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apparatus for the maintenance of controlled conditions in which eggs can be hatched artificially. Incubator houses with double walls of mud, a fireroom, and several compartments each holding about 6,000 hens' eggs were developed in ancient times; the Chinese have long used baskets with a capacity of about 5,000 eggs that are alternated with layers of heated wheat. In the United States small incubators were developed in the 1840s and large ones have been used since 1910; some commercial models have trays for as many as one million eggs. The modern apparatus, with computer-controlled temperature and humidity and devices for turning the eggs, is widely used in commercial chick production. Eggs are selected for size, weight, and shell texture and often are candled after a week in the incubator in order to remove infertile eggs. The small-scale apparatus for hatching eggs inspired the invention of incubators for prematurely born human infants, whose lives are often saved in an environment of controlled heat, humidity, and ventilation. Another type of incubator has been developed for the culture of microorganisms.


See R. E. Austic and M. C. Nesheim, Poultry Production (13th ed. 1990); M. North, Commercial Chicken Production (1990).



apparatus for artificially hatching the young of poultry from eggs.

The simplest incubators—special rooms, heated barrels, and stoves—were known in tropical countries thousands of years ago. In Europe and the USA, various types of incubators appeared in the 19th century. Before the October Revolution in Russia, only individual amateur poultry farmers had incubators; they were first manufactured commercially in the USSR in 1928. Until 1941, poultry farms used incubators with such brand names as Ukrainskii Gigant, Kommunar, and Spartak, with a capacity of 16,000 to 24,000 eggs. Modern incubators in the USSR—cabinet and closet types (the most widely used)—are complex apparatus in which maintenance of the necessary temperature and humidity, ventilation, and turning of the eggs, that is, the entire incubation process, are taken care of automatically. Stable conditions of incubation make it possible to have 95 percent success in hatching the young in incubators. Incubators can operate at any time of the year, and the quality of the young birds is no different from the quality of those hatched under a brood hen; labor is decreased by a factor of 25. In 1971 the total capacity of the operating incubators in the USSR was more than 1.7 billion eggs.

Table 1. Characteristics of incubators used in the USSR
  Incubating closetHatching closetIncubating closetHatching closet
Capacity (number of eggs)39,31237,4406,24044,3046,480
Dimensions (m)
Height . . . . . . . . . . .2.82.552.552.442.44
Width . . . . . . . . . . . .3.12.352.242.22.2
Length . . . . . . . . . . .
Number of trays
Incubating trays . . . . . .216312312
Hatching trays . . . . . .405252
Temperature range (°C)
maintained with accuracy
±0.2°C . . . . . . . . . . . .36–3836–3836–3736–3836–38
Range of relative humidity of air (%) maintained with accuracy to ± 3 % . . . .40–8040–8040–8040–8040–80

The cabinet incubator (Rekord-39, Rekord-42) is a thermostatic box, along two sides of which there are columns with trays for the eggs. It is intended primarily for the incubation of chicken, turkey, and guinea-fowl eggs. The closet incubator (Universal-45, Universal-50, Universal-50 M) consists of two independent apparatus—an incubating apparatus with three closets in one frame and a hatching apparatus in a separate frame. In the incubating closets the trays with the eggs are arranged in rotating drums mounted on a shaft; in the hatching closet, they are placed on a 12-tiered shelf. Closet incubators can also be used to incubate the eggs of water fowl (geese and ducks). (See Table 1 for a description of incubators used in the USSR.) Outside the USSR (in the USA, Canada, Great Britain, Italy) continuous sectional incubators are used, in each section of which the incubating and hatching processes are combined. A similar type of incubator is being adapted by industry in the USSR.

Incubators are kept in incubator houses, which are part of poultry hatcheries.


Tret’iakov, N. P. Inkubalsiia, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1957.
Orlov, M. V. Biologicheskii kontrol’ v inkubatsii. Moscow, 1963.




for infants, an apparatus with an artificial micro-climate to house premature babies so that they remain warm and retain their body heat. Optimum temperature (33°-38°C), humidity (85-100 percent), and oxygen content (33-60 percent) are automatically maintained, and there is a constant oxygen supply. The premature infant is placed in the closed incubator naked on a sponge mattress. It is cared for through a special opening (or sleeve) and observed through the incubator’s transparent walls.


A device for the artificial hatching of eggs.
A small chamber with controlled oxygen, temperature, and humidity for newborn infants requiring special care.
A laboratory cabinet with controlled temperature for the cultivation of bacteria, or for facilitating biologic tests.


1. Med an enclosed transparent boxlike apparatus for housing prematurely born babies under optimum conditions until they are strong enough to survive in the normal environment
2. a container kept at a constant temperature in which birds' eggs can be artificially hatched or bacterial cultures grown
3. a commercial property, divided into small work units, which provides equipment and support to new businesses


An organization that fosters the growth of new ideas or companies. An incubator generally acquires small companies and provides them with financing, management expertise, office services and possibly office space. Incubators may adopt a think tank approach and look for synergies between the ideas, products and technologies they are developing in order to grow faster. Many Internet incubators arose in the latter 1990s with the intention of creating more dot-com success stories. See angel investor.
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