Thursday, February 29Food Security Matters

Roller Type vs Swing Type Egg Incubator

There are two types of incubators – the roller type and the swing type incubator. Choosing the right incubator for your hatching needs can be a daunting task. There are many different models and variants to incubate your hatching eggs and each model is slightly different having different levels of functionality. If you are to assemble your incubator, the challenge could be bigger especially if this is the first time that you are going to try building one.

From the basic container, carton, or styrofoam box incubator where you turn eggs manually 3 times per day, set the temperature, and add water to a reservoir to provide the correct humidity, to the fully automatic incubator that can set temperature and humidity for the right species with the press of a button, we look at the two most important things you might want to consider before you invest some money in buying or building your first incubator.

There are two most common types of incubators. The swing type (tilting), and the rolling type.

The Swing Type Incubator

The swing-type incubator uses commercially manufactured egg trays. The egg tray then is attached to a lever connected to the motor which makes the tray tilt usually 45 degrees back and forth depending on the frequency set on the timer.

Swing-type egg incubator

See how a typical swing-type incubator works below (Note: this is not our video. Just a reference)

The Roller Type Incubator

There are two types of rolling mechanisms. The first is the tray is moving while the eggs are sitting on a fixed surface (usually a screen). The second type is the eggs sitting on rollers. Either way, the function is the same – to roll the eggs.

Roller-type egg incubator

See how the roller-type incubator works below. (Note: this is not our video. Just a reference)

Commercially-manufactured incubators

Most locally-built incubators are swing types. The reason probably is that it is easier to build and egg trays are readily available. Few people manufacture rolling-type incubators and one of the reasons is that it is harder to build because it does not use a manufactured tray. Everything must be custom-built.

Swing Type Incubator Pros

  • Easy to build
  • Very popular and can be purchased from anywhere even online
  • Low-capacity compact incubators are available online on Lazada and Shopee

Swing Type Incubator Cons

  • High-capacity incubators need larger internal space as trays need extra space when tilted.
  • Does not emulate the natural egg movement similar to what hens do during natural incubation
  • Eggs don’t move and only titled back and forth in 2 positions
  • Chicks can fall if the owner forgets to transfer the eggs to the hatcher

Roller Type Incubator Pros

  • Compact and needs only a smaller internal space
  • Total egg movement emulating the hen’s natural nudging activity
  • Total stability of eggs because they are sitting on a fixed platform and chicks can’t be dropped if the owner forgets to transfer the hatching eggs to the hatcher.
  • Higher hatch rate compared to the swing type (will explain below)

Roller Type Incubator Cons

  • Not easy to build and one must be creative to build one.
  • Not commercially manufactured

What the Research Says

A case study published by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), under the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with the title “Effect on hatchability of tilting instead of turning chicken eggs during incubation” has this to say:

Six experiments were conducted to examine the feasibility of “tilting” instead of turning chicken eggs during incubation to provide a near-constant airflow pattern. At hourly intervals, eggs were tilted 45 degrees in opposite directions for consecutive intervals and returned to their original orientation. Eggs were oriented either vertically (large end up), at a 45-degree angle, or horizontally. Comparisons were made in terms of the hatchability of fertile eggs, hatchability of transferred eggs, embryonic mortality, and malpositions. Tilting instead of turning depressed hatchability regardless of orientation.

Depressions were cumulative and additive, with significant depression for all eggs tilted during the 1st wk of incubation, and diminished effects in the 2nd and 3rd wk. Late incubation embryonic mortality was elevated in the tilted groups, and the frequency of malpositions increased. Malposition II predominated in the tilted groups oriented 45 degrees or horizontally, whereas Malposition III predominated in the controls and the tilted groups oriented vertically. It was concluded that tilting and incubating eggs is not a viable alternative to conventional turning practices.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and public health research.

Questions related to chicken egg incubators

What is an incubator for eggs?

Fertile eggs can be hatched by using an egg incubator. An incubator is an enclosed structure with a fan and heater to keep eggs warm during the 21-day incubation period.

What is the incubation period for eggs?

The incubation period for chicken eggs is 20 to 21 days and increases up to 30 days for other poultry. After sitting for some days, a broody hen can be given some newly hatched chicks and, if they are accepted, the original eggs can be removed and replaced with more chicks.

What is the best temperature for egg incubation?

Within a range of 35 to 40.5°C (84.5 – 104.9°F) there is the possibility of eggs hatching. The optimum (for hens) is 37.5 °C (99.5°F), above this temperature as well as a reduced hatch there will be an increase in the number of crippled and deformed chicks. Above 40.5 °C (104.9°F) no embryos will survive.

How long can fertile eggs last without incubation?

Hatchability holds reasonably well up to seven days but declines rapidly afterward. Therefore, do not store eggs for more than 7 days before incubating. After 3 weeks of storage, hatchability drops to almost zero. Plan and have a regular hatching schedule to avoid storage problems and reduced hatches.

Can eggs take 25 days to hatch?

How Long Does It Take to Hatch a Chicken Egg Without an Incubator? Eggs hatched by the hen can take up to 25 days. The sweet spot for an egg to hatch is the same for the incubator, 20 to 21 days. The chicks can pip as early as 18 days old.

How long can Fertilized eggs survive without heat?

Some embryos can survive at temperatures below 90°F for up to 18 hours, so do not give up. You should continue to incubate the eggs after the outage; then candle them 4 to 6 days later to see if there has been further development or signs of life.


Even before publishing this article, we already done the research and concluded that the roller-type incubator provides better results than the swing type therefore, we built our roller-type incubator. This might be unwelcoming news to many people who build and sell swing-type incubators but the fact that roller type is better than swing type remains. It’s up to the buyers what to buy.

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