Homemade Chicken Incubator

Hard plastic cooler DIY incubator
By paddock36 · Jan 11, 2012 · ·
  1. paddock36
    My Homemade Chicken Incubator
    I decided to make a homemade incubator after reading about different problems that other BYC members had faced with their store bought incubators, and because of the price of them. So, I gathered the supplies that I thought I would need. Most of the supplies I already had lying around in the shed or in the house.

    List of Supplies:

      • Plastic Rubbermade cooler - free from Ocalafreecycle
      • Hotwater heater thermostat - $8.99 from Lowes
      • Light kit - $5.99 from Walmart
      • Computer fan - free from a friend that works on computers
      • *Hardware cloth - small piece of leftover I already had
      • *PVC pipe
      • *Plastic tubing
      • *Glass (8 x 10 inch) from an old picture frame
      • *Shelving cloth
      • *Sponges
      • *Plastic Dish
      • *Caulking
      • *120v plug (to attach to fan)
      • *40 watt lightbulb
      • Plastic thermometer - $1.00 from Walmart
      • *Metal tape
      • *Plastic bowl
      • *Styrofoam pieces (old swimming pool float)
      • Digital thermometer/hydrometer - this was something extra that I purchased but was not a requirement to build the incubator and I purchased it on ebay for $4.99.

    * These are all items that I already had lying around the house.

    How I Built My Incubator
    *Believe it or not it was easy.
    I got the design idea from BYC, and online of course. I decided to use a hard plastic cooler instead of styrofoam so it would be easier to clean.

      • First step, I used a rotozip to precut all the holes needed in the cooler, to include the top for a viewing window, round holes on the front and back to regulate humidity, hole on the right side to insert tubing to add water, air holes on the bottom of the front and back for air, and two holes on the left side to run the wires for the lamp and fan.

      • Second, I attached the 120v plug to the fan wires and mounted the fan on the inside of the cooler.

      • Third, I attached the light kit to the cooler.

      • Forth, I attached the thermostat to the inside of the cooler and attached the wires from the light kit to the thermostat screws on the front. (There are only two wires from the plug to the light kit. Split the wires and attach one wire to the light and the other goes through the hole on the side of the light and attach it to the thermostat screw on the front. Then use an extra small piece of wire (that can be precut from the light kit) and attach it from the other screw on the thermostat and back to the light. Plug it in and if the light doesn't turn on then just switch the wires.)

    [​IMG] thermostat, light, and fan
    close up view of wires to thermostat [​IMG]
    [​IMG] black wire to fan, white wire to light

      • Fifth, I used two small pieces of pvc pipe (about 2 inches long) and attached one on the front and one on the back diagonal from each other. I sealed them in with caulk. (They are used to help regulate the humidity, and I just cover them to raise humidity)

    [​IMG] pvc pipe opening

      • Sixth, I attached the 8 x 10 inch piece of glass to the lid with caulk. (The caulk is water resistant)

    [​IMG] glass window
    (green styrofoam to seal opening in lid under glass window, see 9th step)

      • Seventh, I bent the hardware cloth to make a platform for the eggs to set on and block (or divide) the lightbulb from newly hatched chicks. I put a piece of Metal duct tape (this I got from my DH who works on airconditioning) across the wire divider to deflect the light from the eggs. I put the plastic bowl (from Chinese food takeout) under the wire to hold the water and sponge for humidity)

    [​IMG] wire platform and divider

      • Eighth, I ran a piece of plastic tubing through the side and attached it to the top of the outside of the cooler (so I can add water during lockdown without opening the incubator if needed)

    [​IMG] plastic tubing to add water

      • Ninth, I inserted some styroform pieces (from old swimming pool float) in openings in the lid under the glass to seal openings made when I cut the lid. (They were green and you can see them in the photo of the seventh step)

    Once completed I added some eggs and 21 days later.........

    My incubator will hold two dozen eggs.

    Total cost of building my incubator = $15.98
    Enjoyment of hatching baby chicks in the incubator I built = Priceless

    Something I would add or change:

    At some point I think I would like to add a turner, so I can turn the eggs from the outside without having to open the incubator, and I would like to add a candler on top.

    *Most recent hatch 04/16/2010 hatched 18 of 24 standard eggs.

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Recent User Reviews

  1. NoFlyBackFarm
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Oct 29, 2018
    Good photos and clear instructions. Well written and informational!
  2. ronott1
    "Good Article"
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Sep 18, 2018
    Nice incubator build with enough details to build one like it
  3. rjohns39
    "Wonderful Job"
    4/5, 4 out of 5, reviewed Aug 16, 2018
    Nice job laying out the materials and instructions. I would have liked to see more in-progress pictures.


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  1. paddock36
    I still have this incubator and yes it still works like a charm.
  2. TweetyNPetey
    $15 for the whole bator? I can tell it's better than my Mini advance! It's bigger, and you can customize is any way you want. I am totally gonna try this. Since it's so cheap, I can just make one to test it out.
  3. paddock36
    Since building this incubator I tried using a store bought incubator with an automatic turner a couple times that I borrowed from a friend. My incubator kept humidity a lot better and I actually had a better hatch rate with my own. Yes you have to turn the eggs yourself, but I think that's half the fun of it. Good luck to everyone and Happy Hatching :)
  4. rowlow
    Cool I am in the process of collecting what i need to build my own.
  5. fireguyjeff
    "Plug it in and if the light doesn't turn on then just switch the wires."
    120VAC does not have polarity, so reversing the wires should not change anything.
    If it does not light up and the thermostat is on, then there is a broken connection.
  6. fireguyjeff
    "Plug it in and if the light doesn't turn on then just switch the wires."
    120VAC does not have polarity, so reversing the wires should not change anything.
    If it does not light up and the thermostat is on, then there is a broken connection.
  7. Scooter&Suzie
    This is wonderful! I'm looking to make an incubator, and this is the one that suits my needs best! I hope to make this one.

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