I have thought for awhile that a centralized resource for BYP members and visitors who are interested in making their own incubator would be really handy.
So here it is, a work in progress that I will add some photos to soon.
I must say a huge thanks to Fizzle for taking the time to track down a bunch of links to posts by other BYP members and external links.
If you find any thing that needs to be added, edited or seems incorrect please don’t hesitate to let me know.
Finally a disclaimer.
At a number of points I have stated that some of the work should be done by an Electrician. Please don’t ask
myself or any of the other members of BYP for advice or instructions on how to do this yourself. While we are more than happy to give what help we can on any other subject, this is one thing that we will refuse every time.Ignorance/inexperience plus 240volts is a fatal mix.
A homemade incubator can be as simple or as complex as you wish to make it.
This will depend on your budget, your making skills/abilities and what materials you are able to source to make it.
Like a recipe, there are a number of essential ingredients that cannot be left out otherwise the recipe fails or gives very poor results. Then there are optional ingredients that add to the success of the end result.Essential ingredients to make a successful incubator.
(Still air type)
a. Some form of enclosure. It could be a foam esky, a cardboard box or a purpose made enclosure made of wood. The purpose of the enclosure is to maintain a stable environment within it and as a support for all the other bits needed.
b. A heat source. This could be a lamp, wired in lights or a heating element.
I have seen old fashioned incubators that used a kerosene lantern to provide the heat and others LPG, these forms of heating must be external to the incubation chamber as they consume oxygen from inside it and produce noxious exhaust gasses.
c. A thermostat to maintain the temperature within the incubator at the correct level for the type of eggs in it e.g. Chooks eggs require 37.75 degrees Celsius.
d. A reliable thermometer to monitor the temperature inside the incubator.
You need to calibrate the thermometer against a known standard so that you know exactly how far out it is. You can then compensate for any inaccuracies, for example if you had a thermometer that reads 2 degrees low and incubated eggs at 37.75 indicated by that thermometer, you would actually be cooking the eggs at 39.75 degrees. This would result in a poor hatch rate, a higher incidence of chicks with problems leading to early deaths and also some suggest that female embryo’s are more susceptible to high temps leading to a higher rate of males hatching.
e. Moisture in the form of Humidity. We provide this by putting a tray of water in the incubator that slowly evaporates keeping the air moist inside the incubator.
The eggs breathe via pores in the shells as the embryo’s form to exhaust waste products, CO2 etc, part of this respiration includes water. If the eggs loose too much water, this results in a poor hatch rate and a higher incidence of chicks with problems leading to early deaths.
f. Ventilation. You need to provide ventilation holes to allow stale air out and fresh air in. This can be a juggling act to provide sufficient ventilation and still maintain the correct temp in the incubator.
One member of BYP (chookyinoz) places a desk lamp near the vent holes on his foam incubator so that the air being drawn into the incubator is already warm. Chookyinoz uses this strategy to minimize the effect of large ambient temperature drops impacting on the operation of his incubator.
g. Turning the eggs. Chooks turn the eggs that they are brooding constantly. In an artificial incubation environment we need to turn the eggs 180 degrees at least twice a day. To aid this, when setting the eggs in the incubator, mark them with a cross on one side and an O on the other directly opposite. This way when you turn the eggs you know that they are right. The reason the eggs need to be turned is to prevent the embryo from floating against the inside of the shell and sticking to it. This will result in the embryo dying or not being able to hatch correctly. Optional ingredients or “Garnish”.
(Fan forced and turning mechanisms)
a. A small fan to circulate the air inside the incubator to ensure a constant temperature at any point in the incubator. The easiest way to do this is to use a computer fan wired up to a 12v wall transformer or power pack.
b. A semi-auto or fully automatic turning system to reduce the time it takes to turn a large number of eggs.
c. An external refill method for refilling the water trays.
d. A humidity measurement device (Hygrometer) or use a wet bulb thermometer. This is really optional as an accurate hygrometer is expensive.Thermometers.
