Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Hatching Eggs & Homemade Incubator

Note to readers, this was written in March and updated April 3rd, 2018.

It's another -15c freezing cold morning out there. Hard to believe in January it was +15c. Still, the march towards Spring 2018 continues with planting galore, and new life in the incubator. So much new life that Steph has actually built me a much larger incubator so now I have room for many many more eggs and a hatcher and brooder inside as well.

Incubators are essentially mimicking the warmth, humidity and movements of the mother bird so re-creating them isn't terribly difficult. You need an environment that has approx 99.5 degrees f (37.5c) about 50% humidity, and you must turn the eggs regularly until a few days prior to hatching. If you've followed us for  while you will  have seen our styrofoam cooler made into an incubator using a thermostat and a lightbulb. It worked reasonably well but had a limited capacity. Our newer model is a small fridge that we picked up in a junk pile at the side of the road last spring. It has two headlight bulbs from an old car as the heat source, fans that already existed in the fridge, and Steph put on a digital controller that maintains the temperature between 99 and 100 degrees so that the average is 99.5 and the fans circulate the air. The unit is overloaded with eggs right now so the airflow isn't ideal but we are still seeing growth inside the eggs so we are excited to see how our hatches go over the next few weeks.Oh, there is a little piece of insulation on the back to cover the wiring but not to restrict the airflow.

The cost for the fridge conversion is:

Fridge body ....free
Insulation ........$1                      Total Cost $26.   Capacity 4-6 dozen.
Controller .......$25

Our next model is similar to both the incubator above and the giant seed sprouting unit that we have for our plants. It has an electric fan heater as the heat source, a digital controller that turns the heat on and off, and various shelves inside at different levels for incubating (trays full of growing eggs), hatching (trays of eggs that do not get turned) and then two areas for brooding where the newly hatched chicks go to dry off, stay warm and learn to eat and drink for the first week or so. We used one sheet of 1/4" OSB, one 2x4 cut down into 2x2, some drywall screws, hardware cloth to provide airflow space around the insides of the box, hinges and a latch, plus a heater we already owned and of course the requisite $25 controller. The box measures 2'x2' and is 4' tall and has R-12 insulation around the outside and vapour barrier, plus a door seal make out of a piece of vapour barrier plastic.

Total cost for the bigger box is:

Box .....................$15                  Capacity 20 dz incubating + 10 dozen hatching
Hardware ...........$ 6                   + 20 dozen in the brooder compartments
Insulation ...........$10
Heater (new).......$22
Hardware cloth...$ 4                  Total value new = $72.00 Cdn.
Controller ...........$25

In reality, we already had the OSB, panels that got cut to make the ends and the shelves, the heater and the hardware cloth. I bought screws, hinges and a latch for a grand total of $6 and the controller for $25. We may also put a fan in there similar to the one on the sprouter to help circulate the air from top to bottom and they're $12 each. All-in-all it's a great and simple project. I'm going to ask Steph to put together a video or an e-book so that you can go ahead and build your own for  fraction of the cost of buying a unit new. You should get a hygrometer to measure humidity and a couple of good thermometers as well and then you’re all set. Ours works very well and hatched chicks on April 2/3 2018.

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