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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 7:57 am 
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Well here is a few photos of our latest incubator project. I haven't put it up yet, because it's a work in progress, but I did say I would so here's what we've been doing.

I wanted a fan forced incubator that could double as a brooder, as I like to keep the chicks in the house for a few days to get established before they go down to the big brooder in the shed. So I needed something with reasonable floor space, that was easily cleanable, that could work as a stand alone incubator, a hatcher or a brooder. My E2 works really well, but it is only semi-auto turn. I wanted the option of setting up and going away for the weekend and leaving it. At this stage I'm still in the trial stage, so I'm not quite there yet. I have had three foamies. The first one was a Bellsouth which was ok, then another BS which was never any good, then a Little Giant which was terrible. I just couldn't trust them. My E2 is totally reliable, so I know it's achievable.

I drew up some rough sketches, took myself off to Bunnings and came back with a pile of bits and pieces and then roped my son (electrical fitter), my daughter (painter) and my OH (carpenter) in when I could. Sometimes that didn't work and I had to work out how to do some things myself, but they all gave plenty of advice :shock: and kept the chicken jokes coming throughout the project.

Here is the basic wood box with a hinged lid. The heating box has a wooden lid, the egg end has a perspex lid. The centre wall has a vent cut in the bottom so air can be pulled back in after it has been circulated. The timber is sealed with 3 coats of high gloss polyurethane.
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Width of box 450, length of total box 900:
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Before installing electrical, I laid it all out and tested it. I have two globes on separate switches. The 240V fan doesn't require a power pack (ebay) and I've connected it to a dimmer switch so that I can control the speed of the fan. It's a pretty big fan because the box is big, and now I have some investigation to do regarding air flow, so I thought that flexibility might be helpful. I also have an auto turner that I salvaged out of an old Little Giant incubator. That has to run through a converter box because it came from US. The thermostat is just an ebay digital thermostat, but that's been fitting to the front of the box for convenience also. I tested first, then installed.
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The wooden lid over the globe section can be lifted out of the hinged frame to change water or check without the need to open the egg section. I like two separate water trays for easy removal and cleaning. At the moment it runs at about 50-60% humidity with two trays full.
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As I want to use it for a brooder, I have a big plastic tray in there. This is so that I can line it with newspaper and keep chicks in an easy clean environment. Under the plastic tray is two spacers that lift it about an inch to allow air to pull under it back to the vent in the wall. If I push that tray hard up to the dividing wall, the lip at the top seals off the air flow under the fan, which is perfect. It makes the air flow over the eggs, down the end, and back under and around the sides of the plastic tray. I'm not sure if the walls of the plastic tray are going to affect the air flow under the eggs, so I'm having a closer look that that and if it does, I'm going to cut the tray down and make it shorter, and then suspend the egg tray half way up with screws.
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I made a tray out of an old shop shelf to rest on it, or I can just rest the auto turn on the lip of the box:
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Currently having a few calibration issues. All thermometers reading differently when in the same place. I'm going to pick the middle one, note the differences and just read the others with the adjustment. I've only used this as a hatcher so far (good results), but I'm doing more testing before I set a batch it in. I'm considering getting hold of a Multiquip bent thermometer because they are easily fitted and I like working in F for some reason. It's a nice round figure!
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I'm off to work now, so I'll come back and edit this when I can.

Stay tuned for hatch rates!

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 6:04 pm 
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looks good mate.Im having trouble getting humidity over 50% :? :? with mine

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 6:09 pm 
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Looks good.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 8:34 pm 
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Fantastic Job,
Only a couple of comments
A. Put a fan grill on the fan, you dont want minced chicks in the machine.
B. One of the photos showed bare wires that carry 240V, if you havent already you need to fix it b4 it shocks you or chicks.

Other wise it looks excellent.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 8:40 pm 
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And linked to the stickie

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 8:44 pm 
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Quote:
A. Put a fan grill on the fan, you dont want minced chicks in the machine.
B. One of the photos showed bare wires that carry 240V, if you havent already you need to fix it b4 it shocks you or chicks.


Thanks for the tips. I'll do something about it. I have also noticed that the wall is heating up and giving off radiant heat, so there is slightly higher temp close to the wall. I'm about to line the wall with insulation and cover it with a metal cover. I've also added a couple of extra vent holes and put some air flow flashings on the front of the fan. Will have to do some more work yet.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 27, 2009 2:20 am 
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Whoo hooo. Now that's a beauty. :shock:

Trevs right about the fan, newborns have an instinct to head towards the heat source I think. I wont confess as to how I know but even a 5cm fan will scalp a newborn wet chick.

The slighly higher temp at the wall may be due to the light that is hitting the floor under that wall. Take your time in trying to get every part of the incubator reading at the same temperature. Just check the area the eggs are to be, that's really all that is important.
Areas near the walls, sides, lid etc. are really tricky, it can take about a week before their surfaces really stabilise.

I'd be really careful about over engineering this bator or adding anything extra. It's fantastic as is so I think you should run it as is. If you think about it you will never know if the add ons were necessary or not.

You have to love how easy it will be to clean, why put stuff in that will create crevices and places for poop and bugs to live in.

Don't underestimate what the fan can do by simply blasting straight into the incubator. It basically just creates a lot of turbulence which is the best way of mixing air.

The idea of channelling the air flow over the eggs sounds good in theory and sometimes in practise but sometimes it can bite you on the bum. I've done it a fair bit and it is quite tricky sometimes. What can happen is it will set up like a laminar flow where the bulk of the air just flows along the path of least resistance and doesn't flow much into other areas at all. The part where it gets tricky is with your thermostat sensor placement.

