My Wine Fridge Incubator Project

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by CristinaB, Jan 6, 2014.

  1. CristinaB

    CristinaB Chirping

    Oct 15, 2013
    Knoxville Maryland
    After much deliberation I decided to take the leap and hatch out my own chicks. I saw some great ideas on how to make an incubator using wine refrigerators so I decided that it was going to be my project. My goal was to make something simple and as inexpensive as possible while still keeping the incubator as hands-free as possible.

    So I started with a search for a Wine Fridge. I advertised on a local Freecycle board:

    Wanted: Wine Fridge, with glass door, need not be working. Will pick up at your convenience.

    This yielded a person who had one in a bard that the door had been removed from. Lucky for me it was a larger sized model with a great glass front. Too bad the temperature sensors did not work, but it made a great candidate for my project.

    Acquiring a good candidate for the project, the carcass

    Door had already been removed, this is what it looked like when I got it, before I gutted it.





    First step was to gut the thing completely, the racks had already been removed for scrap and all that was in the fridge was a plastic shelf that would not make a very good shelf. For this project I would need to make shelves, more on that later.

    The back with the cover to the electrical wires removed, you can cut these wires and remove them. You should not remove the freon or mess with the compressor. Leave it in place intact, it is not disruptive to the project in any way.
    Empty carcass

    I removed everything including the fan panel in the back which conveniently had a nice fan!
    This fan was scavenged for later use, just unscrew the fan and disconnect or cut the wires.

    The fans and how I powered them
    I wanted the unit to have four fans, one for the heat, one for the humidifier, two at the top blowing across each shelf

    I found a transformer that was used to power some unknown electronic device in the garage. If you are like most others, you probably have a ton of these things in the garage. Each one is rated for a different voltage which is written on the plug. For fans you will need at least 9V but use a 12V if you can find one. This one is rated for 12V and is versatile enough to be plugged into a 100-120V 50/60Hz outlet.

    I cut the plug off the end of the wire, we will not be needing that. One of the wires should have colored bars and one should be without barring. The barred wire is your "positive" wire which will be connected to the red wires of your fan. The unmarked plain wire is your "neutral" or Ground wire. No need for any soldering, you just get a small cap from your local hardware store, strip the wires and cap them together. Test prior to installing into the fridge to make sure you have the wires correct.

    Testing phase of the fans, plug in the transformer and see if they pop on. In this picture you can see they worked great!
    These transformers can be used for any application that requires DC power, like the fans or LED lights that run on DC power. They are not used to power your heat source or regular lights. More on that later. Each fan has an identifying mark telling you that it runs on DC (look at the center fan, it says DC brushless fan). Old computer fans make great incubator fans!

    Drilling access holes and air holes

    You are going to need holes to wire up your incubator. These refrigerators are not as solid as they look. You just drill right through the flimsy metal and insulation using a spade bit or other hole boring tool.


    This can be very messy, plan accordingly.

    Putting it all together


    To ease installation I used a power strip installed at the top of the fridge to power everything I was going to use. This also gave me the ability to turn the entire unit off at the click of one button and to only need one outlet.

    Shelves were built and covered with wire

    Sizing shelves for the commercial egg turner


    In place and covered with wire. This unit can handle two egg turning trays.

    Fans and lights were next


    My original plan called for a humidifier system that utilized misters, this did not pan out and I had to come up with a new way of creating humidity. I installed another fan and put a submersible pump for a fish tank into a tall rubbermaid container.The pump turns on and moves the water violently and this creates humidity that is blown in to the unit as needed. There is an access tube to the container to fill it without needing to open the front door.


    An external funnel allows me to add water to the humidifier as needed without disrupting the unit

    You can also use a fish tank air pump and a bubbler to make humidity, just make sure you use the longest largest bubbler that will make the humidity you need the fastest. This may take some experimentation. You could also use a purchased lizard humidifier, a room humidifier or other types of humidification units. Anything that makes little droplets will work. I find that freecycle and craigslist are great sources for free things, try those first. Garage sales and yard sales are also great sources for fish tank parts and old humidifiers. Depending on the size of your unit is how much you will be limited.

    Heating was achieved using a single bulb pancake light holder, the one I used was ceramic. I used a piece of scavenged wire from an old lap top cable. Cut the end off, stripped the wires and used the plug. If you are not familiar with how to wire a pancake light to a plug you can ask the folks at any home improvement store or do some internet searching for the answers. This is a very easy thing to do once you know the basic rules. The ones I go by are:

    black to brass colored screw (HOT)
    white to silver (NEUTRAL)
    green to green (GROUND)

    The socket should have a brass terminal for the hot wire and a silver terminal for the neutral. The hot wire will be the black wire in your cord bundle, the green wire is your ground and the white wire is your neutral. Strip the wires and make sure you tighten the screws snugly to prevent any fires from occurring, only strip as much wire as you need to make contact. The light is Alternating current (AC) which gets plugged in to your power strip or your temp controller. For the sake of safety put your pancake light on an electrical box! You can see the silver colored box behind the white porcelain.


    Now the automated part... I purchased a humidity/Temperature controller designed for use on lizards and snakes. This little controller is programmable to the temperatures we use in incubators. Keep in mind these controllers cost about 50 bucks and are the most expensive component of my project, but for the sake for not having to check, recheck and fiddle with the unit all day, it was worth every penny.

    Found in pet stores everywhere! There are other brands available too, so get one that does what you need at the best possible price


    Sensor for both humidity and temperature in place

    User interface, very easy to program

    You plug your heat source into one socket and the humidifier into the other, simple as that! When they are needed the unit turns them on and off.

    Initial testing was very good, I found that the previous owner tried to remove the door by taking the glass off and had stripped the caulking off the door. This caused some condensation on the door that prevented me from viewing the eggs. This was resolved using some clear caulk.

    Once the temperature and humidity stabilized the unit was hands free. I checked the unit daily to ensure there was plenty of water in the humidifier.

    Hatch rate was 75% but the drop was caused by my moving the eggs to a smaller viewing incubator for lockdown. I wanted to be able to see the chicks hatch out. In the future I intend to put a clear plastic box on the shelf and remove the egg turner so that the chicks can hatch out in the same incubator. The condensation created a viewing issue. Otherwise I found the fridge a very good incubator and it performed perfectly. So easy with the egg turner doing the turning and the sensor unit minding the temperatures and humidity for me.

    Other considerations: This unit is used all the time for various other things. I use it in the late winter to start plants (seeds sprout faster when at a temperature of about 68 degrees) so when I am not hatching eggs, I am starting my seedlings in the fridge.


    We also found that during the hard cold of winter we can pop our boots into the fridge, removing the humidifier and dry our shoes and boots. So nice to pull out a pair of dry warm shoes before heading out into the cold. It is advisable that you clean your fridge prior to hatching out again, but this is simple considering the entire unit is plastic and easy to clean!

    Let me know if you have any questions, hope this helps someone else take on this fun project. Good luck and ask questions if you have any, I am always happy to help!

  2. flowerchild59

    flowerchild59 Songster

    Apr 25, 2010
    Southern IL
    Very impressive. I loved all of your pics. Keep us updated on hatches.

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