Hatcher or Hen?

Homebrew Incubator
I am debating hatching our next round of eggs with hens or my homebuilt incubator. The hens make the job easier – I don’t have to turn eggs three times a day. But that takes them out of production and means I lose about 22 eggs per hen that I divert to hatching eggs.

I’ve had very good results with my homebuilt incubator with duck, chicken and guinea eggs. My incubator is a large picnic cooler with a thermostatically controlled light bulb for heat and computer muffin fan for circulation. The bottom two thirds of the cooler is filled with gallon jugs of water for thermal mass and humidity control. I use a min-max thermometer with a humidity indicator. The last part isn’t necessary but fun.

Originally I also had an aquarium air pump introducing fresh air to the cooler but I don’t think it is necessary. When I open and close the cooler three times a day to turn eggs (after each meal) I think it does plenty of air exchange.

I built it out of common parts I had but you can buy the parts (fan, bulb, cord, thermostat for a furnace, etc) at a hardware store. The circuitry is pretty simple and if you are handy with such things you can figure it out. Put the fan to only come on when the bulb comes on to avoid overheating. I have promised someone that at some point I’ll write up plans and schematics – I’m waiting for the figurative rainy day. :) Seems there is never enough time.

The upgrade I would add to it is to make a automatic egg turner. Then I’ll need to add the aquarium pump back. This is on our to-do list for homeschool but may not happen for another year.

The cost is about the same as the commercial small incubators but it is much larger so it does a lot of eggs at a time.

You can see some photos and discussion of hatching at A Winner, Peep-Peep, New Chicks

61째F/45째F Light Rain

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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7 Responses to Hatcher or Hen?

  1. Lené Gary says:

    For a fourth grade science project, I made a homemade incubator from a cardboard box. My mother and I were happy when 2 of the 12 eggs hatched into healthy chickens. Thanks for bringing back the memory.

  2. Julie says:

    My favorite postings are the ones where you’ve built whatever-it-is-you-need-thing. I love finding out how things work.

  3. brandy says:

    Build your own! I say this just because I too am always interested in the end results of your diy projects! I didn’t realise chickens loose that many eggs..do they kick them?

    And good gosh could her cheeks be any more pinchable!

  4. Anonymous says:

    For sure the cutest little red cheek girl I have ever seen..Thanks for the smile..May Peaceful days be in your lives…

  5. Craig says:

    Pretty Cool, Walter. I’m especially happy to hear that you might include it in your homeschool curriculum. Science + Baby chicks = good lesson!

  6. Arnel Agravante says:

    Hi, i like the picture above and the cutie little girl…
    today is my day two using my home made incubator using fruit styro box with light bulb for heating and 12v PC Fan for circulating the heat around, a temp gauge and a small bowl of water just beneath the bulb for humidity… I am maintaining the temp 96.5 F.
    I am incubating eggs from my Pekin and Muscovy ducks… i pray that eggs will be hatched and i am thinking of using picnic cooler as well…
    Thanks Walter for giving me an idea to so i can accommodate more eggs in the next batch.

  7. Mike says:

    A fully automatic incubator performs exactly as it sounds: eggs are turned by the incubator completely automatically with no work required by the user.

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