Jim tested the little giant and hova-bator to decide which incubator he'd use to hatch his eggs. The results are very interesting. See his finding HERE along with which incubator he kept and why. Updated 4/00 with follow up comments.
I have 2 Little Giants, bought as still air models, then added the turbo fans (about $25/fan--makes the total about $60 per unit). No egg turners--I do it by hand. I may get another one as still air and use it as a hatcher without fan. Even with the fan, there are definitely warmer and cooler spots. I put in 3-4 thermometers when starting them up, just to see what reads where.
My results were really dismal when using them last summer, but are much improved this spring. This because of the location of the incubators. The only place I could put them where there was counter space *and* electrical outlet was a back room that gets pretty hot in summer because of poor insulation and windows that let in sun/heat. These incubators do not operate well in areas where the temps fluctuate much or get hotter than 80-85 degrees (the turbo fan puts out a bit of heat too). This spring, with the same room much cooler (65-70), my results have been much better. I'm still searching for the best humidity (still have it too high, I think), but now have a handle on the temp.
The thermometers that come with them are almost worthless. Invest in a better one from poultry supply or I found a good accurate one for $10 at a camera/photographic suppy store (developing your own negatives take chemicals used at precise times/temps).
Little Giants use an electronic cuircuit board thermostat. These are supposed to be more precise, but I find the temp can vary by a degree. You probably won't find that it holds temps within a fraction of a degree, as the bigger cabinet units claim to do. A couple of times last summer, the temp spiked high for some reason (like something stuck on?), but it hasn't happened this spring.
Still have to watch the incubators closely though. I have hatched close to 80 chicks (and a few Coturnix quail) since early Jan. My percentage hatch still isn't what others claim, but it's a heck of a lot better than the 30% I was getting last summer.
Some say these styrofoam jobs are hard to clean--I've had no problem. I clean the bottom half (with a brush) with a bleach and water solution, and wipe down the inside walls of the top half with same.
I have a Top Hatch and Litte Giant. I haven't used my Top Hatch very much, but I have used the Little Giant several times.
I have started using the Little Giant just for hatching, and using a Brower Top Hatch for the initial incubation period. This saves having to open it for fairly long periods to turn the eggs, which really plays havoc with the humidity and temperature.
I purchased my Little Giant incubator used, with no fan or turner. I have since purchased a fan and thermostat wafer and switch to replace the old ones. The fan does help keep the humidity up a little bit better, but doesn't really do much for the temperature. It fluctuates greatly with room temperature variations and who knows what else. I had an especially bad experience after a brief power surge, going from 99 to 104 degrees in just a few minutes. This was even though it was plugged into a surge protector. I find I have to constantly adjust the temperature control, as it sometimes drops down to 97 degrees or shoots up to 102, and it doesn't seem to correct itself. So it has to be watched closely.
I usually place four sponges and an extra water pan in the bottom at hatch time, just to keep the humidity up to around 70%. I need an extra water pan and a sponge during incubation as well, even with the water wells filled. It just doesn't keep the humidity up well at all. I've only hatched chicken eggs and turkey eggs in it, so nothing terribly complicated. The chicken eggs did fairly well, but it performs dismally for turkey eggs.
It's very hard to clean the incubator, as it's styrofoam and you're not supposed to scrub it. So it never really seems clean. I wash it out, soak it in bleach water, and spray with Tek-Trol in between hatches. It has stains in the bottom that just don't come out.
I don't feel it is worth the cost to buy an automatic turner for the little giant, as they cost about as much as the original incubator itself. My advice would be to purchase a better incubator, like the Top Hatch, which costs less.
Rather than use a liner, here's a one-shot deal that works wonders!!! Disinfect and clean the bottom carefully. Gather up a tube of 100% silicone caulking, for tub and tile. Start squirting the caulk all over the inside bottom of the bator, paying special attention to the water troughs, and corners. You want to spread the caulking paper thin, so it just creates a sheen on the bottom. DO NOT PLUG THE AIRHOLES IN THE BATOR BOTTOM WITH THE CAULKING!!! Let the caulking dry THOROUGHLY. Allow at least a week to cure. Scrub carefully with warm water and dish soap, and you are ready to start incubating. The silicone seals all the pores that cause bad bator breath. If you are really into it, you can disassemble the top side, and do it the same way.
