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 Post subject: DIY incubator project
PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2016 8:34 pm 
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Showy Hen
Showy Hen

Joined: Fri Jun 03, 2016 8:06 pm
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Location: One Tree Hill, South Australia
Hi all!

I'm new to keeping chickens (1 year) and have 10 hens at present that free range on my property all day and we lock them up at night. Just after Easter I purchased a 3 week old rooster.
It's time to build an incubator! I thought I'd share my project as it goes along and maybe ask questions and hopefully anyone interested can learn from the mistakes I'll make before they make their own!

I'll be building it in out of a small cupboard that I built as a sample for my kitchen. I'd like to make it fully automated. Which leaves me with a few problems to solve:
1. Temperature
2. Humidity
3. Turning

Temperature I plan to control with a computer fan and an STC-1000 temperature controller that I purchased from eBay for $13AUD. I have used these before in my home brew temperature controller. Basically you set a temperature and plug in a cooler (chest freezer) and a heater (heat mat or band) and the controller will heat or cool as needed. I figured this will be perfect and I will just need the heat control portion attached to a heat lamp.
It also gives a digital read out of the temperature.
Image

Humidity I plan to control with a very similar unit. It looks more or less identical but has a wet bulb thermometer to measure relative humidity and will power a humidifier if needed to raise the humidity. Can find them for around $25.
I plan to use a pond mist maker. It's basically a unit that vibrates at a high frequency and when submerged under water will create mist. They are around $8.

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Image

Lastly the egg turner I plan to build out of timber and use a 12v motor that I bought for $11 to turn the eggs. It will be attached to a 12v timer that I purchased for $6. It's designed to turn on lights at different times but should suit my needs and I can turn eggs up to 8 times a day.

Image
Image

I've purchased everything I need except the mist maker and humidity controller and have started by building a small circuit that will run the computer fan. Which needs 12v and 5v for the speed control. I may or may not need to slow the fan but I'm building in the ability just in case and because it's fun to learn new things!

I'll post updates and pictures along the way!

Benen.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2016 9:02 pm 
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Proud Rooster
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Hi Benen

That looks like an interesting project.
I use those temperature controllers for my brooders and for plant propagation. Mine are rated as accurate to +/- 1 degree C so might need to be monitored to see whether they keep the temperature within your desired range.

I am trying one of those ultrasonic foggers in my propagation frame and having a bit of trouble keeping the water at the right level even with a deflector to stop it spitting water out of the container. It should do the job OK but there may be less complicated systems. Mine runs on 24 volts and you might want to look at 24v case fans as well to simplify the power supply.

Look forward to hearing how it goes.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2016 10:04 pm 
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Showy Hen
Showy Hen

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Location: One Tree Hill, South Australia
Hmm, I've seen another incubator using the stc-1000. You dont think it will be accurate enough?
Do you have any other suggestions for humidity control?
The 12v supply is already sorted. Just using a 240v-12v regulator for the fan/timer/motor.
Maybe I need to do more research or replace some of my purchases before diving in too far...


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2016 10:42 pm 
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Gallant Game
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Location: adelaide
Ideally you would want some sort of fan to reduce hot/cold spots

My Rcom suro is as simple as a small water pump that pumps a small amount of water onto a sponge that then evaporates.

I would guess the pump dispenses in the order of 0.1 ml at a time for a 24 egg incubator. this incubator would use less than 100 ml for 3 weeks.

A pond mister may give extremes on humidity.

I hope you enjoy the engineering challenge because quite good incubators can be purchased for under $500 these would be set and forget type machines.

Incubators that give reasonable results if you nurse them and are prepared to fiddle can be had for less than $150


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2016 11:52 pm 
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Showy Hen
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Location: One Tree Hill, South Australia
Ah right, I'll look into humidity control options more I think.
I just purchased a heating element rather than a bulb. So far I'm $70 in without the humidity control sorted. Should easily come in at under $150 for something that can fit around 36 eggs.
Definitely expecting challenges but love learning and problem solving.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2016 9:02 am 
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Golden Kingfisher
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Fantastic! Looking forward to hearing more as your project progresses :)

For humidity I'd go for the evaporation approach. It's easy to control by adjusting surface area. Humidity doesn't need to be accurate to a tight margin. Go for simple rather than fancy.