You can purchase a number of different types.
Electronic or digital style.
The ones that measure inside and outside temp are handy as you can place the thermometer outside the incubator and run the external sensor lead into the incubator. This way you can monitor ambient and internal temp.
How accurate these are is totally dependant on the maker’s tolerances. On the instruction sheet or package it will state accuracy within plus/minus X degrees. Obviously the smaller X is the better. If the literature doesn’t state accuracy at all, don’t buy it!
Easily identified as they are filled with red or blue liquid, again how accurate they are is dependant on the manufacturer. An example of an alcohol filled thermometer is the Vacola thermometers used for bottling fruit and veg. I have three of them and they differ in readings across a range of 3 degrees.
Purpose made incubator thermometers.
Are available from most incubator manufacturers including wet bulb thermometers. They can be quite expensive.
Oral or Rectal mercury filled.
Are useless for incubation, don’t even bother.
Compare the thermometer against a known standard, this could be a professionally calibrated thermometer or simply use it to measure the body temp of a healthy adult. Note the difference between the readings on the back of the unit (so you don’t forget) and add or subtract this difference from what the thermometer reads.
Due to the nature of how they work, thermostats will not give a perfect flat temperature inside the incubator. As they switch the heat on and off there is a slight lag which results in slightly higher temperature than the set point at switch off and a slightly lower temperature at switch on. This as called the temperature swing. What we are interested in is the average between these 2 points.
Again you can purchase a number of different types.
Wafer/micro switch style.
This has a sealed metal “wafer” that expands as it heats up and contacts a micro switch turning off the heat source, as the wafer cools it contracts away from the micro switch turning the heat back on. It is adjusted by screwing the wafer closer or further from the micro switch. When they are set up correctly they have a fairly low swing between high and low switch points.Requires wiring that should be performed by an electrician.
Electric capillary style.
This has a sealed capillary tube with a sensor bulb on the end and a wafer on the other end inside the control box. The tube is filled with a liquid that expands and contracts as it heats and cools, this in turn expands and contracts the wafer activating a micro switch in the same way as a WAFER STYLE unit does.
They are commonly sold as reptile enclosure thermostats and have a large swing between high and low switch points due to the nature of their design. These units are normally self contained and fitted with a 3 pin socket to plug lights etc into.
Electronic or digital.
These use an electronic sensor to monitor temperature inside the incubator, a Microprocessor then decides whether to turn the heat on or off based on the sensor reading and its programmed set points.
You can purchase units with and without digital temperature read outs, units that are preset to 37.75 degrees or can be set for different temperatures (allows different species to be incubated), some even have audible alarms for overtemp and undertemp.
A good example of a digital thermostat will have a very small swing between high and low temperature.Some types may require wiring that should be performed by an electrician.
The most common method is to use incandescent light globes. Either use a prewired lamp or wired in light fittings.
If you do use light globes, fit at least two incase one blows during incubation. This way way you wont loose all of your heating.Any method used that requires wiring 240volt AC electrical supply should be performed by a qualified licensed electrician.BYP Members Incubators and homemade incubator related discussions.
