Calibrating Digital Incubator Thermometers

Discussion in 'Quail' started by RichardandTresa, Sep 28, 2014.

  1. RichardandTresa

    RichardandTresa Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 23, 2014
    I've Got a brooder full of my first Quail hatch and getting ready to set 40 more eggs today or tomorrow.

    My first hatch happened one day early and there were several "runts". It was brought to my attention that I either chose to hatch some very small eggs OR... I may have had my incubator temps too high. During the incubation period (17 days), I recorded over 260 entries into a temperature/humidity journal.

    Considering I was using a Little Giant incubator (With egg turner and fan... I also did some modifications like installing side feeding water tubes for humidity so I wouldn't have to open up the incubator. My other modification was adding large glass marbles to act as mass heat sinks: The marbles (Once up to temperature), retain the heat and keep the thermostat from allowing the heater to raise or lower the temps to the extremes that these inexpensive wafer thermostats are known for... These heat sinks worked so well, I've added more while I conduct a thermometer calibration test. Th result of the added heat sinks is a rapid on/off of the heater with variations in temps being less than .5 degrees.

    Now for the question... I have two digital thermometers and the monitored difference in temp between them is less than .2 degrees.

    This still does not confirm if these digital thermometers are spot on...

    My question: I've been "pre-running" the incubator with the added heat sinks, the two digital thermometers AND a mercury, glass medical thermometer (Thinking that the medical thermometer should be extremely accurate. The medical (Oral) thermometer is reading exactly .5 degrees lower than my digital thermometers. I'm nervous about taking that into consideration to set my incubator thermostat (My first hatch started one day early and it was suggested by another member here that my incubator temp could have been on the high side resulting in the one-day early hatch and the few runts I hatched.

    What would you do?

    Thanks!

    Richard

    (Photos are of my modified incubator with water fill and large glass marbles)

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  2. GrandmaBird

    GrandmaBird Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Relax a little. Its not a magic number do you think a hen has constant temps when incubating? Just try to keep the temp between the suggested numbers, you don't have to go nutz and be exact. I doubt that the runts and early hatch had much to to with the temps, well maybe the early hatch but surely not the size of the chicks. I would check the adult stock and try to figure out which pair are giving the smaller, runt, chicks. Easier if you keep breading pairs or even groups. mark the eggs from each group with a different number. You should be able to figure out who is the trouble. Let us know how it goes.
     
  3. RichardandTresa

    RichardandTresa Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 23, 2014
    Thank You! ...For giving me the space to laugh at myself! I really take all the farm animals we keep (Rabbits, Chickens, Tilapia (Aquaponics), and Quail), seriously as in a reverence (?) (honor), that even though most we will harvest, I take the responsibility to give them the best lives they could possibly have while in our custody.

    I just lost 4 quail chicks (two were helped out of their shells (yes, I know, but they were so close and struggling so hard... I figured they deserved a "chance"... The other two were much smaller than the rest... Figured out what the problem was (besides my not accepting the Mother Nature will do what she will, regardless of my efforts... LOL!) Since it was our first hatch from our own eggs, I really took it hard... (To tears... not the loss of "meat", but rather their deaths were on "my watch").

    Tresa (my wife) has been great about consoling me while reminding me that I am already going above and beyond and that... sometimes, these things just happen.

    So knowing I'm in within .5 degrees of 99.5, I will relax and enjoy the ride...

    God! These little creatures can be so endearing! (The other side of the coin: Although my first warm blooded animal kill, I SO enjoyed the quiet when our roos were sent to "freezer camp"!) LOL =D

    Thank you again! (Guess I just needed to hear from another here that I'm "in the ballpark"...)

    I'll come back in 18 days and let you know how it went... (Our first hatch (without candling or other checks... just collecting all the eggs that came from our breeders in an effort to not "store" them for too long") of 49 eggs was 50%... I was more than happy to have that as my starting point... Shooting for better... I even put the larger eggs (double yolks) in the refrigerator
     
  4. RichardandTresa

    RichardandTresa Out Of The Brooder

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    Jun 23, 2014
    Feeling MUCH better today! Less stressed about "doing it right" and just going along for the ride! =D

    While I was calibrating the thermometers, I added some blocks of aluminum to simulate the mass of the marbles and eggs. I decided to keep them in. I removed two turner trays and set them up for supporting the 40 eggs that are in the incubator. They came from the center of the turner which is where I laid out the aluminum blocks. The outer two trays are holding two rows of 10 eggs each (40 total with the outer edge holding the glass marbles...

