Silk Creek Alpacas'
Homemade Incubator!!!

Well, Lilian and I have started building the incubator. We have it mostly done at this point, just don't have it all together. Here are some of the steps we have taken to build the incubator.
First off, an incubator is essentially a warm area that can keep a constant temperatur and steady humidity over time (21 days to be more precise). We could buy an incubator, but that would put us out anywhere from $100 - $2000+, and we don't want to do that so we decided to see what we could do a little bit more cheaply. First off we needed to get some supplies. The first thing (and fairly important item) is the ice chest. Any kind would do, so I put a posting out on the EugeneFreeCycle list that I was looking for one. I got two responses, one for a stryrofoam one and someone that had an old dorm fridge that doesn't work. I took both. We are going to use the stryrofoam one first as it is easier to work with, and then if we like incubating, we will transform the fridge in to one later. The ice chest is perfect, it is a large one that is used by Omaha Meats. It is THICK and heavy, and is perfect. Thank you to Toni who met me yesterday to let me have this.
Item Cost: $0.00
Total cost so far: $0.00
Next we needed the parts to get the incubator warm, and to keep it regulated. For this we went to Home Depot and purchased a No. 8125 Water Heater Thermostat

Item Cost: $7.57
Total Cost so far: $7.57
Next we needed a lamp kit, so we purchased the Make a Lamp Kit at Home Depot since this not only had the lamp, but also the wire we would need. It was also cheaper than buying the parts separately.

Item Cost: $9.97
Total Cost so far: $17.54
We will also need a fan to keep the air moving in the incubator. We have been keeping the old PC we purchased about 11 years ago for the girls. It hasn't worked for about 6, but we've kept it around. We took it apart and took out the power supply fan.

We also took out the cpu fan but I think this will be too small.

Item Cost: $0.00
Total Cost so far: $17.54
Here is everything:

We'll also need a transformer to run the small fan, but I think we have one around that we are not using anymore so, our total cost will be (before we get eggs)
$17.54!! Not bad.
We'll be adding some hardware cloth for protection and a tray, but we have a large roll out in the shop that we can use.
I am currently using our remote Oregon Scientific thermometer to keep track of the temperature and humidity in the incubator.
We now needed to wire the light & thermostat. I had found some diagrams online at the BackYardChicken Forums (trust me, do not go to BYC unless you want to start having chickens, they are a bunch of enablers over there!! I started off only wanting 3-4 chickens, now I have 12 on the way and I'm building an incubator!!! Nuff said!! :) ). BYC has been incredibly helpful in building this incubator. I have taken the design from many of the posters over there.
The thermostat will control when the light turns on and off, so I have wired it so the power goes through the thermostat.

The wires come in the bottom from outside of the incubator. The wires out the side go to/from the thermostat. I wasn't exactly sure of how to wire it, but got lucky and got it right the first time!!

Well, IT WORKS!!!! Here is Lilian & Aislyn in front of the Great Glowing Incubator!!

Even using the flash you can still see it glowing!
Right now only the light is attached to the wall. I still need to get the thermostat & fan attached, but that should only take a few minutes. I had it plugged in all night and the high temperature recorded was only 101.4º, so not that bad with no fan attached. I need to reset the thermometer to see what the lows were (it says the recorded low was 4º but that was back in late December when it was outside, I don't think the incubator got that cold last night ;) ). All in all I think Lilian and I did a pretty good job!! [/FONT]

[FONT=georgia,palatino]Well, we have finished the incubator. We are very happy with how it turned out. It is now sitting in the dining room all plugged in trying to get it to stabilize. First thing I had to do was to connect the fan we had from the old computer to the converter I bought at WalMart today. It was really easy to just splice the wires together.
Item Cost: $12.00
Total Cost so far: $29.54

As you can see, I left the fan in the housing it was already in. I thought this would be easier than trying to hook the fan up to the side of the ice chest. It works really well. The fan now sits about 3 inches off the floor of the incubator, and will circulate the air from the warm side to the cooler side very quickly. It also helps cover the fan so chicks or little fingers cant get down in to the fan that easy. You can also see that I placed the thermostat in an electrical box that I had out in the shop.
Item Cost: $0.00
Total Cost so far: $29.54
I did this for 2 reasons. First was to cover up the exposed connection of the wires. It worried me a little bit. They are still slightly exposed (and I've been thinking of covering the box with some hardware cloth to protect it more) but not as bad as they were. Also, some reading I've done (and I'm sorry to the person who mentioned this before, but I don't remember where I read it), people have said that the hot water heater thermostat isn't really designed to test the ambient temperature, but the temperature of the water tank so attaching it to a metal box, will help regulate the thermostat some more (maybe, but that's the story I'm sticking with, I don't know anything about this stuff!!) :) Here are some more pictures:

You can see that under the fan it is just open.
Exposed wires, but somewhat covered. Next I took some hardware cloth we had in the shop.
Item Cost: $00.00
Total Cost so far: $29.54
I cut out a tray for the eggs to sit on so they are raised off the floor a little bit. I also added a wall between the tray and the light/fan side of the box to protect the chickens when they hatch so they won't go near the fan, water or light.

I then added some tin foil between the light and where the eggs will be to protect the eggs from direct heat from the lamp.

We then had to search all over the house for something to put in the lid so we could see down in to the incubator to check the temperature. Lilian finally remembered she had an old picture frame with a Plexiglas cover that was a perfect size. We cut out the hole in the top, made a ledge for it to sit on, and the brought out the good stuff, Duct Tape!! :) (wish we had orange tape, but we only had old siver. :( )
Item Cost: $00.00
Total Cost so far: $29.54

This last picture was taken about 2 hours after we plugged it in. Not bad. We are getting some spikes to 106° so it still isn't perfect, but getting closer. You can also see that above the humidity was a little bit low so I added a small bowl with just a little bit of water and it brought the humidity up closer to where I would like to see it. We have a fire going in the house tonight so the home humidity is fairly low. Without the fire, we might not need much water during the winter. We'll have to watch this.
All in all Lilian and I have had a great time putting this together. She has been a great help! We are getting excited for our eggs to get here, and to see how well we'll do. We're not holding our breath for a 100% hatch rate. If we get a 30%, I think we'll be thrilled!! Keep watching, more to come!! :) [/FONT]