Build Your Own Egg Incubator

A poultry farmer offers up the lessons she learned after constructing her own incubation cabinet to hatch rare heritage chicks.

| February/March 2017

Incubator 1

The author transfers eggs to this well-insulated cabinet three days before they hatch.

Photo by Julie Gauthier

My current homemade hatcher must be the fifth or sixth version I’ve built, though I’ve lost track of my total number of DIY adventures in incubation. Further, this homemade hatcher has undergone three major redesigns. I’m now satisfied with its performance, but I’ll never quit tinkering with it. I use it to hatch approximately 600 chicks of rare heritage turkeys, geese, chickens, and ducks during the January-to-June breeding season each year.

When I set out to build my own egg incubator about five years ago, I had several goals in mind:

• Multi-stage incubation (incubate 150 chicken or duck eggs and hatch 30 eggs at one time).

• Steady temperature in an unheated garage in January.

• Attractiveness that would match a nice piece of furniture.

Designing a DIY Incubator

Originally, I wanted a multi-stage incubator that would do it all: incubate on automatically turned racks and hatch on a stationary bottom shelf. It didn’t take long for me to abandon that idea after realizing that hatching is a messy process and that clean, quietly incubating eggs shouldn’t have to deal with commotion and dander fallout. Also, it’s nearly impossible to maintain ideal, steady humidity and temperature conditions for both hatching and incubating within a single unit. These days, I transfer eggs from one of several incubators to this unit three days before the eggs hatch. As a hatcher, this unit can keep up to 150 hatchlings healthy and happy. The self-turning mechanism isn’t used routinely, but it still works, and in case of an emergency, I can use the cabinet as an incubator once again. Here’s how I put together my DIY incubator (see my Materials List for a rundown of the supplies I used).

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