If you’re reading this guide, then I assume you have a poultry farm or you’re considering having one. If you have a poultry farm, there are times when you may need some extra healthy chicks, and to your surprise, you realize that there’s no broody mother hen available. In such a situation, having a homemade DIY incubator becomes a logical option. But, there’s a problem. Do you know how to make an egg incubator?
Also, will the incubator work? You see, an incubator is a crucial piece of equipment in any poultry project as it imitates the activities of the mother hen during the incubation process. An incubator maintains a constant temperature and humidity that’s needed to keep the eggs warm until they hatch.
An incubator can either be store-bought or homemade. Although store-bought incubators are accurate, thanks to the sophisticated technology employed, they’re very expensive making them hard to procure. On the other hand, homemade incubators only require you to use everyday materials that are easy to get. They’re usually cheap and very easy to build.
So, in this guide, we’re going to discuss how to make a homemade DIY incubator from materials we use every day. This project is fun and can be accomplished alone or with your kids. It’s also cheap as it will save you a lot compared to if you bought the incubator at a store. With that said, let’s begin.
How Does an Incubator Work?
In case it’s your first time dealing with incubators, then it’s easy to get curious about how these machines work. Now, an incubator is a very intelligent machine that imitates how a mother hen sets her eggs. It does this by simulating the temperature, humidity, and turning that the mother hen gives to her eggs.
In most cases, an incubator sets the temperature range at 97° to 101°F at all times throughout the incubation process. On the other hand, the humidity level is set at 50-55% in the first 18 days then 65-75% for the last 3 days of hatching. To those that practice dry incubation, the humidity level is set at around 25% in the first 18 days then raised to 65% for the last 3 days.
Since we’ll be dealing with a homemade incubator, which is manual, you’ll need to turn the eggs by yourself. To do this, you have to turn them in at least twice daily for the first 18 days. To track the eggs, you have to mark them with a pencil by marking an “x” on top and an “o” at the bottom of each egg.
While temperature is easy to set, the humidity level is quite tricky and will need you to adjust it manually. So, to raise the humidity, you’ll need to add water inside the incubator. This can be accomplished by placing a petri dish, a trough, or a wet sponge inside the incubator. To lower the humidity, all you need is to open the ventilation holes to push humid air out and circulate less humid air to the inside.
Lastly, incubators come in two different types. These include the still-air incubator and the forced-air incubator. The still-air incubator doesn’t have a fan to circulate air meaning circulation of air happens naturally. The forced-air incubator, on the other hand, is equipped with a fan that circulates air inside the incubator. So, when making a homemade incubator, it’s important to consider this factor.
Factors to Consider Before Making a Homemade Incubator
Now that you’re aware of how an incubator works, the next step is to learn about those factors you’ll have to consider before making your own DIY incubator. Below are some of the key parameters you have to keep in mind.
- Your Hatch Rate
So, how many eggs are you looking to hatch? You should ask yourself this important question before making a homemade incubator. If you need more eggs, then you should make a big incubator and if you need fewer eggs at a time, then you can make a smaller incubator.
Now, it’s important to note that not all eggs will hatch after incubation. Some eggs might be infertile, some cracked and some might fail to develop correctly. Therefore, it’s important to have this estimation in mind.
- The Size of the Incubator
Another factor you have to consider when making a DIY incubator is the size of the chicken egg incubator. Other than determining the hatch rate, the size of your incubator will tell how easy or how hard it will be for you to maintain it. A small incubator might have a small space barely enough to place a petri dish of water and other essentials.
Also, it might make it hard for you to turn the eggs and add water. So, to ensure that you don’t mess up at any stage, make sure that you consider the size of the incubator before you proceed with the construction.
- Available Space for Storage
Of course, you’ll need to store your incubator somewhere to keep it safe and secure from any interference. Also, the incubator will need somewhere to be stored when it’s not in use. So, before you start making an egg incubator, consider the space that’s available to avoid running out of space.
Finally, yet importantly, there’s the cost. In most cases, the cost of an incubator is dictated by the number of add-ons you’ll have. Therefore, the more add-ons, the more expensive you’ll expect the incubator to be.
How to Make an Egg Incubator in 9 Steps
Materials You’ll Need:
- Plywood pieces
- Styrofoam cooler/box
- Glass panel
- Duct tape
- Bulb holder
- 40-60Watts bulb
- Temperature & humidity gauges
- Shallow bowl and sponge
- Chicken wire (1/4 inch squares)
Tools You’ll Need:
- Tape measure
- Serrated knife
Steps in Details
- Step One: Build the Frame
So, to start the process, commence by building a wooden cube using the plywood that’s available. This will create the housing that will be used as the incubator. In this step, you’ll have the freedom to build a huge box or a small box depending on the number of eggs you’ll be incubating.
However, you need to ensure that the size of the wooden box you’ll be making is large enough to accommodate the size of the Styrofoam cooler. It should also be high enough to fit a cup or a petri dish of water.
