Making our own incubator

Discussion in 'Incubation & Hatching' started by Willy, Sep 25, 2012.

  1. Willy

    Willy Junior Member

    41
    0
    0
    Being cheap, I've decided to make my own incubator to hatch out some banty eggs. I'm not really needing anything big, so I found some directions on the net for making a small one out of a styrofoam cooler which also appealed to my inner cheapness and as having been a naval engineer in a previous career, it was simple too which is always a plus (less parts, less to go wrong).

    As we already had it, we decided to go with a little big bigger styrofoam chest that frozen steaks came in on a truck. It's about 12x24x10 inches inside. Big enough for a bit more than a dozen hen eggs. We cut out a plexiglass plate that we had down in the shop to fit into the lid so we can see inside and duct taped it down once we had the proper sized hole cut in the lid.

    The directions we had called for a 25 watt light bulb and a digital thermometer. We already the humidity indicator on hand, so it was off to the hardware store where I picked up a thermometer on end of summer clearance for $8, a couple of light bulbs and a socket to match that plugged into a wall socket. We already had an old extension cord to plug the light socket into.

    I duct taped the end of the extension cord to the middle of one end of the box and plugged in the light. My wife Vickie got some extra 1/4 inch rabbit hutch mesh wire and made a platform to fit into the bottom and form a guard for the light. I taped the sensor for the thermometer to the other end of the box just above the wire mesh.

    So we plugged it in to see what it would do and it was quite apparent that the 25 watt bulb was putting out way too much heat. The temp was building past 100 way too fast. I could prop the lid open and kind of control the temp but it was either too low or too hot. So a quick run to the hardware store and I picked up a 15 watt bulb and put it in there. The heat now builds up much slower and easier to control

    I drilled 3 1/4" holes in the end below the light bulb to let in outside air and use the heat of the light bulb to form convection and carry the heat across the box to the other side where I drilled three more holes to let the heat out. Now with the lid closed it's only getting up to 96 to 97 degrees. Not quite hot enough but we've got the heat under control.

    I added a small bowl with a wet sponge to provide humidity as we were getting about 45% with the light on. Now it's at 65% but I'm thinking that if I squeeze out some water, it should go down a bit.

    So right now that's where we're at. I'm thinking to plug the upper holes that let heat out one at a time to build up those last few degrees. Tomorrow, I'm going to start it back up and let it run at least all day and try to get the temp up to around 99 to 100 degrees.
     
  2. twentynine

    twentynine New Member

    391
    0
    0
    What type of thermostat are you using?

    To get a true indication of temperature control and range you are going to have to run it for several days. Use a high/low/current thermometer to get a true idea of temperature spread. Some guys on here are using the bottom thermostat off an electric hot water heater, I tried it, but I could never get better than a 5* temperature swing. You may have to experiment for several days, moving thermostat closer, or away from the bulb.

    I think in the well insulated foam box you have a 25watt bulb is going to be way to big. Several reasons. First and foremost, I would never use one single bulb as my heat source, you are always one burned out light bulb away from a ruined hatch. The second reason is a little harder to explain. In your case the bulb comes on, heats the surrounding air satisfies the demand and the thermostat shuts it off-- but the mass of the bulb is still hot and will continue to radiate heat for some time. I have found that the smaller the bulb the more even the heat. In your case I would use 2 10w bulbs instead of 1 25w bulb.

    Do you have a circulating fan? You can avoid hot and cold spots in your incubator by having a small fan move the air around.

    Turning eggs? I assume you are going to turn by hand. Depending on how much room you have it may be easier to incubate in the carton, flip the carton one way, then flip it the other the next time. The incubator is open a shorter period of time, and it's less work. Use the old fashion paper cartons. They can still be purchased at Tractor Supply and other places.

    Humidity. I dry hatch. On the 18th day I remove the egg turners and add water.

    One of the other things I am real big on, I only incubate the best eggs. Nothing to little, nothing to big, nothing cracked, nothing pourous, and nothing that was dirty. I candle before, then again at 10 days, then at 18 days.
     

  3. Willy

    Willy Junior Member

    41
    0
    0
    No thermostat. Just convection currents to carry the heat and strategically placed holes in the upper side away from the light bulb to let heat out. We're controlling the temp by covering and uncovering some of the holes with duct tape. The convection currents also circulate air inside.

    Already found out the 25watt was too much and replaced it with a 15. Now I'm working on getting the temps back up past 98. It's just going to take a little time adjusting the vent holes as it's a slow climb in temp. Adjust and check 2 hours later. Then adjust some more.

    We also moved it to it's "work" location in a rarely used back bathroom for getting the temps right where they need to be. I set it in the tub as that's even more rarely used (maybe once in the past two years).
     
  4. twentynine

    twentynine New Member

    391
    0
    0
    No thermostat!!!!!

    I don't want to be a stick in the mud, but, no way can you monitor your incubator close enough for 21 days so temperature control is maintained. You have to sleep, you have to work. The difference in heat demand at various times will make it impossible.
     
  5. Energyvet

    Energyvet New Member

    4,193
    3
    0
    I just want to thank you both for this fascinating conversation. I have learned so much listening to you describe and converse. Thank you.
     
