DIY Incubator Advice

Chrifister

Chirping
Apr 5, 2020
44
70
94
Hey everyone,

We were on the lookout for a cabinet incubator this year (because you can't have enough incubators!) and couldn't find a professional one for a reasonable price so we decided to make one. Got the wine cooler second hand for cheap, most other parts came from Amazon.

-Danby DWC310BL Wine Cooler
-GQF 1610 41-egg turners
-Canaduino STC-3028 temperature and humidity controller
-150w PTC Heaters with fans
-80mm PC Case Fans
-40 amp relay
-600w PC PSU

I used 12v for everything. I have 2 PTC heaters mounted on the right on the bottom blowing left, with 2 fans mounted on the left blowing up. There are 2 more fans on the top right blowing down, hopefully creating circulation. The PSU and relay are mounted where the compressor used to be. For ventilation, I have 3 large holes drilled in the back for wires and 7 more 1/4" holes on the sides. Temperatures seem okay and I've used multiple thermometers to test, even a plastic dish filled with water with a cover tested with a meat thermometer showed near 99.5f.

Humidity is a different question. The hygrometers I have from Amazon are now completely unreliable. The controller is new and the sensor on that is reporting 19-20% humidity with no water added to the wine cooler. One tray of water increases it to 35%. Two trays increased it to 45%. After drilling 2 more large ventilation holes, it says the humidity is now 35% with 2 water trays.

We have 2 more incubators and are using the 36-egg one as a hatcher. We put a batch of 13 turkey eggs in it to start this year off. Only 5 made it to lockdown and 4 hatched.

The wine cooler has multiple batches in it:

1. The first batch was 14 of 18 runner duck eggs. Only 3 hatched. None of the others pipped. Since 1 hatched 48 hours early and the other 2 hatched 24 hours early, I suspect the temperatures in the wine cooler are a bit too high. So I reduced the on/off temperature by 0.1c.

2. The second batch was 14 of 18 turkey eggs. These candled well 10 days ago. We couldn't see movement when they went to lockdown. Only 1 turkey pipped 24 hours early. It hasn't been properly unzipping so we've been helping it. Today it's pretty well out but is not a healthy poult and we'll likely have to cull it. It looks like it hasn't absorbed all it's yolk, which looks kind of busted and loose on the poult. No other eggs pipped. Opened 7 of them last night to have a look and they all look developed with large-ish air cells. Will float test the rest of them tonight but I don't have high hopes for them. So I suspect this hatch will be a complete failure. To rule out ventilation, I drilled a 1.5" hole in the bottom right side towards the front for air and another in the top left side towards the back. Using a piece of tissue, I can see air is being sucked in through the bottom hole and blowing out through the top. The temperature swings have changed slightly but the humidity has dropped to 35% with 2 trays of water in there.

3. The next batch to hatch this weekend is 5 of 14 turkey eggs. First candling at 10 days revealed 9 duds. The other 5 have been candling well, showing movement. With so many duds, I question the source/quality of the eggs now.

4. The batch after is some expensive turkey eggs. Since they are only at day 17 and I have concerns about this wine cooler now, I'm gonna move them to the hatcher to incubate for the rest of their term. I know that incubator has hatched eggs before so I feel safer with them in there. I will have to put a basket in the wine cooler to hatch the 5 eggs from above...assuming they hatch.

5. There are more batches in the wine cooler and another 24 turkey eggs to set so I need to figure out what's happening to these eggs.

Now I have worries about this wine cooler incubator. Even though temperature and humidity seem to be within acceptable ranges, and all eggs show proper development and movement, that's 2 near complete failures of hatches. Today I'm picking up some more thermometers and hygrometers to put in the wine cooler, and I'll attempt to calibrate them tonight. So many questions now and I need to start ruling things out:

1. Is it possible I didn't have enough ventilation? From a ton of research online it seems you can't have TOO much ventilation for the eggs but how you tell it's too much for the equipment is when you start having trouble controlling temperature and/or humidity. This is why I drilled the 2 additional 1.5" holes, just to rule that out. Is it possible there was just enough ventilation for the eggs to develop but not enough for the mostly developed embryos? I do know that embryos require more and more oxygen as they develop.

2. Is it possible I have too much air circulation with so many fans? The 2 PTC heaters have attached 60mm fans and I have them wired to run constantly. I also have 4 x 80mm fans to help circulate air through the egg turners, with the side effect of some eggs likely being blasted by the fans. I figure if I move the eggs around when I candle them that it would reduce the effects of the fans as well as effects from hot/cold spots. The overall circulation each egg experiences might be high though, I suppose that could cause extra moisture loss from the eggs maybe?

