incubator built from scrap parts and "real" thermostat

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mucm
Newly Hatched Chick
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incubator built from scrap parts and "real" thermostat

Post by mucm » Thu Mar 12, 2020 2:15 am

- foam cooler
- half an extension cord
- christmas lights string of 25
- ether wafer thermostat
- metal electrical box
- wall outlet
- marettes (wire nuts)
- thermometer hygrometer
- jar
- sponge
- aluminum foil roasting pan
- old computer fan
- old cell phone charger
- plastic produce container (from salad mix, strawberries, etc.)

The foam cooler I got from a sushi restaurant, they get their fish delivered in them on ice, seems like once or twice a week. I asked at two different restaurants and they were both happy to give them away (one was bigger, could have held 4 dozen eggs in there, I started with the smaller one).

The extension cord was scrap ripped out that the previous house owner had used to "hard wire" his dishwasher up through the floor from a plug in the basement : - (

The christmas lights I already had on hand; they were probably $10 but they are not damaged to make them work here.

The thermostat can be bought new from GQF Manufacturing parts page, or a Canadian distributor ( http://www.gqfmfg.com/international ) I checked with was, if I recall, Berry Hill Limited and wanted $46 for them. I found a guy getting rid of two of them on kijiji for $25 each.

The electrical box, outlet, and marettes I also had in my spares box, probably about $5 worth.

The thermometer hygrometer was about $9 at big box orange logo store. Plus I had two other better ones, high-school-science-lab type which I used to make sure I could trust it (the cheap one showed 1°C above the better ones).

The jar, sponge, foil pan, computer fan, cell phone charger I had on hand, and the produce container I pulled out of recycling.

I broke the tab to split the duplex outlet into two separately wired outlets. One is switched by the thermostat, and the christmas lights are plugged there, and the other one is always on, and the fan is plugged there.

I had read that the ether wafer thermostats were more precise, and I certainly found that to be the case. They have a smaller hysteresis (smaller temperature gap between where they click on to call for heat, and click off to turn off the heat). I have been watching it for about 2 days now, experimenting with the internal layout, and ventilation holes, noting the temperature and humidity for 3-6 h after each change. Sometimes I just check every 30-60 min, and sometimes I check it every click-on and click-off for several cycles (they are only 2 or 3 minutes apart).

So currently it heats up, when I'll hear it click off (i.e. the warmest point of its cycle), I'll take the foam off the window and it'll read 37.25 and 37.0 on the better thermometers and 38.0 on the cheap one. Then cools off slowly about 3-5 min, until I hear it click back on (i.e. the coolest point of its cycle) and they'll read 37.0, 36.75, and 37.5 respectively. So I'm pretty happy with that stability, although perhaps I should raise the target point another 0.5 °C as my book-learning (Gail Damerow's Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens) says most forced air incubators have an operating temperature of 37.5 °C (99.5 °F)

I have 12 holes 1/4" each in the plastic window, I'm considering these exhaust holes since they're in the top where its warmest. And I have 10 holes, also 1/4", in the bottom of the opposite end wall, I'm considering this is inlet air because it is cooler at the bottom. I had read that in most incubators you control the humidity by controlling the surface area of the water reservoir, or by opening and closing external vent holes. When I started with all 10 open (just speaking of the "inlet" holes here), it would not get above about 53% humidity +/- 1%. When I covered 2 or 4 of them I did not see much difference. When I covered 8 of them it leveled off at 63% +/- 1%.

So overall I'm happy with both the temperature and the humidity. My questions for anyone more experienced would be:

1) is it a problem to open the lid every day or two? (which I'll have to do to refill the water reservoir). I know from the book that I should at least turn the fan off at this time so the eggs aren't fanned with the cooler air. If I do it quickly it seems to only drop from 37 to about 30 (the room is about 20), and takes 10 or 20 minutes to get back up to temperature. The humidity drops from 60 to 45 or 40% and although it gets the first bit back quickly (10 or 20 minutes, back to 50%) it seems to take another half hour to get the next 5% to 55%, and maybe an hour to get the next 5% to 60%. Its tough to say, I haven't opened all that many times yet, and I've been changing some things on some of those times (position of fan, etc).