Cheaper than liners, and lasts a lifetime. Goes a LONG way toward keeping an easily cleanable bator, too.
Hope this helps!!!
The Easy Chicken for beginners
Not sure of the model we have. It's tough to regulate the heat, use it in a temperature controlled room. Check it VERY frequently for temperature adjustments, if your room temperature gets hot.
It's very sensitive to external movement
Do not use the thermometer it comes with, it's useless. Buy a new one. If you keep it, it can compared to a calibrated one and be used after you know the variation.
Not bad in price, we paid $79.
It is large, about 24" x 24" and 5" deep. Holds about 4 dozen large chicken eggs, is deep enough to accomodate waterfowl/peafowl eggs and should be deep enough even for goose eggs, at least ours is. Doesn't fit in my cupboard for stroage.
Chicks won't get burned by heating element, it is on the top of the bator. Goslings could if not careful. Can add a ring to increase depth for waterfowl, costs extra.
Has a forced air fan. No air blasts on the eggs. Fan circulation causes hot/cold spots in the bator.
Optional egg turner is available. Don't have it yet, don't know how well it works.
Eggs lay on side.
Has a good sized water hold spot in the bottom. It's protected so chicks can't get into it. A wet sponge or cup of water must be added for waterfowl.
Has two large windows on the top. These are on either side, so you cannot see the center eggs. Not really a big deal because the windows are so large, you can see most of the eggs anyway. Great for showing the kids what's going on.
All eggs are to incubated at 99.5*, according to the directions. Need to expirament to see if I can get a better hatch with higher temp.
Has two air plugs, these seem to okay.
Build or buy a hydrometer, it will be invaluable
I haven't found an easy way to clean/sterilize it after a hatch
I'm told this is a bator for more experienced users because of the temperature regulation difficulty. I found that I could regulate it well if I kept an eye on it. I think you will find it to be a great bator. In all, I like it.
I have a Little Giant, model 9200. I have had several good hatches. I try to keep it at 101*. My biggest problem is controlling the humidity. I just got an egg turner and that helps a lot.
I have used model 9200.
Temp. should be adjusted to 101 F. Do check the accuracy of the thermometer, as they can sometimes be off by several degrees.
If this is your first attempt, I suggest that you do not put any water in the water wells for the first 7 days unless your environmental conditions present extremely low humidity. The air being drawn in will bring the moisture content with it. When you candle them at day 7, you should look at the size of the air sac and add water to one of the smaller wells if needed to maintain the correct size air sac. I use one well usually and then add water to the other small well on day 18 when I remove the turner.
Just got a Little Giant (with fan). Have been using a borrowed Hovobator (no fan).
The Little Giant gave me fits for the first week (without eggs) before I could stabilize it and then another week (with eggs!). I had 5 thermometers in it for a while. Eventually I had to put in an oral thermometer (after shaking it down) just to decide which thermometer was the closest. Believe it or not, the Little Giant thermometer was right on after several checkings. My fluctuation is about a degree and a half now from night to day.
The sticker on my LG says that it is to be run at 99.5 degrees because it is a forced air incubator.
The little Giant has larger plastic surface area than the Hovobator.
I bought a LITTLE GIANT table top still air incubator. It has two top windows to watch the hatching. I have used it to hatch two small batches of chickens.
The first hatch was very low about 35%. I attribute this to a couple of things. My lack of knowledge and experiance having never done it before and the constant tempature changes inside due to me having to open it and turn the eggs twice each day.
The second hatch went better about a 60% hatch. I aquired the LITTLE GIANT automatic egg turner and used it. This helped keep the tempature more consistant during the hatch and turned the eggs more. It was more convient also. I recommend this strongly.
I have noticed that with this incubator that the tempature regulation is difficult to maintain if the room the incubator is in has its own tempature fluxes. It seems that a constant eye to the tempature in the incubator, for this unit, is needed in my home.
I used bleach to clean it with after each use. It helped keep it white also.
Over all I am happy with it for my needs of a small backyard flock. If I were to want greater quanity than 20 chicks at a time I would get another type of incubator.
I paid ~$26.00 for the egg turner new and ~$38.00 for the incubator new.
I would recommend this for a beginner but put twice as many hatching eggs in for the number of chicks you want. I am satisified with my results. You may expect a better ratio.