Building an Incubator, Part II

Let’s pick up where we left off.  You’ve got the thermostat/lamp kit wiring done, the incubator floor done, and a barrier made for your lightbulb.  You tested it to see if it worked.

On to the fan!  The fan helps to circulate air and keep the temps in your incubator consistent.  I bought a fairly large one from Fry’s.  Make sure you get one that has only one black wire and one red wire hooked up to the fan.

I had a small one leftover from an old computer, but it didn't work very well

I had a small one leftover from an old computer, but it didn't work very well

And don’t forget your AC/DC adaptor.  Like I mentioned in the prior post, I took mine off of an old scanner I had that no longer worked.  You probably have one lying around – if not you can buy one for a few bucks.

The wires out of here are both black, one has gray bars on it.

The wires out of here are both black, one has gray bars on it.

Cut and strip both the wires for the adaptor and the wires for the fan.  I wired the red wire to the gray-barred one and the black wire to the black one – but it was the opposite on the prior fan I had.  Plug it in.  If it doesn’t work, wire it the other way.  Secure the wires with electrical tape.

When you tape it up, tape them individually, and then together so they don't touch.

When you tape it up, tape them individually, and then together so they don't touch.

I mounted my fan onto the incubator wall with mounting tape.  The best place to put it is blowing right over the lightbulb, so it can catch that warmed air and distribute it.

Mount your hygrometer somewhere where you can read it.  You’ll get a temperature and humidity reading from this.

Put down some kitchen shelf lining, paper towels, whatever on the bottom so that when the chicks hatch, their feet won’t slip through the hardware cloth.  Using a steak knife or scissors, put 6-8 vent holes in the side for fresh air.  Eggs need to breathe too!

You’re done!  You now have a functional incubator.  You can lay your eggs on the bottom, and turn them 3x/day by hand.  Mark one side with an X and one with an O so you can make sure you turn them all.

However, here are a couple things to make your life easier.

OPTIONAL:
I found it helpful to know the internal temperature of the eggs.  You can buy a water wiggler (one of those rubbery toys – think balloon – that is filled with liquid and keeps slipping out of your hands) or you can makeshift something yourself.  I filled a ziploc bag with water and put it inside a plastic cup.

incubatorinst13

I put a food thermometer inside this, carefully so as not to puncture the bag.  If you find a water wiggler, you can slip the thermometer in the center part.  It’s helpful to have two different reads on the temperature.

Upping the humidity – on day 12, you need to up the humidity to around 60%.  This is fairly difficult to do (at least I found so).  What worked for me was to have yet another plastic cup, and to put a sponge in it.  The sponge should stick out slightly higher than the rim of the cup.  I put this opposite my fan so that the sponge would keep sucking up water and the fan would keep evaporating it.  I don’t put this in until day 12.

Here’s the placement of the thermostat, bulb, fan, makeshift water wiggler, and humidity upper.

Tah-dah!

Tah-dah!

Turning all those eggs by hand 3x/day can be tedious and time-consuming.  I hate things that take up too much of my time!  So I built a contraption that will turn all the eggs at once, without having to open up the incubator.

Eggs need only be turned from side to side.

Eggs need only be turned from side to side.

I bought some quail egg cartons and used those to hold the eggs in place.  I attached this to the PVC piping.  Eggs need to go pointy-end down into the carton.

Don't permanently glue the two outside pieces, the turner comes out on day 14.

Don't permanently glue the two outside pieces, the turner comes out on day 14.

Here’s what my set-up looks like from the top-down.  Keep the water well in the bottom filled for consistent humidity.

This was during the last hatch - there's the hygrometer at the top!

This was during the last hatch - there's the hygrometer at the top!

In case you got this far and are wondering, “What do I do with the two wine corks?” they are for plugging the holes left by the egg turner on day 12 =)

LEARN FROM MY MISTAKE: Run your incubator for a day or two before you expect your eggs.  This way you can check your temperatures and humidity and tweak things until everything is consistent.  If you start tweaking things after your eggs arrive, you may inadvertently cause a few to expire (polite way of saying DO THIS OR YOU MIGHT KILL THEM!).  I had a hatch of 18 out of 40 – no doubt because of my beginning tweaking.

INITIAL INVESTMENT: 2-3 hours.  We built ours in an evening after work.

DAILY TIME INVESTMENT: 5-10 minutes.  Eggs should be turned 3x a day, ideally every 8 hours.  Water in the bottom must be refilled once every few days.

INCUBATING CRASH COURSE:
Eggs take 16-18 days to hatch, at a temp of 99.5-102 degrees F.  Humidity should be kept consistent in the 40’s%.  Eggs should be turned 3x/day.  Stop turning eggs on day 12, and up the humidity to 60%.  Keep humidity below 80% or chicks may drown in their eggs.  Chicks can be left in incubator for up to two days – on the last days avoid opening the incubator as much as possible.  Opening the incubator will cause a loss in humidity and may stop hatching chicks from being able to get out of their eggs (membrane dries out).

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2 thoughts on “Building an Incubator, Part II

  1. Your blog is great! Regarding the thermostat for the incubator, the cheapest one I could find at home depot was $16, was this similiar to what you used? The one they have is an hvac type thermostat.

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