Design and Fabrication of an Egg Incubator
The Relevance of Solar Egg incubator in Poultry
Poultry egg incubation plays an important role in the overall poultry production system especially during the day old chick’s development. In Nigeria, poultry production is a lucrative business but lack of commercially owned hatchery machine hinder the expansion and make poultry product (for instance day old chicks) costly more especially in the south eastern part of Nigeria. Presently, few commercially owned poultry hatcheries in Nigeria are located distance far away in the western and northern part of the country. Majority of these hatcheries have little or no access to the national grid system but operate at about 60per cent below the installation capacity [W.I. Okonkwo, 2012]. Generally, environmental pollution, unreliability and lack of access to national grid power supply and low performance efficiency characterize the condition of the poultry hatchery business powered by conventional energy supply in Nigeria. These adversely affect the establishment of medium to large scale poultry production outfits in rural areas of the country. But with the introduction of solar energy powered technology in poultry production, poultry farmer in Nigeria is likely to incubate and hatch poultry egg and breed day-old chicks under a sustained power supply in a clean environment.
Requirement of Poultry Egg incubation
Poultry egg incubation is an activity that requires sustainable energy supply for efficient performance operation and profitability. This involve the management of fertilized poultry egg to a satisfactory development level that leads to normal chicks. It include the control of the extrinsic environment factor of the surrounding.
Naturally, a mother hen perform this function but at low efficiency and artificially, an incubator, a special system that simulates the environment and condition required for such operation is usually employed by poultry farmers to do the same operation within specific temperature and relative humidity range. The ranges are usually between 36-390C and 50-70% respectively [W.I. Okonkwo, 2012]. To maintain this temperature range sustained heat supply is paramount.
Alternative Source of Energy for Poultry Incubator and Problems Associated with them:
In Most developing countries, the vast majority of poultry farmers in the rural communities operate their farm on small scale and/or even subsistence level. They often use a collection of bush lamp and kerosene stoves to achieve the heating requirement of small hatchery and brooders for day-old chicks. The problems with these system are enormous ranging from environmental pollution and fire outbreak. Use of fossil fuel is known to produce toxic gases which are harmful to eggs and poultry attendants. Electricity based egg incubator are known to produce clean energy without harmful effect on the environs but they are however limited in operations due to the initial cost of procuring such equipment coupled with the high cost of electric bill, frequent power outages where grid electric exists and unavailability in rural areas.
Effect of Sustainable Energy in Poultry Egg Incubator
For sustainability in poultry chicks’ production, the need for sustainable and environmental friendly energy supply resource can never be overestimated. Such energy resource measure should be attractive and easy to come by or renewed by nature for example the use of solar energy. A special feature of solar powered incubator is that it could harness solar energy by using available material and is adaptable to both rural and urban poultry production. Major advantages of solar powered poultry egg incubator is that it could lead to a pollution-free environment, system that are free from fire hazard and the development of small, medium to large-scale commercial incubator.
From research it was discovered by survey that at present there is no commercially functioning poultry egg in the south-eastern part of Nigeria. The poultry farmers in the zone has no option order than to purchase the day chicks at a very exorbitant rate at about three hundred naira (N300) per chicks due to high cost of logistics and transportation [O.C Chukwuezie, 2012].
- Some Important Terms:
Incubation is a process of providing specific ambient condition for a period prior to hatching egg. It is an act of managing fertilized egg to ensure that satisfactory development of embryos into normal chicks either by natural or artificial method. A newly laid egg needs to be incubated (kept warm) at a constant temperature of about 37.30C during the gestation period. The hen will do this naturally if she has gone broody or a specially made incubator artificially. Some incubators are fan assisted both to even out the air temperature and facilitate the entry of oxygen. These brings us to two forms of incubator namely:
- Still-air incubator (it does not use fan to circulate the warm air)
- Forced-air incubator (it uses fan to circulate the warm air)
Hatching is the process of bringing out the chicks from already incubated eggs. This is by no means a speedy process and can take up to three days. The first stage is known as the internal pip. This is when the chick break through the inner membrane into the air space inside the egg. It will take the chick a day to pip out that is breaking the first hole in the shell. After this, being able to breathe easily, it will rest for one or two days before hatching out completely.
Factors that affect hatchability of egg include:
- Temperature and humidity control
- Condition of the egg
- Turning frequency
- Air supply and ventilation
Care of Hatching Eggs
Before setting eggs in an incubator, quality fertile eggs should be obtained from a well-managed healthy flock fed on properly balance diet. The following should be observed to ensure hatchability of the egg.
- Collect the egg early in the morning and frequently during the day to prevent excessive chilling or heating of the egg.
- Do not wash eggs unless when necessary. If it is necessary to wash eggs, always use a damp cloth with water that is warmer than that of the egg. This causes the egg to sweet the dirt out of the pore. Never use water cooler than the egg. Also, do not soak the egg in water. If the egg is allowed to soak in water for a period of time, the temperature difference can equalize and bacteria have a greater chance of entering through the pores. Be sure eggs are dry before storing. Never place damp or wet eggs in a Styrofoam carton for storage.
- When the egg has not been set for incubation, store the clean fertile eggs in an area which is kept at 1300C – 1900C and 70 – 75% humidity. Never store eggs at temperature above 2400C and at humidity lower than 40%.
- Slant or turn the fertile egg daily while they are being stored, do not store eggs for more than 10-40 days. After 14 days of storage, hatchability begin to decline significantly.
- Just before setting the eggs, allow them to warm to room temperature (21 – 270C) and remove any cracked eggs.
These condition can decrease hatchability dramatically in a very short period of time. [Phillip J. Clauer, 2009]
The environment factors of major importance for an artificial incubator include:
The control of temperature is probably the most critical single factor required for the successful hatching of chicks because developing embryos are extremely sensitive to temperature and it should be adjusted to hold a constant temperature for still air, 37OC – 38oC. The acceptable range is 360C to 390C. Mortality is seen if the temperature drops below 36 [Phillip J. Clauer, 2009]
An incubator should be operated in a location free from draft and direct sunlight. An incubator should also be operated for several hours with water placed in a pan to stabilize its internal atmosphere before fertile eggs are set. Do not adjust the heat upward during the first 48 hours after eggs are set. This practice cooks many eggs. The incubator temperature will drop below 37oC for the first 6 – 8 hours or until the egg warm to 37 – 38oC
The relative humidity of the air within an incubator should be about 60%. During the last 3 days (the hatching period) the relative humidity should be nearer 65 – 70%. (Too much moisture in the incubator prevent normal evaporation and result in a decrease hatch, but excessive moisture is seldom a problem in small incubators). Too little moisture result in excessive evaporation, causing chicks to sticks to the shell, remain in the piped shells, and sometimes hatch crippled. During the hatching period; the humidity in the incubator may be increased by using an atomizer to spray a small amount of water into the ventilating holes. (This is especially helpful when duck or goose eggs are hatching). Whenever water is added to an incubator, it should be about the same temperature as the incubator so that the eggs or the incubator are not stressed. A good test is to add water just warm to the touch. Using a wet-bulb thermometer is also a good way for determining relative humidity. A locally constructed fan is also included in the incubator to maintain humidity.
Air Supply (Ventilation)
The best hatching result are obtain with normal atmospheric air, which usually contains 20 – 21% oxygen. It is difficult to provide too much oxygen, but a deficiency is possible. The ventilation holes are adjusted to allow a normal exchange of air. This is critical on home-made incubators. It is possible to suffocate the eggs and chicks in an air-tight container. However, excessive ventilation removes humidity and makes it difficult to heat incubator. [Phillip J. Clauer, 2009].