Turning a bread proofer into an incubator--an adventure in incubation!

PrairieChickens

Songster
7 Years
Jun 29, 2012
1,682
358
221
Kansas
Earlier in the summer, I was attending an auction with my parents when I spotted something very interesting: an old proofer, probably from a convenience store. I had recently tried and failed to build a cabinet incubator using materials I already had at home, and this proofer looked like a promising alternative to my original plans. Assuming it was in working condition, it was pretty much perfect. It already had a built in heating unit and thermostat, so it wouldn't cook my eggs like my home-made model did. It already had circulated air that would evenly distribute heat throughout the unit... It even had a pan for water with a valve to control how much humidity was produced. The only thing it didn't (and couldn't) have were egg turners, but I already had an idea of how to make that task easier. I plan on eventually building frames that I can push or pull to turn the eggs on the trays, without having to turn each egg individually.


I got the proofer for $40, and my parents and I loaded it up and took it home where it sat in the garage for a few months. Finally, when I had the space, I wheeled it inside and plugged it in to find out if it would even work as an incubator. I was apprehensive--if it couldn't heat up enough or maintain a consistent enough temperature, then there was no point going any further with the project, but after a few days of the temperature holding steadily just under 100º (according to my dinky kitchen thermometer) I decided it was worthwhile to invest in a digital thermometer and hygrometer. As luck would have it, I was able to snag one on clearance for $9, and it even has a remote sensor so that I can monitor the temperature at a glance from my desk where I work.

I gave it another day to make sure I could maintain heat and humidity levels to my satisfaction, and then I gathered together enough eggs to test each shelf of the unit.

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To make monitoring the developing eggs easier, I was sure to include at least one white or light-shelled egg on each shelf.

First problem: the eggs like to roll around on the metal trays. I put down cloth to make that less of an issue, but I am going to need to switch to something better soon. I will likely use cheap wash rags as cushions until I've built the egg turning frames I'm imagining.
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The eggs are in. Incubation begins!
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(an egg that has not yet been incubated.)

Incubation begins at 12:00 PM August 2, 2016
 
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PrairieChickens

Songster
7 Years
Jun 29, 2012
1,682
358
221
Kansas
24 hours into incubation
The eggs have been incubating now for about a day. Although I haven't candled all of the eggs, the ones I have taken a look at are already showing the first tiny signs of development. The yolks are darkening up, and a tiny dot is visible where the cells are beginning to amass. I have had to monitor the temperature carefully--the room the unit is in is not air conditioned, and it gets quite warm during the heat of the day. This affects how well the unit can remain a consistent temperature, and I have to fiddle with the dial a bit to keep it out of the danger zone. Even so, it is far more accurate than my previous attempt, and is clearly working.

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Video of the egg being candled
 

PrairieChickens

Songster
7 Years
Jun 29, 2012
1,682
358
221
Kansas
48 Hours into incubation...

2 days in, here is a photo of an unincubated egg (left) next to one that has been incubating in the proofer for 48 hours (right). Note the darkening yolk of the developing egg.

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PrairieChickens

Songster
7 Years
Jun 29, 2012
1,682
358
221
Kansas
Day 3



Development of the embryo is now visible.

The incubator is running on the cool side right now, between 96.6º and 98.4. I had to leave it unattended for the day, and didn't want to risk it creeping above the "danger zone" while I was gone, so I deliberately let it run cool for the day. (Muche better to be a few degrees too cool than a few degrees too hot.) Now that I'm home, I can monitor it more closely, plus the highs aren't expected to be as hot from here on out, so the temperatures shouldn't spike in the incubator. I have bumped the thermostat back up a smidge and will keep an eye on temperatures.

Humidity is holding steady at 45%.
 

Kimi BK

Chirping
Oct 4, 2020
60
86
66
New Mexico, USA
Day 3



Development of the embryo is now visible.

The incubator is running on the cool side right now, between 96.6º and 98.4. I had to leave it unattended for the day, and didn't want to risk it creeping above the "danger zone" while I was gone, so I deliberately let it run cool for the day. (Muche better to be a few degrees too cool than a few degrees too hot.) Now that I'm home, I can monitor it more closely, plus the highs aren't expected to be as hot from here on out, so the temperatures shouldn't spike in the incubator. I have bumped the thermostat back up a smidge and will keep an eye on temperatures.

Humidity is holding steady at 45%.
Great find, and interesting experiment! I wonder if this proofer has worked for you since you last wrote...?
 

Floof

Songster
5 Years
Sep 28, 2015
564
691
231
Great find, and interesting experiment! I wonder if this proofer has worked for you since you last wrote...?
I'm very curious too! The user hasn't been on since spring of last year so hopefully our replies hit their inbox and inspire them to come back!
 

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