Chickens · Homestead

DIY Incubator (for $8)

As I sit down with my coffee this morning thinking of what I wanted to share with you I walk past my chick eggs incubating and it hit me – OF COURSE! So I took a few pictures and here I am.

I currently have a flock of 5 chickens: 4 hens and a rooster. Two of these are silkies (rooster and one hen) which is what we’ve decided we want more of. They are a bit larger in size compared to my bantams and we just love their temperament, not to mention the fluff!

The problem was that none of my hens, not my silkie, not my two bantams, and not my momma hen wanted to sit on a damn egg! So as great as it is when we collect eggs to not have any girls pecking the crap out of my hand, it’s a bummer when it comes to growing my flock.

So I started researching incubators. Of course I looked at the ones sold by feed stores in town and ones that were available on Amazon but they had problems here and there as far as the reviews went. I decided rather than spending $30 minimum on a decent incubator that won’t turn the eggs so I’m still having to babysit them.

That led me to Pinterest because come on, who doesn’t love finding a good DIY project on Pinterest?! So I found a plan for one made from a Styrofoam cooler so since I had three of these sitting in my garage I thought it was worth a shot.

I went to Target and bought a basic thermometer/humidity gauge as that was the only place I could find one under $10 (in fact I bought this one for $3.99) went over and got a 40 watt light bulb and then I swung by goodwill and found a picture frame with glass in an 8″ x 10″ size for $0.99 and went right back to my house to start work on my incubator. At home I had a Styrofoam cooler in a 30 quart sized (about $4 at Walmart) and a lamp base that I could turn on it’s side. The one I have at home has a locking nut sort of thing that will tighten down on the lampshade to hold it in place. This was incredibly helpful when adding to my incubator. The final thing I had at home was caulk (white, clear doesn’t matter)

So to the steps –

  1. Remove the glass from the picture frame and toss the frame. Lay the cooler on it’s side and lay the glass centered as much as possible. Outline around the glass, and set the glass aside. draw a line inside of the original box about 1/2 inch, this will act like a frame to rest the glass on. Using a knife or a razor blade, cut out the inner square leaving the original outline. Using the same razor blade, cut halfway through the depth of the cooler around the entire perimeter. Cut the original line down to the halfway cut. This will leave a ledge for you to rest the glass on. Once you have the glass in place caulk around the perimeter of glass.
  2. Using caution to not rest your arm on the fresh caulking (yeah I did that about 4 times) rest your lamp on the table next to the cooler. You will want to make sure that the lamp rests well when leaned up to cooler. I had to fidget with it a little bit to get it at the right angle so take your time. Also make sure this isn’t too close to the bottom of the cooler. Some people use a lamp with a head that can rotate and move around, so you have a couple options there. You’re going to want to trace around the lamp socket once you get it arranged just right and cut that out using your knife as well. This is where the locking nut of the lamp came in handy because I was able to use that to tighten around the Styrofoam. Add the light bulb on the inside and that part is done.
  3. The final steps are to put a bowl of water inside (I used a sandwich container) and add the thermometer. Once the caulking is done you should test out your incubator and make sure the temperature is right. I used this guide to make sure my temperatures and the humidity are right. I found it here at the Backyard Chicken website. incubation-information
  4. The only other thing that I’ve done is tried a few of the eggs from each of my hens, as in ate them. By doing so I could see if they were clearly fertilized or not and be prepared for chicks not hatching.
  5. I made a chart to track my eggs as I started them on different days (about three days apart) and to remind myself of what day I’m on, when I need to turn the eggs, and when to stop turning them. I can also make notes after I candle the eggs and note if I’m noticing any changes. I made this on a piece of graph paper but it looks something like this:

incubator-monitoring** Just a note about the Incubator Monitoring, the yellow column is when you candle the eggs and and days 18-22 are for you to mark off as they progress but you aren’t supposed to turn the eggs, that’s what 8am and 8pm are for. I have read that you should turn the eggs 5 times per day but I only did this the first couple days and then switched to twice a day.

And there you go, you’re all set.

Just wanted to add this diagram in case you want it for candling and seeing the progress of your chicks. Also found on the Backyard Chickens website here.


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