How to make an incubator in 2 hours.viewtopic.php?t=7961608&start=0
Incubator made from an old pie warmer, further in the post is a picture of a turning tray made from wood for foam incubators.viewtopic.php?t=7961939&start=0
The original Piebator by Kowan.viewtopic.php?t=7956755&highlight=pie*
More magic from Denisviewtopic.php?t=9351&highlight=made
help with wet blub thermometerviewtopic.php?t=961
Home Made incubatorviewtopic.php?t=1728
Protection from power cuts and other incubator failure viewtopic.php?t=2219
Me versus the wafer thermostatviewtopic.php?t=6013&start=0&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=
Egg turner concept and discussionviewtopic.php?t=7962299&highlight=turn
Detailed Pics of the workings of a commercial incubatorviewtopic.php?t=7964912
Temperature fluctuations/thermostat tolerancesviewtopic.php?t=5784&start=0&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=
incubating in electric frying panviewtopic.php?t=5254&start=15&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=
THE INCUBATOR I BUILTviewtopic.php?t=4988&start=0&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=
Building an incubator from a foam eskyviewtopic.php?t=7021&start=0&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=
new homemade incubator mk2viewtopic.php?t=5948&start=0&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=
THIS WILL BE HOW TO BUILD A FAN FORCED INCUBATORviewtopic.php?t=7304&start=0&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=
built an incubatorviewtopic.php?t=2167&start=0&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=
Bar fridge incubator?viewtopic.php?t=7034&start=0&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=
My latest one, with auto turn and digital thermostat.viewtopic.php?t=7961318&start=0
First attempt by BYP member Neil, and it looks like a ripper.viewtopic.php?t=7967494
And more from Denisviewtopic.php?t=9351
A unique design for a homemade incubator from QuailGuyviewtopic.php?p=199209#199209
And a great Job from Teeni, a female member of BYP.
Its good to see the girls having a go as well.viewtopic.php?f=6&t=7968180
A plywood cabinet unit made by Katris and her Hubby.viewtopic.php?f=6&t=7964878&start=15
A pine and MDF unit from indianlittleviewtopic.php?f=6&t=7970730
An older discussion about incubators with good outside links and talks about using 12volt power sources.viewtopic.php?f=6&t=1728&start=15
A nice job from Chooken07 and her family, I wish I had the tradesman access she has.viewtopic.php?f=6&t=7971104&p=227370#p227370
A great first job from Macca a junior member of BYP and His Dadviewtopic.php?f=6&t=7971386&p=229534#p229534
Mark has rescued a softdrink display fridge from scrap metal and converted it into a automatic turning incubator.viewtopic.php?f=6&t=7971368
And a nice job from a female junior and her mumviewtopic.php?f=6&t=7972213&p=236105#p236105
A great looking incubator using foam Veggie boxes from Rachiebaby and her partner.viewtopic.php?f=6&t=7974665
Rescue technique using a microwave?viewtopic.php?f=6&t=7974807
A nice use of a rescued wooden cabinet, remember folks, one mans junk is another mans treasure (or womans)viewtopic.php?f=6&t=7974893
A nice looking unit made from ply and using down lights for heating from Torsten.viewtopic.php?f=6&t=7976377
Chookstarter has been busy converting foam veggie boxes into incubtorsviewtopic.php?f=6&t=7977566
Raf working on a dedicated hatcherviewtopic.php?f=6&t=7977513
A nice looking bator made from a foam veggie box using a reptile heat cord.viewtopic.php?f=6&t=7978661
And another great timber cabinet conversion by Boothviewtopic.php?f=6&t=7974893&p=259071#p259071External Links and resources.
Brinsea incubation handbook link page
Andy suggests page 16 for relative humidity chart.Brinsea incubation handbook
MULTIQUIP, the company that makes the E1 and E2 incubators sell a "do it yourself" thermostat and heater element kit. Expensive but might save some headaches.Multiquip Thermostat Kits
Incubator made from a foam eskyForm Esky Incubator Page
Incubators in an old fridge and pie oven.Old Fridge and pie oven
A forum discussion about home made incubators from a USA chook forum.
hBackyard Chickens Discussion
A potential source for heat cords and thermostats used by reptile breeders that could be used for chookens.Heat Cords and Thermostat discussion
A PDF article on making a Kerosene incubator, it is also a gold mine of info on natural and artificial incubation processKero Incubator
A really cool incubator made from a timber cabinetIncubator from timber cabinet
Torsten's web page about building an incubator. Includes information about PIDs and costings. Great page.Our Home Build Incubators - Torsten - Click here
Homemade autoturner for a E1 ncubatorviewtopic.php?f=6&t=8006242
Another discussion on making autoturners for homemade and commercial incubatorsviewtopic.php?f=6&t=8002359
Auto water filler for incubatorsviewtopic.php?f=6&t=8004419
I will add more to this as time allows.