The Great Incubator Project12-06-10
Well, I bought a brand new little giant still air incubator off of craigslist a couple of months ago and the plan was to buy a forced air kit, a turner and egg racks and I'd be in business.. I searched all over the internet and the cheapest I could find everything with shipping was over 80 bucks! However, in the course of my searching, I stumbled upon BYC and just happened to see a recent forum post about someone who had build their own incubator.. I did a search on the forum for all the threads having to do with building our own incubator and WOW!! What a bunch of creative people we have here!! So I was inspired... I listed my little giant on ebay and posted a want ad on craigslist for a non working office size fridge. Within a day, I had an offer for a nice little fridge.
I bought a thermostat and hygrometer on ebay that should be arriving any day... got a power strip with built in digital timer at Lowes, ordered flexwatt, tore an old computer apart for a couple of fans and stripped the fridge down to the bare bones..
Now I can start putting it all together. I think I have my rack system and trays figured out-- just got to build them. Once I get them built I can try out my idea for an automatic turner. This is going to be a little different than all the incubators I read about on the forum.. We'll have see if my ideas work out... I wanted to share my little project with everyone at BYC since it's your fault I'm doing it anyway.. besides.. my family thinks I'm nutz... I'll post pictures as I finish each component and will keep a running commentary on my page.
I'm shooting to have this finished by Christmas... Wish me luck!!
Well, I've made some progress... I have cut a hole in the door and installed a plexiglass window, sealed and trimmed it. I ended up flipping the fridge upside down so that I could put it on wheels and so I could use where the compressor used to be as a shelf for my thermostat etc.
On the inside, I have the racks all installed, a small fan installed (probably need a bigger one but we'll see), the thermostat connected and I have my FlexWatt installed. I have a foot of the 11 inch wide tape but it didn't put out quite enough heat for the space.. only got up to 95 degrees and dropped to 90 last night when the house temperature went down for the night.. So I added a small light bulb tonight which I had planned to do for a light source anyway, just connected this one through the thermostat with the Flexwatt.
So far everything is looking good... The thermostat is kicking off at 37.5 degrees celsius and back on at 37.2. I'm going to run it for the next day or two and experiment with humidity and temperature while I wait for my motor to arrive for the turner.. should be here anyday.
All I have left to build is the turner and the trays.. Hopefully I can get those finished by Christmas as I already have some eggs lined up for a test run from a lady selling organic free range eggs here on craigslist...
We're getting closer!!
Finally another update.. I got a tray built out of acrylic but when I tested it in the incubator, it blocked way too much of the air flow and created serious thermal banding top to bottom.. So I decided to build my trays out of 1/2 inch hardware cloth. I put some shelf liner in the bottom and this seems to be working really well. I have 3 trays built and while it does seem to still block a little of the air flow, it seems to be ok.
On my turner, I ran into a problem since I am now using the hardware cloth. My egg grid catches a little on the side of the trays as it slides back and forth. So I am not using the turner right now. I got six dozen eggs this week for a trial run and set them on Wednesday. I am manually turning them and so far so good. Humidity is remaining constant at about 32% and the temperature is remaining constant. I will candle them in a week at 10 days and see what the fertility is like. I got these eggs off of craigslist locally for $3/dozen but it was really cold this last week so I am hoping they gathered them often enough that they didn't get chilled too much..
One interesting thing is that my air temperatures in the bottom of the uncubator seem to stay between 94 and 97 degrees and yet the internal temperature of my water wiggler up with the eggs maintains between 99 and 99.7 degrees. It could be that the thermometer is off a little since the hygrometer part was off about 5%, it read 72% when it should have been 75% when I calibrated it.
I think I have figured out how to modify my turner to work with these trays and will be working on it and the remaining two trays this coming month while these eggs are incubating. Then I'll install the turner and test it all out again in March so that I am good to go for Mahonri's Easter Hatch. I'll post more pictures of this first hatch and the final set up after I get the turner and other trays installed next month.
Here's a picture of the 6 dozen eggs incubating right now.
02-11-11 Well half of my eggs were not fertile.. either that or they were frozen.. at least the price was right.. Anyway.. out of the remaining 34 eggs, I had 26 hatch.. one died last night.. just never did well but the others are all doing great. The 12 eggs that didn't hatch were quitters at various stages, could have been the cold again. The week they were gathered was well below freezing.
The baskets worked great for hatching and were tall enough that even rambuctious chicks were contained. I found that if I topped off my water tray with hot water when I removed chicks that my humidity would be back up to 60% within a couple of minutes. There were no issues with shrink wrapping. I did take the fan out and turn it so that it now blows directly upward. I can tell already that my temperatures are more even top to bottom. This last hatch I think there was about 1.5-2 degrees difference from the top to the bottom trays. There was a full 4 days difference from the first top rack hatch to the last bottom rack hatch.
I set another 63 eggs on the 9th. 2 dozen EE and a dozen varied breed brown eggs from the same source as last time. Hopefully the fertility will be better this time. I also have 27 buff orpington eggs from another source. She cracked three and they were all fertile so hopefully these all are also.
Here's a picture of the set up today.
Here's the thread about the project if you want to subscribe and be notified when there are updates... https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=427213