Jim tested the little giant and hova-bator to decide which incubator he'd use to hatch his eggs. The results are very interesting. See his finding HERE along with which incubator he kept and why. Updated 4/00 with follow up comments.
In about 1960 we started hatching eggs. Our first incubator was a "Sunbeam" frying pan. I guess that falls under homemade instead of "Sunbeam" The next few years we graduated to home built, plywood case Plexiglas window (see homemade table top comments)
Oh and of course the best incubator... the old Bantam setting hen, always better results, and no maintenance!
Later in the 60's we splurged and bought the Styrofoam, think it is a hovabator, worked better than the home builts, still didn't control humidity well, bought an automatic turner after a couple of years. I still have it and it works well for easy to hatch breeds, such as chukar and pheasants. The pros for the hovabator is that it is cheap, you can buy it without the egg turner, and for the price it is a good entry level incubator. The cons are that it uses a wafer type thermostat (least mine does) and I don't know of an electronic replacement for the thermostat, although any should be capable of working in it.
In the 70's Mom picked up a Marsh Roll-X (see Roll-X comments)at a auction.
I currently use 3 GQF 1202 incubators for incubating and hatching. (see GQF Comments)
We have 4 hovabators with fans, no turner, that we use as hatchers after incubating in a GQF Sportsman.
The styrofoam incubators are easy to clean if you scrub the bottoms with bleach solution (and an old toothbrush). We have had our four for almost a year and the bottoms still look new after cleaning them this way.
If you're still worried about germs, consider the fact you can purchase a new bottom for the Hovabator for only $7.25 or a new top for $6.75 (prices are from Cutler Supply's catalog). You can also get a clear plastic liner for the bottom for a few bucks that's easy to clean. We purchased two spare bottoms when we bought our incubators and haven't had to take them out of the box.
I don't want to seem prejudiced but we're quite happy with the Hovabators.
Rather than use a liner, here's a one-shot deal that works wonders!!! Disinfect and clean your hovabator bottom carefully. Gather up a tube of 100% silicone caulking, for tub and tile. Start squirting the caulk all over the inside bottom of the bator, paying special attention to the water troughs, and corners. You want to spread the caulking paper thin, so it just creates a sheen on the bottom. DO NOT PLUG THE AIRHOLES IN THE BATOR BOTTOM WITH THE CAULKING!!! Let the caulking dry THOROUGHLY. Allow at least a week to cure. Scrub carefully with warm water and dish soap, and you are ready to start incubating. The silicone seals all the pores that cause bad bator breath. If you are really into it, you can disassemble the top side, and do it the same way.
Cheaper than liners, and lasts a lifetime. Goes a LONG way toward keeping an easily cleanable bator, too.
Hope this helps!!!
The Easy Chicken for beginners
Hovabator Turbo-fan circulated air model:
a. Hatching percentage went from 80-85% from first hatch of the first year to a ~30-35% the the last hatch of the 3rd year.
b. I did clean it, air it out, sun it, etc...didn't seem to matter.
c. Temperature control was erratic. It toasted some eggs one hatch. The control was either bumped by one of my children or cat and I caught it too late.
d. For a classroom or a small flock/hatch, would be
okay for beginners. Once my hobby took off, it was
inadequate as I do small hatches with my exhibition
chickens and button quail.
I have a basic still air Hooverbator which I have changed to a electronic thermostat. Manual thermostats are a waste of time, the temp varies too much. Hatches much improved with the electronic thermostat, about 80 percent hatch out after all unfertile eggs removed.
My polstrene hooverbator loses a lot of heat and will heat up a small room, no kidding, but thank goodness the electronic thermostat does it's job and holds the temp steady.
It's a basic starter kit, so buy the best brand incubator that you can afford. Mine holds 50 large eggs and 70 small.
Get one with a automatic tuner unless you have unlimited time to waste.
Best of luck
Got a hovabator auto turn fan quail and regular egg racks, cost 89.95 at burkey 1-800-531-1097. I liked it but it only hatched 42 bantam eggs at a time. Have a GQF....(see GQF comment #2 for continuation)
I have three: Marsh RollX, Hovabator and a Jamesway (very old, no literature available for it).
The RollX and the Hovabator are used most. Eggs are transferred from the RollX at 18 days to the Hovabator, it is an excellent hatcher. I agree with the one of the others, that sanitation is an issue with styrofoam incubators, so they have to be thoroughly cleaned after each hatch. I use common bleach. Hatches are very high 90-95%. Sometimes 100%!!! The Hovabator keeps temperature pretty well and to get the humidity up I put thin sponges under the 1/4" wire, taking care not to cover the air holes and soak them when eggs are put in for hatching. Both RollX and Hovabator are excellent for beginners.
NOTE: See "Jamesway" for comments on that brand. RollX and Hova bator comments are the same under both links.
I use a styrofoam hovabator as a hatcher. after a hatch I take it outside on a concrete sidewalk,then i use a stiff brush and dish detergernt to clean th 1/4 inch wire then i use the same brush to clean the new plastic liner. then i use a paint brush and the same soap to clean the styrofoam. then i spray all of it down with techtrol. it works for me i've hatched 88-94% for the last 4 yrs there is a new plastic liner for the inside of the hovabator.
Turbo Fan Important?
I have a nice but small incubator. When I run out of space in it, I use a Hovabator. I got my husband to add a fan to one of my Hovabators last year and the difference in the hatch was enough that it pays to add the fan.
I Have been using a borrowed Hovobator (no fan). The temperature in the Hobobator was always rock solid, even in a classroom overnight with no heater until I came in in the morning to turn it on.