chickens; chick; chicks; brooders

Poultry production: The difference between incubators and brooders

Question: What are brooders and incubators, and how does one use them?

Brooders are used on a farm and incubators are used in a hatchery.


  • There are many types, but their basic function is to provide heat for newly-hatched chicks.
  • The simplest ones use wood or charcoal burners to heat up the area where the chicks are to be placed.
  • In more modern systems, gas, coal or electricity are used.
  • Gas burners can be used as spot heaters, or to heat the whole area if chicks are housed in a large room.
  • Electricity is often used in infra-red lights suspended over the chicks or to heat up the entire room.
  • Coal burners are also used to heat water, which in turn heats up the air that circulates over the chicks.
  • Electric brooders function much like a hen, as chicks can move in and out of the heat, as they wish.

Also read: Raising broiler chickens without electricity


  • In a hatchery, the eggs are placed on trays in an incubator where they’ll stay for about 18 days.
  • The eggs are turned every 45 minutes and the temperature and humidity are carefully controlled.
  • The eggs are then transferred to special baskets and placed in a hatcher where the temperature and humidity are also controlled.
  • The chicks hatch 21 days after the eggs were placed in the incubator.

Also read: Ensure that your chicks get the best start

  • This article was written by Dr. Mick Versfeld and first appeared in Farming SA.

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