Editor of "The Encyclopedia of Poultry," etc.
Defore purchasing an incubator with a view to entering into the day-old-chick business, one should ascertain whether the accommodation at command is suitable for its operation - for the mechanical appliance, unlike the natural sitter, is dependent upon the assistance of its operator for successful results. The situation most suitable for the operation of an incubator is in a room with a window facing north or north-west, or in an underground cellar that is free from draughts and damp. A spare upper room is equally suitable, or, failing that, an outbuilding in a shady situation.
Whatever place is chosen, it should be provided with such means of ventilation as will allow a steady current of air to pass through it, and its internal temperature should be affected as little as possible by climatic changes. It should have a firm floor, so that vibration may not occur when one is moving about; it should also be situated where heavy vehicular traffic cannot affect it, as vibration is deleterious to incubating eggs. A table or bench about two feet high must be provided for the incubator to rest upon, and this must be firm, and possess a level surface.
Being satisfied that the place at one's command is suitable for the operation of an incubator, the machine may be secured. Only a machine, new or second-hand, of the very best make should be obtained, and, as such are easily obtainable at quite moderate prices, there is no reason why the best should not be available. The machine should be obtained some time before it is required for real business, so that preliminary trials may be made with the object of acquiring a thorough knowledge of its mechanism and proper management during the period of incubation.
When the machine arrives, unpack it carefully and remove the dirt from it; then stand it upon the table or bench provided for its reception, taking great care that it stands firmly and perfectly level, so that jarring may be obviated and the internal heat evenly distributed about the egg-chambers. Next fill the tank with hot, but not boiling, water, and remove the egg-drawer, so that the capsule which operates the heat-regulator may be kept contracted until the damper over the lamp-flue is set level by means of the milled screen provided in the arm at the end of which the damper is suspended.
The lead weight which slides along the arm is for the adjustment of the heat-regulator, and this, to begin with, should be moved to within a short distance of the fulcrum bracket to which the arm is pivoted. The moisture-pan in the lower part of the machine may now be half-filled with lukewarm water, and the inner perforated tray covered with the canvas provided, care being taken that the outer edges of the latter dip into the water contained in the pan.
Next replace the egg-drawer and trim the lamp, and place it in position under the lamp-flue, and adjust the light so that it is clear, as smoky flames create sooty lamp-flues. Nothing further in the way of attention will be needed until it is seen that the damper is beginning to rise off the lamp-flue, when the thermometer in the egg-drawer should be read by gently withdrawing it until its heat registration can be seen. If it does not register the required heat, the sliding weight on the regulator arm should be moved along until the damper is again set flat on the lamp-flue, and this operation must be performed each time the damper is seen to rise, and till the required heat in the egg-drawer is reached, when the weight may be fixed by means of the screw provided therein. The machine should be run for two or three days to get it thoroughly warmed through, and to ascertain that the regulator is working properly. Should all be going smoothly, thought may be given to the eggs.
The thermometer can be read by withdrawing it gently until the heat registration can be seen. It is important that the right temperature should have been obtained and maintained for some time before the eggs are inserted
Before placing eggs in an incubator, it will be as well for the novice to know the kind best suited for incubation, so that the best possible results may be secured, and the resultant chicks strong enough to be disposed of readily.
In working up a day-old-chick trade one must study the exact requirements of the public, and hatch out popular breeds. Purebred chickens undoubtedly command the quickest sales and the best prices, and some of the best breeds to incubate are the Orpingtons, Wyandottes, and Leghorns, as these breeds figure prominently in the lists of many successful day-old-chick dealers
Having chosen a breed, the next thing will be to consider the selection of the eggs. These, if possible, should be the produce of hens mated to well-matured and vigorous cockerels, and, if one intends contracting for them, arrangements should be made for a supply of such, as eggs from pullets do not, on the whole, yield profitable results. In choosing eggs for hatching, preference should be given to those that are quite fresh, or not more than a week old, and that are of a nice shape and possessing shells with a smooth surface. Long, round, and rough-shelled eggs should be discarded.