3. Are my temperature swings too long or too high/low? I found numerous posts on this board about temperature swings and the consensus seems to be as long as the swings aren't 15 minutes or so in each direction then it should be fine. The air heats/cools faster than the heavy and solid egg. So I sat down with a pen and paper and the stopwatch on my phone and recorded temperatures and times for a full cycle. Before I drilled the 2 large holes and added a second water tray, the full cycle took just over 11 minutes with an average temperature of 99.4f with a minimum of 98.6f and maximum of 100.2f. After drilling the holes the current cycle takes 9:44 with an average temperature of 99.25f with minimum of 98.6f and maximum of 99.9f. Why an average of just under 99.5f? Well because I've read it's better to be slightly lower than higher and because the ducks hatched 2 days early, I figure the actual temperature of the eggs is probably too high. It's possible the controller's sensor is not accurate, or not in an ideal location, or some other issue with it. I'm just guessing that early hatches means too high of a temperature. The sensor is attached to the rack below the top egg turner.

4. Is it my hatcher? It is difficult if not impossible to see movement when moving them to the hatcher for lockdown so I can't confirm if they are dead or alive at that point. The hatcher I set at 37.1c and fill one channel with water which raises the humidity to 85%. That seems to produce the best hatches in that machine.

5. I've read through multiple guides for chicks dying without pipping and can't really rule a lot of it out, or can't think of a way. It could be bacterial infection of the eggs and the dead duck eggs did stink but the dead turkey eggs did not. It could be poor nutrition of the parents, or improper handling/storing of the eggs before I get them (but the duck eggs came from a different source).

Anybody have suggestions regarding the wine cooler incubator or something that can help me rule out whatever is causing these eggs to fail?
 

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I bought a bunch of thermometers and hygrometers and threw away those cheap Amazon ones. They were useful the first season i bought them but were wildly inaccurate afterwards. According to the new ones, my temperatures are normal on the second row and slightly lower on the top row. My humidity seems higher on the top row which is curious. Definitely seeing decent circulation now with those 2 extra holes.

Spoke to a few others and consensus seems to be that the duck eggs likely had a big part to play in the failures of the turkey eggs. Something about robbing moisture from the air. The duck eggs likely failed because the temperatures were too high and humidity too low. So no more duck/goose eggs mixed with chicken/turkey eggs.

The remaining batch of 5 turkey eggs is now down to 2, and 1 is questionable. They are in lockdown in a dish at the bottom of the wine cooler. The expensive turkey eggs I moved to the other incubator so I don't have a hatcher at the moment. I added a third tray of water to raise the humidity for those 2 eggs but the humidity only rose to 42%. That seems like a lot of water for such a small increase in humidity? I assume because of the ventilation?

I also put 17 chicken eggs in there and they are candling well, only 1 dud. I'm gonna candle everything again tomorrow night.

Still open to any suggestions or advice. We have a lot of eggs meant to go in there over the next few months. I have a funny feeling that exposed insulation is doing something, maybe absorbing moisture. I feel like I should cover it with duct tape or something.
 
Ventilation is extremely important for a healthy hatch so if you're confident in your temps it's highly likely that's what your issue is.
I've done mixed hatches without issues too.
The humidity being too high or too low will cause hatch issues and losses at hatch but less so in early incubation.
Did you do eggtopsies on quitters by any chance?
 
Also, when you say the yolk wasn't absorbed, was the navel partially closed around it or not? It may have just not been ready but if the navel was closing prematurely that can be a sign of temps being too high. Late hatches can be a sign of temps being low.
That's the kind of thing you can look for to help narrow down what might be causing your issues.
 
We just opened the top of the egg to see if the poult was developed or not and pretty well every failed egg looked very far along. We didn't do many of the ducks because the couple we opened had a bad smell.

The yolk on that one was busted and it was covered in yolk but I didn't notice the navel. The poult had neurological issues and couldn't move or open its eyes. Every other egg had what looked like a fully formed poult in it.
 
We just opened the top of the egg to see if the poult was developed or not and pretty well every failed egg looked very far along. We didn't do many of the ducks because the couple we opened had a bad smell.

The yolk on that one was busted and it was covered in yolk but I didn't notice the navel. The poult had neurological issues and couldn't move or open its eyes. Every other egg had what looked like a fully formed poult in it.