It's hard to explain but imagine you are sitting in a bath trying to bring the water temp up to 38 degs. If you have your foot up the end just below where the hot water comes in and switch the water off whenever it reaches 38 degs it will always be too cold up the other end.
The reverse applies if you are measuring from the other end. On the other hand if you are in a spa with all the turbulence happening then it doesn't matter much where you measure the temperature.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 27, 2009 6:42 am 
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can't quite see if done, but for safety reasons, earthing the fan body (presume to be metal) would be a good idea.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 27, 2009 6:57 am 
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Denis wrote:
... The slighly higher temp at the wall may be due to the light that is hitting the floor under that wall. ...

Don't underestimate what the fan can do by simply blasting straight into the incubator. It basically just creates a lot of turbulence which is the best way of mixing air.

The idea of channelling the air flow over the eggs sounds good in theory and sometimes in practise but sometimes it can bite you on the bum. I've done it a fair bit and it is quite tricky sometimes. What can happen is it will set up like a laminar flow where the bulk of the air just flows along the path of least resistance and doesn't flow much into other areas at all. The part where it gets tricky is with your thermostat sensor placement.

Denis, you may be right about the light at the bottom, but it must be the wall in part because I slid a thin piece of foam in behind the wall (light side) and it cut down the hot spot.

The other issue of air channelling is proving difficult still. I think you're right about the laminar flow tendency. I temporary popped a piece of vented metal in front of the fan on an outward angle to direct the air around the box and I lost the evenness of temp within the bator. It produced a range of 1.5 degrees C over the bator which is not good enough for me. I took that out again and I went back to a distribution range of 1 degree F. I think you're right - I'm going to leave the vent out and stick with a central air flow. Today I'm going to go and get a few medical thermometers to help with checking, because I'm sick of mucking around with four different readings.

I might also get a couple of 100W globes to see how that changes the stability and evenness of the temperature. It was trying to do it with one 60W and one 75W. I initially tried two 60W but it couldn't quite get there. It's a very big bator so I was probably being a bit of a cheapskate trying to run it with those.

SillyM, the 240V fan didn't come with an earth, just two terminals. It's possible I could connect an earth wire to the body of it though.

I know I need to put a grill on the fan, but I haven't done it yet. I've got some mesh here ready to do it when I get the circulation issues sorted. It may turn out that keeping it simple is better, and then I'll just stick a cover over it quickly.

BTW: I went and dug the old Little Giant out of the shed to grab the thermometer that came with it. I turned it over and on the back it says: This Thermometer has an accuracy of plus or minus 2 degrees - I'm guessing F as it's made in USA. That's not very accurate! You could have it set on 100 and it's really on 102! That's presuming that it's calibrated correctly to start with. The scale on it is small small that I would have to go and find my reading classes to read it. That's going in the bin.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 27, 2009 9:56 am 
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Looks good Cathy

I also noticed a couple of things - the water trays under the heat sources. Two things there. Can you access the water trays from the sides rather than only from the top ? - getting water past the light bulbs is tricky and dangerous.

Also humidity is a surface area thing - the larger the surface area the more easily the humidity is created and dispersed. One bigger tray would be more successful than two smaller ones.

Lastly - the light bulbs. One hundred watt'ers are infinately better than less wattage ones. Light bulbs are now all sourced from overseas and not nearly as reliable. The pop more readily especially with switching on and off. Its usually in the middle of the night or when your out and a lesser wattage is unable to support the heat on its own. Also 100 watts require a lot less time being on to bring up and maintain the required temperature.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 27, 2009 10:30 am 
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Thanks for the input Mike.

The reason I have two separate water trays is so that I can get them out past the light globes. I've just copied that from the E2. The only other way I could get them, or a single bigger one out without going past the globes would be to create a little slot with a door either at the back, or at the side under the globes. That would be possible. It would certainly make for easier operation. Most of the time, I just use a jug to pour the water in without taking them out, but sometimes they get mucky and I want to clean them. This seems to happen over time with continuous operation. I'll give the slot idea some thought. I haven't had trouble getting the humidity up so far. In QLD it's more of a case of getting the humidity down, particularly in summer. The bigger volume of air in this incubator though, may make it an issue at hatch time. Food for thought anyway.

What you say about the higher wattage globes makes sense. I'm going to try them out later today. I actually have a few 150W in the cupboard, but I think I'll try 100s first.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2009 9:34 pm 
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I've been testing it and having still having trouble with the consistency of temp from left to right in the cabinet. It's better to let the fan blast through the middle, but I still had a difference of 1.5 degrees C. I started to think that my fan isn't up to the job considering the cabinet size. So my latest attempt at evening the temp out is to install a second fan. I've put bottles of water underneath the egg tray to help as well. It's been running like this for an hour so far and the different between left and right has been 0.1 degree C. So far, so good. I'll see how it goes overnight. Maybe I'm winning.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2009 9:38 pm 
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Looking Great Chooken, just be carefull at pip stage that the extra airflow doesnt dry out exposed membranes on eggs to fast

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2009 9:46 pm 
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Good point Trev. I have a diffuser grill that I can use, but at the moment I'm focussed on evening out the temp. I saw that Macca had a similar box design, and he installed a channel for the air on each side. That's an interesting idea also.

I'll check out what happens tonight anway, and see how that goes. At the moment I've got the fans blowing out, but I could change the terminals around and have them sucking. Has anyone tried that. Then the air would get pushed out the vent at the bottom and rise up through the eggs. I'd have to move the plastic tray, but it could be worth a try if all else fails.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 02, 2009 10:02 pm 
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Maccas design is based on a similar idea that Denis used.
I think what you suggest would have its on complications due to warm air rising and not penetrating to the end of the egg chamber, but its worth a try.

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