Apart from being able to eat fresh eggs and have a good meal once a month, one of the most fascinating aspects of this hobby is to artificially incubate the eggs. Starting around Easter every year, eggs are collected daily and put in a cool humid spot; the basement is ideal for storing eggs. Eggs are stored pointed end down and kept for no more than seven days. The eggs are then placed in an incubator for however many days are required for the chicks to develop inside the eggs. Coturnix quail develop in 17-18 days while Bobwhite quail require 23 days. There are all sorts of incubators to choose from. The HOVA-BATOR incubator was developed over 25 years ago and is the first one I started with. This incubator is made of styrofoam. It is very susceptible to changes in room temperature so if you decide to purchase one of these, it should be located in a room where the temperature stays constant. Get one with a turbofan to increase the air circulation within.

If you ever get into breeding rare and endangered species, you will probably want to invest into something a bit more sophisticated like a Sportsman 1202, a cabinet style incubator. Both the HOVA-BATOR and the Sportsman 1202 are manufactured by GQF Manufacturing Company located in Savannah, Georgia. Artificial incubation is both an art and a science. To get good results when incubating, you need just the right combination of good quality eggs, a temperature which stays constant, good ventilation, and right moisture conditions. Be sure to read the instructions and either buy or pick up a book from the library on incubation. And, if you decide to start with a HOVA-BATOR, you should invest in an automatic turner unless you want to turn the eggs yourself daily, at least three times.

Once the eggs are ready to hatch, you need to increase the humidity so that the chicks don’t get stuck as they’re pushing out of their shell. This is done by filling the troughs in the bottom of the incubator tray with water. Three days prior to hatching, the eggs should be placed on top of the hardware cloth (wire mesh) which comes with the incubator. If a turner was used, it should be removed. The hardware cloth gives them an excellent foothold when they attempt to stand. Some people put newspaper on top of the wire which is a bad mistake as it is too slippery and leads to crippled chicks. As a matter of fact, I have even started using something called “slip grip” on top of the hardware cloth in the incubator. You can buy this at your local Canadian Tire store. It’s the same thing people use for lining the shelves in their cupboards to prevent expensive dishware from sliding off when positioned vertically. It’s completely washable and reusable. The chicks should be left in the incubator for 24 hours. During hatching, avoid opening the incubator because it causes the moisture to escape and keeping that moisture in is extremely important for a good hatch. Depending on what model you’re using, hatching can take place over a very short or somewhat longer time period. Eggs developing in the Sportsman will hatch within a few hours whereas those from a HOVA-BATOR take a whole and sometimes two days. That’s because the Sportsman is a better machine than the HOVA-BATOR. Don’t invest in a Sportsman until you’ve been doing this for a couple of years and you know that you want to stick to this for awhile. A Sportsman incubator is a huge capital investment if you’re just trying this out to see if you like it or not.