An even and consistent temp throughout the incubator is the most important thing. That and turning regularly, especially in the first couple of weeks.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2016 11:06 am 
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Proud Rooster
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Hi Benen

I think the temperature controller will be OK but my point was more that when test running the incubator you will need to check the temperature with an accurate thermometer to see how accurate the indicated temperature is, how closely it holds the temperature to the set range and how much it varies in different areas of the cabinet. In practice the temperature will continue to rise a little after the thermostat cuts out as the element releases its residual heat.

Because the core temperature of the eggs changes slowly the aim is to have the average temperature range of the air within the incubator close to the desired incubation temperature.

AS 70%cocoa said humidity is not critical but I understand that part of the fun is the challenge of making a machine that controls the humidity automatically. In my home made incubator humidity is controlled just by manually varying the surface area of the water container but my commercial incubator uses a heating element to increase the water evaporation.

One of the good things about home made incubators is that they are simple to repair. Mine is still in use after many years and numerous modifications.

I am curious about your heating element. What voltage is it and how much current does it draw?


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2016 11:37 am 
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Showy Hen
Showy Hen

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Location: One Tree Hill, South Australia
Sounds like a plan. I'll try manual humidity control to begin with and just get a hygrometer.
The heating element is 230v 200w. Like the one pictured. I just need to blow a fan through it and have the temp controller turn it on as needed.
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2016 12:38 pm 
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Proud Rooster
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That looks to be a useful unit. I am interested in heating elements because I am toying with the idea of making a 12v incubator for all those times when my power supply is out.

Automatic humidity control would be an interesting exercise. Perhaps it could be an add on when the basic machine is sorted. With the controller you showed it could be done by the pump and sponge method or a heating element as already mentioned or perhaps even a device to control the air flow over the water supply. I suppose it would depend a lot on cost and availability of components.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2016 12:41 pm 
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Showy Hen
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Location: One Tree Hill, South Australia
Yeah there would definitely be a few ways to do it. There are 12v options for those heaters however you would need a small incubator or a large battery bank to run it. I'll be testing the power draw once it's all running.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2016 2:48 pm 
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Proud Rooster
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Don't want to hijack your thread but yes, power consumption of a 12v incubator would be the biggest difficulty even though I have a good solar panel and deep cycle battery setup in the shed for electric fences etc.

Out of interest, my mains power home made incubator holds about 36 eggs and uses two 40w incandescent globes in parallel. If one globe blows it holds temperature in coolish ambient temperature with about 50% on time cycle. The trade off with larger heat sources is the tendency to overshoot the temperature because of the mass of the heater.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2016 2:57 pm 
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Golden Robin
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When you fit a fan, which is fairly important to make sure you have not hot spots or cold spots, remember its role is to gently move the air around inside. It not to exhaust or draw in the air. But also don't make the incubator air tight. The reason is developing eggs give off carbon dioxide and sequest oxygen so the incubator must have the ability to breathe.

However, as someone who has built or restored a number of incubators over the years, my advice is keep it as simple as possible, too much technology is only going to cause you problems in the long run. After all, Egyptian princess Cleopatra hatched eggs by carrying them in her cleavage.

Mike

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2016 4:19 pm 
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Showy Hen
Showy Hen

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Location: One Tree Hill, South Australia
Thanks for the info. Yes I'm not sure if the 200w heater is too much or not. Will have to experiment a bit. I guess temperature probe placement could be key here.
Regarding the fan, it's a PWM fan which is why I'm going to solder up the 5v circuit and a rheostat to control it's speed. I've made a circuit up on a breadboard but haven't had a chance to test it out with a multimeter yet. Still waiting on the fan too.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2016 4:48 pm 
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Golden Robin
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You dont need to be that precise or complicated, a standard 80mm computer fan is all you need. Its only job is gently move air around. Just make sure you mount it off the panel with some spacers so the air can get behind it.

Mike

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2016 5:38 pm 
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Showy Hen
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Joined: Fri Jun 03, 2016 8:06 pm
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Location: One Tree Hill, South Australia
I would have thought a fan at full power would be too much?
Would something like a small butterfly vent do the trick for ventilation?


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