2) would you feel this is too little oxygen exchange? as I said I have 12 "exhaust" holes at the top but currently (to control the humidity) only 2 "inlet" holes at the bottom. The 12 holes at the top are not totally unobstructed either, as I keep the cut-out foam there over the plastic, but it has about 1-2 mm all the way around the approx. 10 cm square opening. Also I'm sure some of what I'm calling "exhaust" holes are letting air inwards too because I can see patterns in the way the clear plastic fogs up.

I included one of the earlier photos with the egg cartons in place so you can see the scale, but I still have to fit in some kind of separator platform to keep the chicks from the workings and hot light bulbs and water jar.
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4
-- Martin and Monica

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mucm
Newly Hatched Chick
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Location: East York, Ont.
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Re: incubator built from scrap parts and "real" thermostat

Post by mucm » Thu Mar 12, 2020 9:30 am

mucm wrote:
Thu Mar 12, 2020 2:15 am
1) is it a problem to open the lid every day or two? (which I'll have to do to refill the water reservoir).
... which I'll also have to open to hand turn the eggs

Also I should have mentioned that only 6 of the 25 christmas lights are being used. The safety tag on the wire says it is rated for 175 W, so at most they would be 7 W bulbs. But I suspect they are actually 5 W bulbs, making this a 30 W heat source, plus a little bit of waste heat from the <1 W fan, and <1 W phone charger to convert AC to DC to power the fan.

(edit) okay I looked at the fine print on the bulbs' metal base, it is indeed 7 W, making the whole thing 42 W.
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windwalkingwolf
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Re: incubator built from scrap parts and "real" thermostat

Post by windwalkingwolf » Mon Mar 16, 2020 3:21 pm

Fabulous, I love it when people make stuff like this! It means another hatching addict will soon join the ranks :stars:
mucm wrote:
Thu Mar 12, 2020 2:15 am

1) is it a problem to open the lid every day or two? (which I'll have to do to refill the water reservoir). I know from the book that I should at least turn the fan off at this time so the eggs aren't fanned with the cooler air. If I do it quickly it seems to only drop from 37 to about 30 (the room is about 20), and takes 10 or 20 minutes to get back up to temperature. The humidity drops from 60 to 45 or 40% and although it gets the first bit back quickly (10 or 20 minutes, back to 50%) it seems to take another half hour to get the next 5% to 55%, and maybe an hour to get the next 5% to 60%. Its tough to say, I haven't opened all that many times yet, and I've been changing some things on some of those times (position of fan, etc).
No, no problem whatsoever. Since you'll be hand-turning the eggs, you'll need to open the lid at least twice a day anyway. The eggs can cool for quite some time and still hatch well: hens leave the nest (usually) daily for anywhere from 5-30 minutes and all is well.
mucm wrote:
Thu Mar 12, 2020 2:15 am
2) would you feel this is too little oxygen exchange?
Nope, they don't need quantity, just quality. As long as fresh air can get in and stale air can get out. The more holes you have, the less control over heat and humidity you will have so less is more.

Keep the incubator somewhere where the temperature is extremely stable, like a basement or a closet. Well away from heat sources, doors, windows, drafts and sunbeams. Don't worry too much about turning the fan off beforehand, it's an unnecessary step and you risk forgetting to turn it back ON ( I could be projecting here) :laugh:
And finally, WASH YOUR HANDS before turning your eggs. Wash them well, with liquid soap and water. Germs, residues and oils on your hands can kill embryos.
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kenya
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Re: incubator built from scrap parts and "real" thermostat

Post by kenya » Mon Mar 16, 2020 3:38 pm

My husband made me one a few years ago but wood , I love it have hatched turkeys, ducks and many different breeds of chickens. My best incubator. It's nice that there are people like yourself who can engineer these things. I would not have a clue and have no interest learning how to do it. Hense the need for people like yourself and my husband.
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