Home made cabinet incubator

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by WalnutHill, Mar 3, 2015.

  1. WalnutHill

    WalnutHill Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

    6,999
    2,209
    336
    Mar 16, 2014
    SE Michigan
    Well...

    I outgrew my two Little Giant incubators that served me well last year hatching turkeys and chickens, but I could only set 80 chicken or 40 turkey eggs between the two. I bought (and rehomed) a beautiful vintage redwood incubator, but it was a 325 watt, 420 egg incubator, and quite a bit too big to keep in the house. Brinsea models are too small, and GQF Sportsman are too expensive.

    So I did the next best thing...I built one. I didn't see any plans I liked.

    My design criteria were:
    Good airflow / no dead air pockets
    Auto turners
    Incubate and hatch a total of around 200 chicken/100 turkey at once, either staggered or single set
    Digital temperature and humidity controls
    Reasonably low energy consumption
    Good ventilation to avoid the condensation prevalent in the LGs at hatch
    Small footprint
    Quiet
    And easy on my budget.

    The incubator I built was inspired by the classic redwood Farm Master and the GQF sportsman. I have not yet set any eggs, but it's been running 48 hours with less than 1/2 degree temperature variation in temperature. Top to bottom, front to back, all areas of all trays are the same temperature.

    This year it will run as an unfinished model, encased only in the Polyshield foil faced sheathing and rigid pink Foamular sides. The door is simply a slab of foam held on with L brackets. The internals are finished, and the chassis was constructed mostly of 1 x 3 pine as that is what I had handy. I built it from the inside out, and it ended up 24" x 24" x 42".

    There are three shallow trays and two 5 1/2" deep boxes, all on recycled drawer slides. The three shallow trays are dedicated incubation trays, and the two deeper ones are intended for hatching.

    I used four LG egg turners to provide the auto turning capacity. This was the biggest expense of the entire project.

    I used an STC-1000 temp controller and a digital humidity controller to power switched receptacles in the back of the cabinet. The turners are unswitched, they run all the time when plugged in. There is one "heat" switched receptacle, one "cool" switched receptacle, and two "humidity" controlled receptacles. One of the humidity controlled receptacles powers a tiny aquarium air pump and pumps air through a stone in the water tray.

    Heat is provided by a ceramic reptile heating element, 150 watt, in a ceramic socket. I drilled a hole in rectangular duct to fit the socket, which has a threaded insert to lock it to the duct. I insulated the duct with foil faced bubble wrap because I had it, but I later realized that this step was not necessary as all heat is contained in the box anyhow. I fitted a 6" computer fan to a cutout in the duct, slightly higher than the heating element, so the air is picked up at the top of the cabinet, pushed down through the duct past the heating element, and out the bottom via a 90 degree adapter. The warm air passes over a water pan (a pair of old pie tins), and convection lifts the warm air back to the top of the cabinet, where the cycle begins again.

    Once I've done the necessary fine tuning, I will design a wooden cabinet for the incubator (again from scrap materials on hand).

    In the photos below, the lowest drawer is removed for ease of water pan filling. I fitted a scrap of foam across the bottom of the front as a deflector to assist in the air circulation.

    [​IMG][​IMG]



    Now to fill it up and test it!
     
  2. KentuckyMom

    KentuckyMom Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,037
    67
    166
    Jul 15, 2013
    Foster, Kentucky
    Interesting! Updates on how well it works please.
     
  3. WalnutHill

    WalnutHill Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

    6,999
    2,209
    336
    Mar 16, 2014
    SE Michigan
    My incubator has been up for five days now with a digital thermometer that records high and low temp. Total temp range over five days is 2 degrees Fahrenheit, and that includes my frequent open the door to check five thermometers routine (one meat smoker thermometer, one indoor temp/humidity sensor, one meat thermometer, one medical thermometer stuck into a silicone "egg", and one incubator thermometer.

    Egg turners are performing flawlessly, and heating system is rock solid. I replaced the pie tins with a cooler dry foods tray as it holds more water, so I have steady but not so high humidity as with the broad, shallow pans.

    I am going to do a fertility check on our own eggs. I've never attempted to hatch any, I have a Light Brahma/Ameracauna cross and a Salmon Faverolle/Ameracauna cross rooster, and 110 red sex link hens and two hens of the same crosses as the roos. Odds of finding fertile eggs are not too good. But I think I will set a couple dozen to see what happens.
     
