How to hatch eggs without an electric incubator

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by Kwren, May 26, 2015.

  1. Kwren

    Kwren Just Hatched

    May 26, 2015
    Currently I have a self sustaining flock of about 50 chickens, of mixed varieties. It has worked well, as I have large meat-type birds, smaller egg layers and little bantams, which act like the incubators for the flock.

    I would like to be able to ship fertile eggs to people on Native American reservations, so they can start their own flocks. The problem is, many people on reservations do not have electric. Currently, most incubators (if they could afford to buy one, which I doubt) run on electricity. At some point in our past, people must have been able to incubate eggs without electric. How did they do it?

    I have had success devising my own electric incubator, using a small pan of water placed over a little cage (intended to feed wild birds suet), with a heat light over it all, in a metal roasting pan. I had about 60-70% hatching rate.

    Does anyone have any ideas how a non-electric incubator could be constructed? I have plenty of fertile eggs I am willing to send to them, so even if the hatch rates were 40 to 50 % it would be enough so they could get their own flocks started.

    The idea is that people on the reservations are desperately poor, so buying birds would be cost prohibitive. I am reluctant to ship chicks, as it seems eggs might survive the journey better, but maybe that is a better option. Still, when they arrive, they will need a heat-source and it will need to be non-electric.

    Any ideas or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
  2. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

    Apr 17, 2015
    Long Beach, WA
    The way people incubated eggs before electricity was by using a broody hen. In order to incubate an egg successfully, it needs to be kept at a very warm temperature consistently. I guess keeping eggs near a wood stove would work as long as the temperature is carefully monitored, but the fire would have to be kept going constantly for several weeks. That's not exactly an efficient method.
  3. AmyLynn2374

    AmyLynn2374 Humidity Queen

    Oct 11, 2014
    Gouverneur, NY
    Before electricity the vintage incubators ran off a boiler type system system by burning oil to heat the water that heated the bator. This question came up a while back on here and this is the info I found for the other person. I found it rather interesting myself.

    No matter how you incubate consistant heat is needed and that source of heat usually comes with a cost.
  4. Kwren

    Kwren Just Hatched

    May 26, 2015
    I have heard of kerosene incubators, from my Amish neighbors. I wonder if something could be devised using solar and batteries, or using hot rocks. I have to think about this more. To be able to develop a low cost, low tech means of incubation would have major advantages. Still open to any and all suggestions..
  5. Kwren

    Kwren Just Hatched

    May 26, 2015
    Thanks for all the replies. I will keep investigating this, as I find the subject fascinating and timely, with power outages becoming more common and the need for sustainable flocks ever more pressing.. I'll post anything I discover. Again, thanks for all the replies.
  6. gpop1

    gpop1 Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 2, 2015
    a 12vdc incubator using 4.5 amp/hours of power is possible. In a warm environment im sure it would average about 2amp/hours (24watts) which makes a marine battery a option. A modern incubator could be built to run of solar power or sola heat but the cost of the incubator out weighs the cost of the chicks.

    No electrical power at all requires looking at old school bi-metal vents that open at a set temp and a very small oil wick heater that has a adjustable wick length and preferably a air to air heat exchanger. 40 years ago picking up these parts would have been easy from a hardware store. today im not sure if anyone still makes these parts.
  7. Kwren

    Kwren Just Hatched

    May 26, 2015
    Again, Thanks for the reply. I found a kerosene incubator building instructions online, which uses sand as a method of retaining heat. Apparently these are built and used in India with great success. The one I was looking at hatches several hundred eggs at a time. Really fascinating! I heard a rumor that in ancient China, very heavy people would incubate eggs in the folds of fat on their bodies. I wonder if this is just a myth, or if it actually works? Anyway, alternative methods of hatching eggs that do not involve electric really interest me, so if anyone hears of anything, please continue to send me info. Thanks!
  8. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

    Feb 25, 2014
    Northwestern Wyoming
    My Coop
    Last edited: May 28, 2015
  9. Drewnkat

    Drewnkat Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 27, 2008
    It seems like for the initial startup, it might be more effective to ship hatched chicks, which could then be raised and used to brood more chickens for the flock.

    The cost of shipping day-old chicks has GOT to be less trouble than rigging up an incubator that doesn't use electricity, and which will no longer be useful at all once the flock is established and hatching out their own babies!
  10. Kwren

    Kwren Just Hatched

    May 26, 2015
    I'm not sure about the logistics of sending my chicks. It seems it would be difficult to know exactly when the chicks will hatch, as I use hens to incubate my chicks. I'm not sure what will work, but I'm collecting info, and when there are people from the Reservations that have interest, I will hopefully be ready with info, chicks, and eggs. Then, depending how the folks on the Res feel, we can take it from there, Because my money is limited, and so is theirs, just ordering stuff will be difficult. But I have an abundance of eggs and chickens, access to the internet, commitment and interest, so when I do find a match, hopefully I can share these. Chickens are a wonderful resource and it seems that folks who have very little could benefit very much. At least, I have found this to be true for myself.

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