We had an opportunity to try out a Hovabator 1588, so we decided to make an experiment out of it and run both it and our Top Hatch TH130 at the same time, in the same location, with eggs from the same birds split evenly to really compare them and see which one was better. The results were interesting.
First, lets compare them physically.
The Top Hatch TH130 is round and made out of plastic. It uses a lightbulb and a fan to circulate heat. It came with a little thermometer, but no way to test humidity. The little thermometer broke early on, so we us our own thermometer/hygrometer combo to keep track of the temp and humidity. It holds from 40-48 chicken eggs, depending on the size of the eggs. Many of the parts are dishwasher safe, which makes clean-up a breeze. It has four vent holes (which we have heard is very important for our altitude because of the less oxygen issue). It turns the eggs automatically by rolling them. And it has a nice big clear lid that makes it easy to see into it.
The Hovabator 1588 is square and mostly styrofoam. It uses a heater and circulation fan to heat. It has a built-in thermometer and hygrometer. It holds 42 chicken eggs. It turns them by tilting them back and forth. It has 1 vent hole. The base has a plastic insert under a mesh sheet that has reservoirs to put water in for humidity. It all has to be washed by hand, but with the plastic insert easily removable it was pretty easy to clean. The lid is fitted with a nice big window for easy viewing.
So, to be clear on how we set up our experiment let me give you some details. We collected 52 eggs, marking who layed them and the date as we collected. We then separated the eggs between the two bators, making sure they each got equal number of eggs from each hen and that they got a good balance of older and newer eggs (as-in the eggs laid the day before we began setting vs the eggs laid 9 days before setting). 45 eggs were fertile, which put 22 eggs in the Top Hatch bator and 23 eggs in the Hovabator.
We ran both bators, trying to achieve a humidity of between 25-45 percent for the first 18 days (this are the percentages recommended for high altitude and has worked well for us). The Hovabator held pretty well at about 42%. It needed water added about every-other day and stayed very close to 42 the whole time. The Top Hatch bator, however, spanned from 28% to about 48% and was constantly changing. It needed water more often and when it was added it would shoot up to 48%, but then fall down into the 20s within about 12-24 hours. We tried to add smaller amounts of water more often and were able to keep it between 36-42% for most of the first 18 days. Then, at lockdown, we wanted both bators to be between 65-70% (again high altitude percentages). Due to our dry climate, I really struggled to just keep them at about 63%. I had all the water reservoirs full and each bator had a sponge in it. Still the Top Hatch bator hung at about 59-60% and the Hovabator at 62-63%. So we closed down the bathroom and I used the shower to humidify the whole room several times a day. By doing that, we were able to keep the Top Hatch bator at about 65% and the Hovabator at 67%. Again, it was much easier to keep the Hovabator’s humidity stable than the Top Hatch bator.
We ran both bators with the vent plugs all completely out because of our altitude. And both held the temperature well right around 99-100.
The hatch started in both bators on day 19. I am assuming that it must have been how I kept the eggs beforehand that caused the early start.
The first major difference we noticed was that the Top Hatch bator had a much higher rate of early death. We define early death as death in the egg before day 18. The Top Hatch bator had 32% early death, while the Hovabator had only 9%.
However, the Hovabator had a higher rate of full-term eggs not hatching. It had 35% while the Top Hatch bator had 23%. After doing the eggtopsies we found 3 eggs in the Hovabator had internal pips but no hatching. There were none of those in the Top Hatch bator. We are wondering if this had to do with the fact that the Hovabator has significantly less vent holes and therefore there wasn’t enough oxygen because of our altitude? We don’t know, but we were told that plenty of vent holes was important up here. Of course, more vent holes in the Hovabator would probably make the humidity not hold as steady as it did.
Despite the fact that one had more early death and one had more late deaths, one of the bators had a higher hatch rate. It was the Hovabator. The hatch rate of fertile eggs in the Hovabator was 57% and in the Top Hatch bator it was 45%.
The difference was not huge, but it was worth noting. Something we thought might be an interesting experiment to do sometime, considering the early death/late death scenario we saw play out, would be to run the eggs in the Hovabator the first 18 days and then move them to the Top Hatch bator for the last few days and for hatching and see what happened then. That will likely be our next experiment.
It was fun to compare the two incubators and the results were very interesting.