As my stock of garden poultry was somewhat depleted last year (don't mention the fox) I thought I would have a go at raising some of my own chicks this year. I've done this before and it's always an exciting thing to do, although it can be disappointing and a bit sad if all does not go well. I would very much prefer to use the services of a broody hen, who would happily sit on the eggs for three weeks, and then look after the chicks until they were big enough to manage on their own, but since I don't have one, the incubator is the next best thing.
Cleanliness is definitely next to godliness with incubators - it's amazing to me that hens produce healthy hearty broods of chicks in general farmyardy unsanitariness, whereas if you tried to replicate that in an incubator you would almost certainly fail dismally. Everything has to be sanitized properly before you start. I use Brinsea Incubator disinfectant specially made for the purpose, and I don't recommend using anything else. Switch the incubator on at least a day before you need it, so that it can get up to an even temperature. My Brinsea Octagon has a rocking cradle integrated into it, which is not to rock the embyos to sleep or anything, but to ensure that the eggs are turned regularly which is essential to their development. (Another job the broody hen does on her own).
All that I have to do now is to check on the eggs each day, to see that the temperature and humidity levels are correct, and keep my fingers crossed for three weeks time when there should be a patter of tiny feet, or a tapping of tiny beaks, or something. I've had failures before though with the incubator,and I would feel a lot more confident with a broody, so I'm just keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best.
Thanks for everyone who wished us well for the Community Garden Open Day. I'm pleased to say it went very well and we are working towards getting the project launched in the coming months. Updates to follow.