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

Discussion in 'Incubating & Hatching Eggs' started by PrairieChickens, Aug 3, 2016.

  1. PrairieChickens

    PrairieChickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 29, 2012
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    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.
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    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
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2016
  2. PrairieChickens

    PrairieChickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    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
     
  3. PrairieChickens

    PrairieChickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    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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  4. PrairieChickens

    PrairieChickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jun 29, 2012
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    Day 3
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    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%.
     

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