  6. twentynine

    twentynine New Member

    391
    0
    0
    Let me continue:

    first some corrections to my earlier post.

    Use the TOP thermostat for a hot water heater it is wired for use with 110vac. Can be purchased at Lowes, Home Depot, probably ACE, or Mom and Pops hardware stores, cost is around $8.

    Using natural convection is a good way to provide air circulation but a poor way to distribute heat. As we have all been taught hot air rises, cold air being denser is heavier. For hot air to flow out-- cold air will have to enter your incubator. Without a thermostat one part of the incubator is going to be cold another part is going to be hot. You can partially remedy this by installing a circulating fan.

    If I was building an incubator and I had a choice of using a thermostat or a circulating fan, I would choose thermostat everytime. But the absolute best would be a fan and a thermostat.

    Think for a momment, that every day, three times a day you are going to have to open the incubator and turn the eggs. as soon as the top comes off, whatever convection current you have established to control the temperature, will be instantly disturbed. Taking only seconds to turn the eggs, it will take some hours to re-establish temperature control. Then it's time to do it again.

    being as positive as I can-- buy a thermostat. Hot water heater top thermostat $8, or an old fashion waffer $20, or the cat's meow digital $40 - $60. The first hatch you pull off successfully will more than pay for the thermostat.
     
  7. Energyvet

    Energyvet New Member

    4,193
    3
    0
    They sell digital thermometer/humidity for around $25 for Reptile environments. Would those be okay to use? I use them for my sons musical instruments. (Clarinets and piano). 74 degrees 40% humidity.
     
  8. twentynine

    twentynine New Member

    391
    0
    0
    Doc (ok if I call you Doc)
    What I use is a indoor outdoor weather station thermometer. The kind that has the outdoor remote sensor that transmits temperature to the indoor display. I put the sensor in the incubator and the display on the top of the incubator. My original intention was to bring the display unit in the house with me, but the distance from shed to house was to great. Cost was under $20.

    Humidity I use a small meter I bought at Wally World, cost about $8. That being said I don't really worry about % humidity. I live in south La. beleave me, we got humidity.

    I tell y'all what-- I'll take a picture when I get home, post it right here on this thread.
     
  9. Energyvet

    Energyvet New Member

    4,193
    3
    0
    Thanks! Most here call me EV but Doc works too. Whatever makes you happy. :)

    I would love to see the photo. What you're doing makes sense to me. I live in NJ and we have humidity, but inside its gets pretty dry with the heat during Winter. I would have to provide something.
     
  10. twentynine

    twentynine New Member

    391
    0
    0
    Okay

    Here is display unit- remote probe- hygrometer.

    Second picture is the interior of incubator. I don't hatch like that, all the equipment has been sanitized and in storage for next hatch.
     

    Attached Files:

  11. twentynine

    twentynine New Member

    391
    0
    0
    What can I say can't figure out the sideways thing yet! I think I have to rotate 3 times to get it up right.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Sep 26, 2012
  12. Energyvet

    Energyvet New Member

    4,193
    3
    0
    Ok 29! "I get the picture. ". Ooooooooooo!
     
  13. Willy

    Willy Junior Member

    41
    0
    0
    I've got that same thermometer on the bottom. I put the main unit in next the light bulb and the sensor on the opposite wall to get an idea of the temperature difference between the two.
     
  14. Energyvet

    Energyvet New Member

    4,193
    3
    0
    This is what I was referring to:
     

    Attached Files:

  15. cogburn

    cogburn New Member

    1,267
    0
    0
    Damn you couldn't find loud green could ya,?!! Lol
     
  16. Energyvet

    Energyvet New Member

    4,193
    3
    0
    Its my son's bedroom. Green and Purple!!!!! Lol
     
  17. twentynine

    twentynine New Member

    391
    0
    0
    Mr Willy
    Are you still going to go minus thermostat.
     
  18. geminicowgirl

    geminicowgirl New Member

    125
    0
    0
    I built this same incubator, 25 watts worked for mine. But my cooler is a bit larger. I have not hatched anything yet as its too cold here to keep the new chics outside but I will def try in spring. Kept mine plugged in for 2 days and it held true at 99 degrees, humidity was tough but it's getting dry here this fall. Good luck, please keep me updated on how yours worked.
     
  19. kcDallas

    kcDallas New Member

    1
    0
    0
    Open loop can work

    From my control systems class: open loop means control is attempted without feedback. Closed loop means something like a thermostat

    Many years ago an aunt gave us some eggs. We did not know any better and put a light bulb in the top of a cardboard box, turned it on, and many days later had chicks.

    Now we live in the country and have spent lots of money on an incubator and have had trouble.

    My point: open loop incubators can work. I even saw detailed instructions on how to make one. If the ambient temp is constant, then it is not so hard to adjust holes to make it work.

    I came to this site trying to find if anybody has experience with one of these: Digital Electronic Egg Incubator Thermostat with Remote Sensor http://incubatorwarehouse.com/digital-electronic-egg-incubator-thermostat.html
     
  20. twentynine

    twentynine New Member

    391
    0
    0
    No I do not have any experience with the electronic thermostat. This is the one I use http://incubatorwarehouse.com/hova-bator-wafer-thermostat-3122.html