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From Springfield, Ohio, came the Buckeye No. 1, a rather primitive 100-egg unit. Eggs were turned by hand, and humidity was also controlled manually, probably by sprinkling water over the eggs. The temperature is controlled with an "X" shaped steel thermostat on an adjustable rod. That, in turn, is hooked to a long, counter-weighted rod acting on a "hat." The hat moved up and down in response to heat in the box. As the box cooled, the hat dropped down over the boiler exhaust, causing it to warm the water more.
Warming inside the box would cause the hat to lift, letting heat go out the chimney, as it were. On this outfit, most of the work was done by hand, as evident by the mess left inside for cleaning (lots of old eggshells in there). Apparently, though, the Buckeye must have worked well enough, as it was used until 1934 when it was wrapped (in newspapers bearing that date) and stored.
The incubator's operation was simple. A day or so before setting eggs, the unit would be fired up and adjusted. After it was filled with eggs, the wait was on. During the next three weeks, the eggs were turned, and the temperature and humidity monitored. Farmers hoped for a hatch rate of 80 to 85 percent, probably as good as the old hens could do. Claims were made that a batch could be hatched on a gallon of kerosene. (Obviously, the box was well insulated.)
Later, electricity came to the farm, replacing kerosene as a heating fuel. Electricity was easier to control, and more reliable. Not too long afterwards, chicks could be ordered via mail, with live delivery guaranteed from commercial hatcheries.
About that hatch rate of 80 to 85 percent: Rotten eggs were given to children to dispose of. Those of us who have been exposed to rotten eggs are aware of the unique fragrance they possess, making a skunk sweet-smelling in comparison. A neighbor tells about when he, as a child, was given unhatched eggs to dispose of. Taking them to a rock pile northwest of the house, he threw them at various targets on the pile. Later that day, a slight northwest breeze arose, making it very unpleasant for his mother, who was canning peaches in the house. So it goes! FC
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