    The result: I've never seen that wafer thermostat turn on and off so rapidly! I'm holding exactly .5 degrees up and down from 99.5!

    That aught to do it!

    Lock-down: Sunday October 12th
    Hatch date: Wednesday/Thursday October 15th/16th

    (I still take a look when I pass the incubator. It's up on a small folding table in our living room near the entrance to the hallway, so every time I go to the bathroom, bedroom or our storage room, it becomes a chance to check in... Doing it less frequently ("sometimes" I don't look...LOL!), but still checking in from time to time... Maybe only 5 or 6 times a day! LOL! (I work at home.)

    Thanks!

    Richard
     
  5. bush

    bush Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hi, I like your water injection system, what are the materials you used and where did you get them. I have the same incubator and would like to set mine up like that. Thank you in advance for your reply and good luck with the chicks. Bush
     
  6. RichardandTresa

    RichardandTresa Out Of The Brooder

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    The tubing and black fitting were purchased at Lowes:

    1/4" clear vinyl tubing
    Black fittings: 90 degree drip irrigation fittings for garden. Straight fitting was the same.

    Syringe were bought at Co-op Grange or farm supply store. Larger fitting type syringe. I stuck the straight black fitting into the tip of the syringe so that the clear vinyl tubing would fit. It did not fit the stock syringe.

    You can use either a drill or hot coat hanger wire to create the holes in the styrofoam sides (be careful not to make them too big. go slow and try to fit the tubing in, then silicone them in place.

    Hope this helps.

    Richard
     
  7. Bean789

    Bean789 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I just read your thread and was so glad to hear that my Little Giant was probably the main culprit in my incubator heat fluctuation. On day 10 candling, all eggs had a distinctive blood ring and foul odors were now coming from my bator. The temp had spiked to 102.3 (approx.) sometime during the prior 16 hours. Before that, I had possibly 17 viable eggs out of 20 on day 7. Yes, it was my fault that I did not check the temp every few hours but by that time, the bator mostly held to a temp between 99 and 100.2. They probably 'cooked' in the 15 hours that I didn't check for temp regulation (practically pulled a double at work that day). I will try the marbles and tubing set up and let the incubator run for at least a week with recorded temp/humidity changes as often as possible and get my daughter to monitor it while I am at work. Did you use larger marbles? Set in metal can of some type (thinking cat food can) or just set on top of the plastic insert?

    How did your hatch go with the changes you made?
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2014
  8. RichardandTresa

    RichardandTresa Out Of The Brooder

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    Hie Bean!

    Originally I placed the marbles in the quail egg holders along the perimeter all the way around leaving the center for the eggs... My hatch rate went up and I learned a trick to place the eggs point down in fixed egg trays during lock down, so I pulled the center two trays and made bases for them so they wouldn't tip. I now only hatch forty at a time in two turning trays.

    I place the marbles on the floor spaced around the edges making sure the turning motor and linkage don't get tangled... I also added blocks of aluminum spaced wherever I can to fill the empty spaces... I figured more mass would hold the temps more steady... You should see that little indicator light flash on and off... Temps stay the same while the heater tries to stay on the temp set by the extra mass (Note, I use two digital thermometers with probes taped in place inside... One low, one high.)

    The theory to this is that once the mass (marbles and metal are heated, it's hard to heat them higher or loose the heat which ends up keeping the interior of the bator pretty steady...)

    Another note: It will take much longer to bring the temp up to where you want it and a long time to set the thermostat to get to the temp you want because of the same mass heat storage principle... I would give it at LEAST a few days to adjust your thermostat to get the temp you want... Once there, it should hold pretty steady!

    Now I just have to get my thermometers calibrated... I think they may be as much as a degree lower than what is in the bator... I've getting consistently early hatches...

    Good luck!

    (My next addition is a much better digital thermostat holding .1 degrees... I've seen them on ebay for about $25 to $50... I've been told by members here that they are the only way to go!
     
  9. Bean789

    Bean789 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks so much for the additional info. I only had 12 regular eggs and 8 silkie eggs in the bator suited for 41 (?). A lot of room to fill and leave air flow/drafts probably causing the fluctuations in temps with the heater and how it worked to maintain temp. Large marbles or rocks should do the trick without overloading the turner as long as the weight is same as an egg. I will definitely try this method and get a digital thermometer for sure.
     

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