  4. KentuckyMom

    KentuckyMom Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,037
    67
    166
    Jul 15, 2013
    Foster, Kentucky
    I have never set eggs either, but hope to. It is one of those some day things. My husband and son are the ones who would be building the incubator. Building one versus buying one just intrigues me. My husband has always found a way to make "something" out of nothing over the years in many different projects. I will be watching to see how things progress for you.
     
  5. WalnutHill

    WalnutHill Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

    6,999
    2,209
    336
    Mar 16, 2014
    SE Michigan
    I've hatched hundreds of eggs, but our birds are production layers and we've never had roosters. These roos hatched from green eggs I sourced locally, and they were too pretty to eat. But I don't think these two roos can cover all those hens, no matter how ambitious they are!
     
  6. KentuckyMom

    KentuckyMom Chillin' With My Peeps

    1,037
    67
    166
    Jul 15, 2013
    Foster, Kentucky
    I have only six hens at the moment. I bought them at Tractor Supply on March 2013 as chicks. ( 3 Golden Comets, 2 leghorns, 1 white rock) I have a neighbor who keeps telling me that he'll give me eggs to hatch if I ever want any. Incubator and bigger coop/run first...
    Yes, I agree, even ambitious roosters can only do so much!
     
  7. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    20,913
    10,346
    636
    Nov 7, 2012
    CENTRAL MAINE
    Thanks so much for sharing your incubator design, WalnutHill. Do I have your permission to save your post and design to a file for my further reference? I have a dorm fridge that I intend to convert into an incubator, and your design seems to be the most practical one I've yet seen.

    Hey, Kentucky Mom, how are you doing? I hope all is going well for you. Don't forget the free options for your bator build. The scavenging is part of the thrill! (old lamp bases, free styrofoam boxes from pet store or pharmacy. Free computer fans from junked computers, 12V converters from the junk drawer.) My dorm fridge is yet an other freebie, scavenged from the town dump.
     
  8. WalnutHill

    WalnutHill Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

    6,999
    2,209
    336
    Mar 16, 2014
    SE Michigan
    Of course you may copy the design! I borrowed ideas from my LG digital controller mods from last year, and from other designs posted here and elsewhere. I just did a mashup to use as many parts on hand as I could, and cheap stuff for the rest. I had to go with automatic turners as I travel a lot for work, and can't rely on the "free help", so it has to be capable of up to a week of unattended operation.

    Mine is a bit bigger than a dorm fridge, but smaller than an apartment fridge. The 200 egg capacity is a bit intimidating right now. I just sourced 2 1/2 dozen mixed breed standard and bantam hatching eggs locally to set with a dozen of my own unproven eggs, and once they are all at the same temperature I'll set them. I've already labeled them, so they are almost good to go!

    I built the hatcher drawers 5 1/2" deep, and left room to put covers on top as I hatch turkeys, and anything shallower is to shallow for them and they can hop like crazy. The classic foam incubator is not great for turkeys because they can burn their heads on the element when they stand up. This one is free of hazards.
     
  9. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

    20,913
    10,346
    636
    Nov 7, 2012
    CENTRAL MAINE
    I like the idea of the drawer glides. I hadn't thought of using them. I can't afford the turners, so will be getting creative there, doing a mock up of some one else's design: Basically, the eggs sit in a bottomless top frame, with dowel dividers to keep them lined up in rows. This top frame sits on a bottom frame, so you pull the top frame to the right to turn them one way, and then you pull it back to the left to turn them the other way. I'll make some of the dowels closer together to accommodate smaller eggs. I have several sets of drawer glides. Wondering if they can be used in the turner design.
     
  10. WalnutHill

    WalnutHill Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

    6,999
    2,209
    336
    Mar 16, 2014
    SE Michigan
    Day 3 of incubation, temperatures are rock solid in this homemade cabinet. I have a medical thermometer in a silicone "egg" I cast in two halves using a refrigerator egg tray for a mold and I have the readings consistently at 100.2.

    I candled last night and can see a definite red glow to the yolk already in many of the eggs, especially in the green eggs. the bantam eggs I can't really tell, nor some of the darker brown shells. I also don't have to bend down to reach the eggs!

    I added a new bronze hen to my turkey flock, that makes three hens and two toms, so I hope for fertile turkey eggs here soon!
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by