- Step Two: Cut Hole For the Light Bulb
Once you’ve built the frame, the next step is to cut a hole through the Styrofoam cooler to fit the bulb. Remember, the bulb is essential here as it’s the one responsible for regulating the temperature. So, using a drill, cut a hole 1-inch wide. Make sure the hole is not too close to the lid nor too close to the bottom of the incubator.
Once you’ve cut the hole, drill another hole ¾ inches wide on the wooden cube to allow the electrical cord to pass through. Now, when drilling the hole on the Styrofoam cooler, make sure it’s enough to accommodate the bulb holder. If the hole is too big, it might end up leaving some gaps. These gaps can potentially vent humid air out making the incubator ineffective.
- Step Three: Cut Ventilation Holes and Viewing Window
Ventilation holes are very important when making a DIY incubator as they improve your chances of making successful hatches. In this step, you’ll need to drill at least two holes on each side of the incubator and four at the top.
Once you’re through drilling the ventilation holes, the next step is to upgrade your incubator with a viewing window at the top. A viewing window is very important in an incubator as it allows you to monitor the temperature and humidity readings while still viewing the status of the eggs.
So, using a serrated knife, cut a hole on the Styrofoam lid then pick glass from your picture frame and place it on top. Tape the edges of the viewing glass using clear tape to secure it against the Styrofoam lid.
- Step Four: Wire the Bulb
Having drilled the hole for the light bulb, it’s now time to do some simple wiring. So, to connect the bulb holder, simply screw it on the wall of the incubator and pass the wiring through the hole to the outside of the box. When it comes to all things electrical, you need to observe safety at all costs. In case you’re unsure of which wires to connect, have a professional do the wiring for you.
- Step Five: Fixing the Wire Mesh
With our DIY incubator nearly, done, it’s time to add a chicken mesh to create a stable place for the eggs to rest on. Here, you can decide to use whichever materials you have. Some people will prefer to use their cooking racks by placing them on top of a baking tray to elevate them. This is a great idea, as the cooking rack will keep the eggs stable while the baking tray will offer a safe place to pour the water on.
Others will prefer to use a wire mesh by doing the following. First, measure the size of the wire mesh to ensure that it fits inside the incubator. Second, lay the wire mesh on the floor and bend the edges at a 90° angle. With the bend edges facing up, bend them once more at another 90° angle to have them point left or right.
At this point, you’ll have something that resembles a cage. Pick the wire mesh and place it inside the incubator with the bent edges facing down. These edges will help to raise the wire mesh a bit.
- Step Six: Add Your Thermometer and Hygrometer
At this point, all the hard work is through and what’s remaining is just to add the necessary equipment that will allow your incubator to function optimally. So, add a thermometer and a hygrometer inside the incubator and close enough to where the eggs will be. Remember, the work of these tools is to track the temperature and the humidity inside the incubator. Therefore, you need to ensure that both of them have the highest rate of accuracy.
- Step Seven: Add Water, Bulb, and a Wet Sponge
Once you’ve added the temperature and humidity tools, the next step is to add a source of heat and humidity. Here, you’ll need to add a petri dish or a trough of water inside the incubator. You can also add a wet sponge inside a trough to raise the humidity level. To raise the temperature, add a bulb, most preferably a 40-60 watts bulb, depending on the size of your incubator.
- Step Eight: Test the Incubator
Now that everything is done, you’ll finalize the project by testing the incubator. This is very important, as it will allow you to calibrate the temperature and humidity tools as well as rectify any slight problems you’ll notice. So, turn on the bulb and arrange everything the same way you would have if you had eggs inside.
Close the lid and monitor temperature and humidity changes for a day or two. Remember, temperatures inside the incubator should be maintained at 99-102°F while humidity should range at 50-55% for the first 18 days and 65-75% for the final 3 days.
As always, if humidity is too high, you can either open the vent holes or reduce the amount of water inside the incubator. If it’s too low, then you can tape the vent holes and add more water inside the incubator.
- Step Nine: Put in Fertilized Eggs
Now that you’ve tested the incubator and you’re sure it’s fully functional, the last step is to add the eggs. Here, you have to be very keen not to add unfertilized eggs. If you have some chicken and a rooster, then you’re lucky as your eggs are definitely fertilized.
If you don’t, contact poultry farmers in your neighborhood to see whether you can get some fertilized eggs. Once you’re certain the eggs are fertilized, place them inside the incubator and start the incubation process.
So, all the information you were looking for has been discussed in this guide. However, I would like to mention that our discussion is specifically based on how to make a still-air incubator. That’s because this incubator doesn’t have a fan.
But, in case you’d like to add one, then you can modify the plan and add a computer fan to make it a forced-air incubator. Also, you can decide to add a thermostat to constantly monitor the temperature and automatically turn the bulb on/off to regulate temperature.
If this seems like an extra hard chore, then you can consider using a dimmable bulb instead to regulate temperature. With that said, we believe that this guide has offered you a lot of useful information on how to make an egg incubator.
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Hello, I am John Reid. I have been raising chickens for the last 15 years. I have got my experience from my father. My father is the owner of a large chicken farm. This is our family business that has been continuing for over 35 years. I am very interested in backyard chickens and I know how to take care of them. You can learn more About Us here. Happy Reading!!