Build your own incubator - A few I found online

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by Guitartists, Apr 20, 2008.

  1. Guitartists

    Guitartists Resistance is futile

    Mar 21, 2008

    and diagram .....


    Here's how to turn your flock's extra eggs into a whole new generation of omelet providers:


    Richard Compton
    Most folks who keep small flocks of fowl (whether for eggs or meat or both) likely have—at one time or another—considered buying an incubator. The freedom that the devices offer (in maintaining a controlled breeding program and in exchanging less productive hens for better layers) can be a real boon to a farmstead bird operation. Unfortunately, you can purchase quite a few commercially hatched day-old chicks for the price of one quality incubator ... since a store bought apparatus can run from about $150 up (and I mean way up!).

    Now it's true that an effective homestead hatchery has to be able to accomplish several jobs at the same time, and that it must do some of them very accurately, but don't let those concerns discourage you from building your own incubator. Once you match the necessary tasks with the various mechanical systems that can handle the chores, the contraption will begin to seem a whole lot less intimidating.

    In order to hatch a good percentage of fertile eggs, an incubator must be able to maintain a constant temperature. Though different sorts of eggs require different heat levels, most will grow and hatch well at 99 to 101°F. When incubating chickens and quail, I aim for a steady 99-3/4 °F . . . though the actual temperature may well fluctuate by as much as half a degree. Sure, that does sound imposingly precise, but such accuracy isn't all that difficult to achieve.

    The incubator shown in the photos is heated by an old box-type hair dryer (not the fancy new gun variety), which is—in turn—controlled by a thermostat that I purchased from Sears, Roebuck and Co. (ask for Farm and Ranch Catalog No. 32AF88022), for $7.99. Unless the air around the dryer is very warm (it is, after all, designed to work at room temperature), the "high" setting works out fine.

    Because even 1°F of inaccuracy in a thermometer could make a vital difference in the percentage of the hatch, it's a good idea to use three or four of the instruments and to average their readings. One quarter turn on the thermostat adjustment screw will produce about a 1°F change inside the incubator, so it is possible to home in pretty close to the right level of warmth. (Of course, you'll want to experiment a bit with the various controls before trying the heating system out on your first batch of eggs.)

    If it's either too dry or too humid inside the incubator, the chicks will suffer. The humidity, measured with a wet-bulb thermometer, will ideally start at 85°F and then rise toward 90°F during the last few days of the incubation period. Low air moisture levels can cause the chicks to stick to their shells, and excessive dampness sometimes produces swelling. (It's important to remember that eggs are permeable and that water, and other substances as well, can get into the shell.)

    A sponge, sitting in an 8" X 8" bread pan filled with water, adds moisture to the incubator. Of course, the dimensions of the sponge will depend on just what the relative humidity is to start with, and you'll be able to get it right only after a bit of experimentation. I've found that a 1-1/2"-thick, 4" X 8" sponge suits both extremes of our western North Carolina climate . . . which is typically humid in the summer and relatively dry in the winter. Again, try out different sponges and keep careful track of humidity variation on the hygrometer (remember to use a wet-bulb thermometer with light cloth ... such as Sears Farm and Ranch Catalog No. 32AF88025, which sells for $4.69).

    Also, be sure to coat the inside and outside of all the wooden parts of the incubator with a plasticized sealer to hold in the humidity. I used a product called Plasticote, which has worked quite well.

    The final major requirement for successful incubation is regular movement of the eggs. Studies have shown that a sitting hen will shift her charges an average of 96 times per day. Of course, that frequency can be reduced quite a bit without significantly affecting the hatch, but at least three movements per day are mandatory.

    It's possible to get along without a mechanical egg-shifting system, but I've found that holding a steady job prevents me from turning the eggs frequently enough by hand. To solve the problem, I incorporated an automatic system into my mini-hatchery ... and the setup comes highly recommended by this backyard bird breeder!

    The eggs in the incubator need to be shifted slowly and smoothly, since jostling would disturb the development of the chicks. I decided to power my system with a Dayton 1-RPM gear motor, coupled to a Dayton solid-state AC-DC and series DC motor control . . . a combination which cuts the oscillation down to about one movement every 45 seconds. [EDITOR'S NOTE: The foregoing items may be available locally. If not, they can be ordered — by a hardware store — from Granger's (the company is a wholesale-only outlet and thus requires a business identification) by requesting Catalog Nos. 3M095 ($13.84) and 4X796 ($12.40), respectively.]The motor is linked to the egg basket by a bent length of 3/8" rod and some angle aluminum ... which form a crank that tilts the assembly approximately 40° in each direction.

    [1] Feed your laying hens a good balanced diet, and select only eggs from the best hens.

    [2] Pick eggs with good shape and average size. Those that are either too large or too small don't seem to hatch as well.

    [3] Never keep the eggs for more than ten days before incubating ... the less waiting, the better. And store them—until you're ready to start the hatching process—at 45 to 60 °F, with plenty of humidity.

    [4] Keep the shells clean (but don't wash them). Write on them (to mark dates, etc.) only with soft pencil, and scrub your hands before picking them up.

    [5] Preheat the incubator, and let the eggs slowly warm to room temperature before putting them into the hatchery.

    [6] Make sure there's enough water in the humidity pan, adding only lukewarm liquid. Cold water could chill the incubator.

    [7] Put chicken eggs in trimmed egg containers . . . quail eggs fit nicely in the chicken-wire screen. (The big end always goes up.)

    [8] Move quail eggs to the lower rack on the 14th day . . . chickens should be shifted down on the 19th. Don't open the incubator after that point until the hatch is complete.

