch of chicks. With one machine working for both functions at different time, the investor can save cost when buying the machine, as he only need one cabinet with two kinds of trolleys and trays/baskets.

If an investor has his own parent stock breeders, then he will get eggs every day from the farm. And eggs usually shall not be stored for more than one week before incubation. Otherwise, the hatching result will reduce. He shall hatch at least once a week or twice a week, then his incubator capacity can be 3 times or 6 times of his hatcher capacity. In this case, the investor need to have both incubators and hatchers, separately.

Combo Incubator/ Combined Incubator

For small incubators with a capacity of no more than thousands eggs, most incubators have the two functions of incubator and hatcher at the same time. To make both in one machine, rather than two, can save the cost of manufacturing one more machine. This kind of incubator is also called combined incubator, or combo incubator. However, for large incubators with egg capacity exceeding 10,000, the incubators will seldom use the combined design, because of its drawbacks:

When chicks come out, the chicks fluff produced will make the inside of the machine very dirty, and difficult to clean. Fluff will bring oganic things all in the machine, take bacteria from the chicks and contaminate the early age eggs nearby.

Secondly, as embryos incubating at different times require different temperatures and humidity. When filling eggs and chicks in an incubator, only one temperature and humidity can be used, and the embryo cannot obtain the best environment and thus cannot ensure the best hatching effect.