I'm back to my original thought of needing more ventilation. I've never seem the symptoms myself so I don't know what would occur specifically but as the embryos grow they need more oxygen and it doesn't sound like you're having issues related to temperature or humidity.
 
We just opened the top of the egg to see if the poult was developed or not and pretty well every failed egg looked very far along. We didn't do many of the ducks because the couple we opened had a bad smell.

The yolk on that one was busted and it was covered in yolk but I didn't notice the navel. The poult had neurological issues and couldn't move or open its eyes. Every other egg had what looked like a fully formed poult in it.

Just to be sure, you are turning the eggs correct?
 
Yes the egg turners are plugged in and are working the last time I checked. I'll check again in the morning though. I'm usually constantly checking them but have been busy the last few days.

Tonight we candled 12 chicken eggs that we have in our smallest incubator that hatch on May 5th. Out of 6 Marans and 6 Ameraucana eggs, only 1 Maran is a dud. Can't see movement in the other Maran eggs because the shell is too dark but they look filled up. This is a dry incubation but ambient humidity in the house has been in the 45-55% range lately and this small incubator stays just below ambient. I feel the air sacs are a little small but we'll see.

We also candled the batch of 12 Turkey eggs we moved to the other incubator/hatcher. 10 are lively and 2 are looking good with veins showing but couldn't see movement in the short time we checked. These have been at 42% humidity since we moved them, this incubator stays just below ambient humidity in the room so I didn't add any water. They are set to hatch on May 4th. I feel the air sacs are too big. I've attached pictures of 2 eggs. A couple other eggs had bigger air sacs. What do you guys think? Really thinking of picking up a scale to start weighing the eggs....

We couldn't candle anything in the wine cooler incubator because there are those 2 Turkey eggs in there that are supposed to hatch today and I don't want to open the door any longer than it takes to fill the water pans. With all 3 water pans filled we're still only seeing 42-44% humidity. I'm now thinking there is too much ventilation and it's stopping the humidity from rising. I haven't seen any hatching signs from those 2 eggs but I'm going to wait till tomorrow to have a closer look. Normally that humidity level is likely fine for incubation but I wanted to raise it to 60-80% for a few days for those 2 eggs. Ah well, I didn't plan on hatching in this wine cooler anyway.
 

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Yes the egg turners are plugged in and are working the last time I checked. I'll check again in the morning though. I'm usually constantly checking them but have been busy the last few days.

Tonight we candled 12 chicken eggs that we have in our smallest incubator that hatch on May 5th. Out of 6 Marans and 6 Ameraucana eggs, only 1 Maran is a dud. Can't see movement in the other Maran eggs because the shell is too dark but they look filled up. This is a dry incubation but ambient humidity in the house has been in the 45-55% range lately and this small incubator stays just below ambient. I feel the air sacs are a little small but we'll see.

We also candled the batch of 12 Turkey eggs we moved to the other incubator/hatcher. 10 are lively and 2 are looking good with veins showing but couldn't see movement in the short time we checked. These have been at 42% humidity since we moved them, this incubator stays just below ambient humidity in the room so I didn't add any water. They are set to hatch on May 4th. I feel the air sacs are too big. I've attached pictures of 2 eggs. A couple other eggs had bigger air sacs. What do you guys think? Really thinking of picking up a scale to start weighing the eggs....

We couldn't candle anything in the wine cooler incubator because there are those 2 Turkey eggs in there that are supposed to hatch today and I don't want to open the door any longer than it takes to fill the water pans. With all 3 water pans filled we're still only seeing 42-44% humidity. I'm now thinking there is too much ventilation and it's stopping the humidity from rising. I haven't seen any hatching signs from those 2 eggs but I'm going to wait till tomorrow to have a closer look. Normally that humidity level is likely fine for incubation but I wanted to raise it to 60-80% for a few days for those 2 eggs. Ah well, I didn't plan on hatching in this wine cooler anyway.

The air cell looks good to me for being 5 days from hatch. I actually think this graphic is a little on the big side but yours would certainly be on track. :)

Air cell candling (2).gif


The ambient humidity in my house is almost always around 45% and if I don't add water to my incubators they can drop as low as 25% because the heating element dries it out inside the incubator. Styrofoam incubators would be the exception because they do seem to hold humidity entirely differently.

Outside of that, I have experience with many different incubator brands and my experience was different with each one but I've never used a converted wine cooler. My friend and I discussed using hers to make an incubator but I decided not to because I don't trust myself with wiring unless I have color coded directions, lol.

I'm sorry I can't be of much more help. I hope all goes well with your next hatch! :fl
 

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