    [9] Leave the brand-new chicks in the incubator for 24 hours . . . or until they dry. (Be sure the screened cover is in place, or they could jump out and drown in the water pan.)

    [10] Clean the incubator thoroughly, after each hatching, with a dilute solution of chlorine bleach. And remember to rinse it well, too!

    The apparatus shown in the photos and drawings will hold two dozen chicken (or 60 quail) eggs. Of course, it could be built larger or smaller, but if you opt for greater capacity, I'd suggest that you make the device wider rather than try to add another level.

    So far I've been able to hatch about 65% of all the fertile quail eggs that I can get (with the exception of one run that was ruined by a power failure). Chicken hatch rates should be a little higher than that . . . perhaps into the 70% range. The local extension agent tells me that those percentages are as good as could be expected from a small commercial incubator, so I think the $60 I invested was money well spent!

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    What do you think?
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2008
  2. Guitartists

    Guitartists Resistance is futile

    Mar 21, 2008
    Here's another

    of a still-air incubator

    Small incubators, suitable for use in the home, can be purchased from stores that sell farm equipment. An egg incubator can be built at home with a little work and expense.

    The first incubator is constructed from a polystyrene ice chest. It is inexpensive, and because it is insulated, is inexpensive to operate. It can be damaged easily. The eggs and chicks can be observed through a window in the lid. This incubator will hold about 40-45 eggs.

    The second incubator is more expensive, but is more permanent. It is constructed of plywood and glass, and will accommodate up to 100 large eggs. Both incubators are heated by a commercially available heating cable. The heating cable can be replaced with two or three ordinary light bulbs. Get a list of organizations that sell incubator supplies and equipment from your county agent or state poultryman.

    Polystyrene Incubator

    You'll need the following equipment and supplies to construct this incubator.

    Polystyrene ice chest (12-16" x 20-24" x 12"-15")
    Heating cable
    Micro-switch assembly (thermostat)
    Glass (approx. 10"x14")
    welded wire - hardware cloth (24"x36")
    Cake tin (9"x14"x1 1/2")
    Masking tape
    Get all equipment and supplies before starting construction. Carefully read and understand the instructions. Expect to spend about 2 hours building the incubator and 4 hours testing it. A description of the construction process, complete with illustrations, is available online.

    Plywood Display Incubator

    This incubator is more expensive and will take longer to construct than the polystyrene incubator, but it is more durable. It is built of ½-inch exterior or marine grade plywood and glass, and will accommodate up to 100 large chicken eggs. Building plans for this incubator are available online.

    Bill of materials

    1 pc 1/2"x4'x6' A-C Exterior Plywood
    5 pcs 3/8"x3/4"x8' Pine
    1 pc 3/4"x1½"x13' Pine
    1 pc 3/4"x3¼"x4' Pine
    1 pc 1/2"x3/4"x8' Pine
    1 pc 1/2"x18"x27" rigid insulation board
    1 pc 18"x27" heavy duty aluminum foil
    1 pc 1/2"x30" semi-rigid plastic pipe
    4 pcs 10"x20" single strength window glass
    4 pcs 10"x14" single strength window glass
    2 1½" roundwooden drawer pulls
    2 metal drawer pulls (cup type)
    2 2" hooks with eyes
    1 pc 8' felt weatherstripping 1/4"x1/2"
    1 pc 20"x27" - ¼" hardware cloth
    2 vent covers - sheet metal
    1 incubator electrification kit *
    1 attachment plug
    2' No. 18-2 flexible service cord
    1 duplex outlet for surface mounting
    10 small porcelain knobs for heating element
    1 pr 4"x1" flat hinges
    1 water pan - minimum 360 sq. in.
    1 pc 1/8"x16½' steel rod
    1 pc 3/16"x8' steel rod
    Assorted nails and screws
    Waterproof wood glue

    Both incubators are heated by a commercially available glass-covered heating element. For the plywood incubator, it should provide 160 watts of heat. Slightly less heat is required in the polystyrene incubator.
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2008
  3. Katy

    Katy Flock Mistress

    There's some good threads on here too with how to build your own incubator.
  4. gumpsgirl

    gumpsgirl Crowing

    Mar 25, 2008
    Oooh! My DH is going to kill me!!! He hasn't even finished the coop yet and now I have another project for him to do! [​IMG]
  5. Grillmaster33

    Grillmaster33 Songster

    Apr 18, 2008
    Triad, NC
    Wow. I didn't realize you had created that page Miss Prissy. The incubator that I created today was modeled after your own. (Minus the thermostat, which is the reason I am having problems now-temperature fluctuations!)

    Thanks for the Chic Chick-bator.

    My video will be availabe within an hour or so.
  6. gumpsgirl

    gumpsgirl Crowing

    Mar 25, 2008
    Quote:I looked at your bator earlier. I love it, by the way!!! I'm definitely going to have to try it. Do you have to turn your eggs four times a day? I know, stupid question! Just curious as to how that works in your bator! [​IMG]
  7. Guitartists

    Guitartists Resistance is futile

    Mar 21, 2008
    Thanks Miss Prissy! How did yours work out???? I really need something inexpensive to get me started. Your Chic Chick Bator fits my pocketbook just fine [​IMG]
  8. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude

    I have my Fridge-a-Bator and my Cooler Bator (in addition to my Hovabator) and am incubating and hatching in both right now. You really can make your own for lots cheaper than buying one and have one that's tons easier to clean than the styrofoam ones.
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2008
  9. Guitartists

    Guitartists Resistance is futile

    Mar 21, 2008
    I am soooo on this first thing this week! It will be so hard to figure what kind of eggs to get first though [​IMG]

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