Homemade Incubator

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Past experience with an old hovabator over 15 years ago left me not wanting to try and hatch eggs myself. The thermostat was wonky and unreliable. Even replacing it with a new wafer it was a pain to get the temp set and maintained. With things changing and solid state thermostats available I thought I would give the idea another go. I cringed every time I looked at the price of incubators with all the bells and whistles. Over $200 in some cases for all the extras. I could not and cannot see that expense for a styrofoam box! I started collecting pieces and parts and figured this girl could make one. And so I did. This is my effort at putting together a reliable incubator. So far it is working fine. I have it running now so I can work out the adjustment on the thermostat for consistant temperature. Supplies:
1 styrofoam ice chest or a chest that is used to ship frozen foods. I had both but chose the ice chest because it is larger.
1 hot water heater thermostat ($8, temp ranges from 90 - 150 F) 25w light bulb 1lamp kit (bottle version) 4 old wine corks 1surge protector 1water wiggler Not pictured: hardware cloth water dish old pc fan adaptor/transformer I cut and bent the hardware cloth to make a rack that fit into the ice chest. I placed an old dish in the bottom to provide more surface area for the water to help with humidity and also to rest the hardware cloth rack on. Be careful because the cloth will scratch you as you work with it. I worked with it removing pieces here and there until I got a good custom fit. I also cut out the area where the light bulb would be installed to keep the light low in the box because heat rises.
I am not an electrician and have very little expeience with wiring. I followed a diagram and wired my light and the thermostat. I did wire them wrong the first time but when the breaker tripped I knew then the right way to wire them. LOL
The thermostat is the least expensive, single pole version I could find(under $10) from Lowes. The temperature range on this model is 90 - 150 F. The screw at the top is numbered #1 and the lower is #2.
I used a bottle lamp kit because it has an opening on the side so that the kit can be wired straight from the bottom or from the side. This was perfect for this project because it allowed me to run the wires, connect them, then seal the base closed. I am terrified of exposed wires and prefer to have everything contained neatly and hidden away. On the kit the ribbed wire was to be connected to the silver screw. So I cut off a piece of the cord about 4 inches long to have wire to work with to connect the thermostat. With the ribbed wire connected to the silver screw I then used a piece of the wire I cut to wire from the brass screw to the thermostat #2 screw, then used the non ribbed wire of the cord to wire it to the #1 thermostat screw. The wire is run through the base screw and then over through the side opening to that everything is sealed shut when the lamp assembly is closed.
I then carefully wittled out around the inside hole I made to insert the lamp assembly so that everything was snug and tight. The walls of the ice chest I used are rather thick -just a bit thicker than the screw/bolt that came with the light kit. I was very careful to cut away around my bolt opening to that the light assembly would screw together snug and tight so the bulb did not wiggle around and pose a fire threat by melting the styrofoam. Also I cut away a little bit to accomdate the wiring running over to the thermostat.
Assembly on the outside.
And from the inside. I put electrical tape over the little screws on the thermostat that the wires are attatched to because I worried if a child reached in and accidentally touched the screws they might get shocked. Make sure you thread your wires through your tiny holes before assebling them. I used an ice pick to make tiny openings to thread the wires through. Next I used an old adaptor, 120v input 12v DC output, from which I snipped off the end and wire it to an old pc fan.
I wired the black to the black and the red to the other mixed color wire. I secured the wiring with electrical tape and wire nuts. I used a stick coated wire to secure the fan in place.
Using a pumpkin carving tool, I cut out 4 air vent holes and used old wine corks to plug them up with.
I cut out a large rectangle in the lid and placed over it an old window glass pane.
I used duct tape to secure the glass and cover the edges of the glass. I used pink duct tape because it is a Chick 'Bator! Woot! My helper -
I recieved a box of welsummer eggs yesterday. They are now set.
welsummers.jpg
Welsummer Chickens
Today is Day #1 of Welsummer Hatch Watch 2007.
Badger! Do you see how very dark these eggs are?!?! You just wait. If I hatch any and get these dark eggs I can send you some. Farm fresh eggs, never washed or refrigerated will keep on a counter top for 3 weeks. Just think if I collected eggs and mailed them same day you could be eating them in 2 days time! Farm fresh! This part is always exciting and makes me a little nervous.
This is an inexpensive project if you go around and collect things that you may already have or someone you know might be willing to give you. For example - check your local Walmart in the sporting goods section where they sell live fish bait. The worms come in large styrofoam boxes. If you ask nicely they will usually save one for you. I am waiting for the next shipment now and the guy has promised to save me the box. Free! It is an excellent project to do with your kids. Even if you live in the city (Yes, you can have chickens in most towns and cities. Some places limit to 3 hens and 0 roosters in the city limits. You can check most ordinances online at Municiple Codes.) but if you can't you can still hatch eggs and give the chicks to someone. It is not like being stuck with a litter of puppies or kittens. If you hatch some rare breed chicks you will be able to find someone through free cycle or Craig's List who will take them off your hands in a matter of minutes. For all of you teachers out there (Yes, you! And you! And you, too!) This is an excellent classroom project for elementary kids EXPECIALLY those in the city who may never in their life get to see where a chicken comes from and how life begins. I recommend this as a great learning experience for your classroom. Chicken eggs take 21 days to hatch. I will be blogging the daily log of temperature, relative humidity, turning of the eggs, etc. You can follow me and use my success and failures to learn from. Rare Breed Chickens: Blue Laced Red Wyandotte Cuckoo Maran Dominiques Sumatras Golden Penciled Hamburgs Silver Gray Dorkings Silver Leghorns Red Caps Egyptian Fayoumis Silver Penciled Rocks Rare Breed Special Lakenvelders Phoenix Blue Andalusians White Laced Red Cornish Golden Laced Wyandottes Golden Campines White Faced Black Spanish Buttercups Modern Bb Red Games Silver Penciled Wyandottes Have I shown you my silkies?
blacksilkie.jpg
How's this for a different kind of chicken? Check out ebay or eggbid.com or someone local if you want to try to hatch some chicks with your kids. Remember it makes a great 4-H or boyscout/girlscout project, too.

