Hello all, and welcome to my page on building an incubator from scratch. I'll try to include as many pictures as possible so you can see what I'm doing. I will be including links to where you can buy suitable supplies. This build has been inspired by Sally Sunshine's Coolerbator article. I highly recommend checking it out.
Supplies & Tools
- Plastic tote---using a cooler is better, but I can't find a cheap one so I'm using this.
- Type of interior insulation (styrofoam, bubble wrap insulation) that's not needed if using cooler.
- About 8 x 11 sheet of plexiglass/plastic.
- Duct tape---just all-around useful and good for attaching insulation to sides.
- Jigsaw---for cutting out viewing window, etc.
- Exacter/razor blade: great for cutting plexiglass, and if using tote, for cutting light socket holes.
- 2 light sockets. Note: I am not using these, so refer to coolerbator article for installing this type.
- 2 light bulbs---45-75 watts. Lower wattage is better as the wafer thermo will not have to flip the lights on and off so much.
- 1 wafer thermostat assembly. Make sure you are not just getting the disc. Do not skimp on this part, bite the bullet and buy this type!!
- 60+ CFM computer/gaming fan.
- 12v AC/DC adapter.
- Assorted wire nuts.
- Hot glue, liquid nails, or gasket sealer, for attaching the plexiglass to the lid.
- Wire extension for the thermo wires. This can just be an old extension cord.
- Another extension cord to make reaching the wall easy.
- Drill with 1/4 & 3/16 inch bits.
- Wire strippers.
- Electrical tape.
- Wood strips.
- Hardware cloth.
- Even more duck tape.
- Plastic tubing.
- Shelf liner.
Total cost for this build was a little under $45.
Awesome videos on how to do a Coolerbator: Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4
Wafer thermostat assembly
Rest of adapter. The plug is not compatible with the fan ends so you have to cut the end off and splice it.
Gaming fan---64.4 CFM. Note the ends. The white things will be cut off and spliced with the adapter. There are 3 wires, the yellow is not the live or ground.
Here are the wires coming out from the fan.
Here is the first end. You can cut here, or cut at the next end so you don't have to do anything with the yellow wire.
See how the yellow wire stops, but red & black keep going?
The second end.
What I using for light sockets.
Tote, just the bare bones. No modifications at this point.
Here is the tote with the foil bubble wrap insulation duct taped on.
This one shows the insulation on the lid.
Next, I stopped and did the lid.
Lid with hole in it, 8 x 11 inches. I put the insulation on the lid after cutting the hole in it so the edges wouldn't be messy.
The hole with the insulation on the underneath.
Next I cut out the excess insulation.
I put a bead of hot glue between the insulation and the plastic, to keep it secure.
Next comes the plexiglass...
Close-up of where I ran a bead all around the edge.
Now, I cut holes in the back of the tote. I used a razor blade, and cut a hole for the head to stick through. I also removed some of the insulation around it so it wouldn't touch the lightbulb.
Picture of the socket being hot-glued in.
Back view of the tote:
Make sure you lay everything out before gluing/screwing it in. Here is an image of how far away from the side I have the fan to ensure adequate airflow.
And here is the wafer thermostat being installed. I used 2 screws about an inch long.
Later, you will drill a 1/4 inch hole for the blue wires to come through in the side.
Here's a sketch of how the wires all go together. This is how I did it, and the thing didn't explode, but I am not an electrician so take that as fair warning.
Purple = fan wire
Green = adapter wire
Blue = white wire
Yellow trimmed in purple = thermostat wire/extension
Brown = black wire
Orange = extension cord
See the tiny ends of the thermostat wire, to the left? To wire, refer to the Rush Lane Poultry video links above.
The lights turn on now. Just the fan left, and this will be all done.
These are the fan and adapter wires. The actual wire part was too thin for wire nuts, so I covered it in electrical tape and then duct-taped it to the side.
I mounted the fan on 2 pieces of scrap wood because I didn't have long enough screws.
The thermostat turns the bulbs on and off, and the fan runs. Success!
Make sure you add several vent holes around the bottom and top to ensure adequate airflow.
I will be updating this page with results after I have done a test run & and actual hatch. Thanks for reading!
2/3 eggs from the test run hatched out nice and cleanly. I think we get to say that this thing works.
Upgrade #1. I've been thinking about past hatches in my spare time and thinking on how to improve hatch rates. I have noticed that despite air cells looking fine at lockdown, hatched chicks are rather "wet" and often have discolourations on the inside where the outside was touching the bator floor. I am thinking this is due to water that drips from the sides and gets the papertowel on the floor sopping wet. It also gets really mucky and it stinks to high heavens.
So.... I made a hardware cloth grate that raises the floor a bit. Water can fall through and get the underlying papertowel wet, but the eggshells can't touch it.
You can't see in the photo, but it has about 1 inch high sides. Since the photo was taken, I've taken it out and covered the poky bits with duck tape for ease of removal.
Upgrade #2.... HWC over fan. This became necessary due to upgrade #1.
Upgrade #3: Tubing to add water in lockdown.
Bator upgrade #4: Peep hole to stick my hand in and candle when I really shouldn't.
I decided to do a rebuild on the bin 'bator and put it into a cooler body. Same supplies used as above, except they were screwed into a cooler instead of a plastic tote and I did not use insulation. If anyone else wants to try using a bin, I highly recommend screwing a piece of wood on the back to screw the thermostat to and NOT putting it over insulation. I believe the sides were too flexible, which made the microswitch slip and not turn the lights off/on well after a period of time.
Lid cut out with a jigsaw, plexiglass cut to size with a mitre saw and hot-glued into place.
Holes for the sockets cut out using a hole saw.
I lined the edges with duck tape for a cleaner look.
Sockets hot glued into place.
Front view of bulb sockets, thermostat, and fan. I hot glued the fan in, no idea if it'll hold but it's worth a try. 7/30/17 it's worked well so far with no signs of peeling away.
This cooler has a really deep lid, which is why I can get away with the bulbs so close to the top.
Wiring all done up:
This image shows how much room there is once the lid is on. If you have a lower lid and install at this height you'll likely need baffles.
I have a test run going with 40w bulbs in it. Temperature is 100* stable but lights have a 15 second on 30 off cycle so I might reduce the wattage of the lightbulbs. I will update once I set and hatch eggs in here.
7/30/17: I set shipped duck eggs in here and got a 57% hatch rate. Not half bad, and I'm pleased with temperature stability. I'll probably mess with it and upgrade a bit more.
Thanks for reading.