What is the difference between forced/circulated-air incubator and still-air incubator, and what are the pros and cons of each?

There are 2 main types of incubator — forced/circulated-air and still-air. The difference is simply a fan. Forced/circulated-air incubators have a built-in fan to circulate the air in order to keep equal temperatures all around inside the incubator. The temperature can be measured anywhere within the airflow. Forced/circulated-air incubators are widely used in commercial hatcheries.


Forced/circulated-air (Intermediate) Brinsea® Maxi II Advance Automatic Incubator


  • Alarm system helps keep you on the correct schedule.
  • Contains a small automatic fan to control and keep air temperature even.
  • Automatic egg turner included.
  • Clear dome makes the viewing experience more enjoyable.
  • Count down to hatch day and auto-turn stop.
  • Plastic frame for easy cleaning.


  • Central water reservoir is not big enough — can dry out and humidity will drop.


Still-air incubators have no fan to circulate the air, just a heating element in the space (often within the lid of the incubator) above the eggs, which warms the eggs from above. Humidity is often provided by evaporation from a water pan in the bottom/middle of the incubator. Still-air incubators are often pretty simple in design. Eggs are not stacked in still-air incubators, so there is only a single layer of eggs. Besides the heating element, generally attached to the lid are the thermostat, a digital control panel to monitor temperature and humidity, and other functional features.


Still-Air (Basic) HBlife 9-12 Digital Fully Automatic Incubator


  • Affordable and robust entry level incubator — ideal for small hatch sizes and first timers.
  • Automatic egg turner included.
  • Easy to control temperature gauge with digital display.
  • Small, doesn’t take up any space.


  • Built-in thermometer only measures in Celsius.
  • Lack of windows makes viewing the process impossible.
  • Can be hard to clean around the electronic bits.


Here are the pros and cons between forced/circulated-air incubator and still-air incubator: 

High hatchability rate. Easy to use. Ideal for first timers.
Provide excellent temperature uniformity. Most still-air are less expensive than forced/circulated-air.
Most forced/circulated-air will last for years. Does not take up much room.
Depends on the size of the incubator, you can stack multiple trays of eggs in one incubator as opposed to the still-air incubator where you can only have one layer of eggs. Good for hatching small to medium number of chicks.
Fairly easy to clean. Does not use much electricity.
Almost a turnkey system.
Can take up a lot of room, depending on the size, of course. Hatchability can be low.
Can be expensive to buy. Temperature and humidity can be hard to regulate. It requires precision to set this kind of incubator.
Some models, you have to turn eggs by hand.
There may be pockets of uneven temperature in the incubator.
Can have high number of deformities in chicks.
Can be hard to clean.



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