May already — I can hardly believe it. This year is already 1/3 of the way over. At dinner I was explaining several parts of our chicken operation. In the course of discussion, I realized that at this time last year I had several full-time employees and several other part-time employees. Now it’s mostly just me. Matthew still helps with the newsletter and catalog requests and the occasional website modification. We’re raising about the same number of breeders, and we’re growing out about the same number of birds for McMurray — but just with fewer people providing the care.
Being out in the field most of the day, I’ve been able to see firsthand how behind we are on infrastructure maintenance. This week we’ve moved coops, taken down old patched-together fencing, moved almost all the birds out from the barn, set up a field for rotational cow grazing and shipped birds on two different mornings. For those of you coming to the farm tour on Saturday (May 6, 2017), you may have to use your imagination to envision how the new fences are going to look. The tour starts at 3:00 pm on and goes until you finish asking questions.
Chicks, Poults and Hatching Eggs at Farm Tour
If you are coming to the farm tour and would like to buy chicks, we have Rhode Island Reds, New Hampshire Reds, Black Australorps and Delawares available. We also have Beltsville White and Bronze turkey poults. If you want to hatch your own — we have hatching eggs available. Please send me an email with what you’d like to pickup.
Small Incubator Recommendations
Recently, I made a mistake in giving someone an incubator recommendation. Shortly after that, Matthew sent me a very good write-up based on his experience with two seemingly similar — but vastly different — incubators. Here’s Matthew’s note, with a few updates and some photos added for clarity:
I bought a GQF Genesis 1588 Hova-bator last year (left in photo) and used it for several hatches of our replacement Australorp breeders. This year, I got a GQF Hova-Bator 2362E (right in photo) to increase my hatching capacity. Both incubators use the same egg turner, capable of holding just over 40 chicken eggs.
In using the two incubators side-by-side, it turns out the 2362E isn’t nearly as easy to use as the 1588.
The main difference between them is the thermostat and the humidity and temperature monitoring. Both have electronic thermostats, but the 1588 has a digital readout on top of the incubator. It shows the temperature, the set-point, and the humidity (see photo – the display alternates between showing these three numbers). It also has a push-button thermostat that can’t be changed accidentally and that is set for 100.0F from the factory.I bought an Incutherm digital humidity & temperature monitor from Incubator Warehouse to use with the 2362E incubator. To roughly calibrate the device, I tested it first on the egg tray of the 1588. It showed that the temperature in the 1588 is very stable at 99.5 F right where the eggs are, with maybe a +/- 0.2F variation. (The 1588 is set for 100.0 F at the controller, which corresponds to a half a degree lower where the eggs are.)
Tweaking the Temperature
The other incubator (2362E) took quite a bit of tweaking to get the temperature set properly. In adjusting it, I tended to overshoot and not wait long enough between adjustments for it to fully stabilize. A very small turn (10 degrees?) of the thermostat knob can make 1-2 degrees (F) difference in the set point.
The main weakness with the 2362E is that (just like incubators that use wafer thermostats) there is no “readout” of the set point. So setting the temperature is trial and error. The two windows that let you see into the incubator are also single-pane, so it may be more affected by temperature in the room. (The 1588, on the other hand, has a large, double-pane window.)
If people want a “set-it-and-forget-it” incubator, we may want to recommend the GQF Genesis 1588. It’s a bit more expensive but very easy to use.
[NOTE: If you search for these incubators online or in catalogs from various suppliers, you may find them referred to by different names, such as Genesis 1588, Hova-bator 1588, Genesis 1588 Hovabator or GQF 1588, or you may see some of these terms or names combined. When purchasing, the most consistent information to look for is the manufacturer (GQF) and the model number (1588). In this case, we are recommending the 1588.]
A Note on the Egg Turners
Both incubators use the same egg turner. On both, the plastic egg trays have had “burrs” or protrusions that made the turning very stiff. Last year, on the first incubator’s turner, I burnt out the motor on the second use and ended up turning the eggs by hand until I was able to get a replacement motor. To fix the problem, I used a pocket knife and sandpaper to carefully remove the burrs from all the moving parts until there was no stiffness or “catching” during turning.
I’m considering getting a third (cheap, still-air) incubator at some point with no egg turner to use solely as a hatcher. This would let me do more frequent hatches, and it would also keep the main incubators clean.