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15 Comments

Miz S said:

I LOVE this! You know how much all this farm-y stuff excites me. I also love how carefully you document your projects for us to see. Hey, have you ever thought of submitting stuff like this to Mother Earth Magazine?

Kismet said:

Such a creative thinker. I love women like you who see a job that needs to be done and just figures out a way to make it happen. Amazing.

~K!

Aren't you just the cleverest little hen!

Chicks are the cutest, but when they grow up they scare me, as I am chickenshit. (Har!)

ree said:

You, my dear, are the Queen of Chicks. I bow down to your superiority.

ree said:

You, my dear, are the Queen of Chicks. I bow down to your superiority.

MP said:

WOW
You really impress me. This is WAY cool. (makes me sound 9)...but I really think that is a very neat. You are Super Chick!!

MP said:

You are Super Chick in a huge way. That is VERY cool!

Marcie said:

Holy Moly Batman! Is there anything you can't do! How awesome is that! So cool...

vicki said:

Simply amazing! What a wowzer of a post, Angie! I can not wait to see what develops. We hatched ducklings two years in a row when Abby was in high school and humidity was always the hardest thing to control- and reminding that girl to turn her eggs!
The detail you give here is-well, I'm in awe of this.

Wow. You are super cool! I wouldn't have been able to imagine this kind of project. Impressive!

Badger said:

Angie, you are a wonder! You never cease to amaze me. There is no way I could figure something like this out.

And yes, those eggs look wonderful!

Pam said:

YOU.are amazing!!! WOW!

DrakeMaiden said:

Hi! I found you via the BYC forum. I'm impressed that you rigged up your own thermostat. I didn't even bother to try, but I also didn't have much time to worry about it. My H said he didn't want to wire a thermostat for me, so I incubated in a home-made bator without the aid of a thermostat. But I hatched all of my viable eggs! If you want to read about it, refer to my blog. Happy Hatching!

DrakeMaiden said:

Hi! I found you via the BYC forum. I'm impressed that you rigged up your own thermostat. I didn't even bother to try, but I also didn't have much time to worry about it. My H said he didn't want to wire a thermostat for me, so I incubated in a home-made bator without the aid of a thermostat. But I hatched all of my viable eggs! If you want to read about it, refer to my blog. Happy Hatching!

David said:

FYI, the eggs need to be turned at least twice daily, otherwise the chicks will adhere to the shell wall and will have trouble hatching. Caution: opening the lid will reduce the internal temp each time.

Great ingenuity! Good luck!!
David

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This page contains a single entry by Angie published on August 14, 2007 9:21 AM.

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