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Author Topic: DIY Cabinet Incubator (Old Refrigerator)  (Read 23690 times)
Little Bear Game Farm
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« on: July 06, 2008, 04:47:40 PM »

HI - I've noticed a lot of posts about building your own incubator.  Here is what I am currently working on.  It is based on this web link http://www.utm.edu/departments/cece/idea/incu.shtml
Hope it helps!

Step 1:  I got an extremely old refrigerator from my dad.  I removed everything from the inside, trays, drawers, etc.  I did not attempt to remove the pump and coils because I did not want to deal with the freon.  Removing these will reduce the weight a lot but freon could cause great injury and is illegal to remove into the atmosphere. 

Step 2:  I sanded all of the rust off of the interior and exterior of the fridge and spray painted it all.

Step 3:  I bolted two 2x4's on the back of the interior of the fridge.  These will be used for shelf supports and also create a 1 1/2" false back to the fridge.

Step 4:  I bolted two 1x4's to the sides of the fridge.  These will support the front of the top shelf and also support the axles of the setting trays.  Make sure these are located where the center of your setting trays will be.

Step 5:  I installed a sheet of peg board on the face of the back 2x4's.  This creates the false back to help air flow.  My fans will blow air down the front and then it will circulate up the back to be reheated.  I used peg board because it was cheap and I thought the perforations might help air flow.

Step 6:  I installed a 2x4 on the front of the side braces, a 1x4 on the face of the peg board, and screwed 1/2" plywood down for the top shelf.  My shelf is 10" down from the top of the fridge because the fridge is smaller.  I would advise more room up there so you can get your cordless in there and not have to hand screw everything!

Step 7:  I installed two metal boxes on the shelf with two pocelain bulb holders.  These were wired to a switch on the outside of the fridge.

Step 8:  I installed the fan on the front of the shelf.  The fan is from my parents indoor wood stove.  I had planned on using a bath fan as in the web link but received this one for free.  The fan is also wired to a switch on the outside of the fridge.  The fan and heat lights are wired on the same circuit (cord).  The tin deflectors you see in the pics were installed because I didn't want air blowing directly on the eggs.

Step 9:  I installed an interior light on the underside of the top shelf.  This was also wired to an exterior switch.  I also ran a wire from another switch into the fridge for an auto egg turner.  These two items will be wired on the same circuit (cord).

Step 10:  I built setting trays by ripping down a 1x4 so it is 1 3/4" wide and used that for the sides.  I stapled 1/2" wire mesh to the bottom.  These were built to the exact dimensions of two GQF setting trays. 

Step 11:  I cut a 16"x36" hole in the fridge door.  Plexiglass was attached over the opening with sheet metal screws (self tappers).

I still need to install an electronic thermostat, hatching trays, an auto egg turner, and trim out the door.  I also need to experiment with what size bulbs I need to use to generate enough heat for the incubator.  Thermostats and hygrometers will be placed in the upper and lower areas to monitor conditions.  Also, the box in the lower corner was the freezer.  I am going to use this to hold a humidity pan with an auto fill on the outside of the fridge.  Currently, I have about $50 invested with half of that being spray paint.  I did receive the fridge and fan for free.

I do have a couple questions if anyone can help  :?:

Does anyone have any ideas for an auto egg turner other than buying the $115 one from the GQF 1502?

Is a wafer thermostat necessary?  I've never worked with one and don't know how to wire that in conjunction with an electronic thermostat.

Will having the humidity pan in the bottom of the incubator work?  I figured the hatching trays will be down there and they require more humidity but don't know if the moisture will work its way up.

Here's a link for pic's.  http://s310.photobucket.com/albums/kk408/scuba2280/

Good Luck to all DIYers who try this.

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Chukar and Pheasant Propogation - Trust my advice based on the knowledge that I have not been doing this very long and don't know a lot more than I do know...  But at least I know that I don't know
Little Bear Game Farm
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« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2008, 09:26:51 PM »

I've got a little more done and found out a few things.

Step 12:  I built 3 of the setting trays mentioned before.  I fastened a 1 x 4 brace across the bottom with a couple pieces of 1x4 coming off the bottom.  I put a bolt through these to be supports.

Step 13:  I put bolts through the pieces that came down from the brace.  Then, I drilled a hole in one of the side boards and screwed a v-cut piece to the other side board.  This way you can take the trays out more easily.

Step 14:  I built a hatching tray the same way as the setting trays only its got the 4" side walls so the chicks can't flop out.  I put 1/4" wire mesh on the bottom and there is a tray underneath for easy clean up.

I installed a thermostat on the back of the fridge.  With the wiring I used, I had to use a thermostat made for base board heaters so it could handle the 110 volt circuit it was on.  I had to play around a little bit to find the right setting to maintain heat.  Two 125 watt bulbs can bring the incubator up to temp. 

Also, I just used strips of plywood with overdrilled holes to fasten all three setting trays together.  It will be a manual unit for now until I can figure out some way to make it auto. 

I have invested $70 in it so far but have not put a batch through it yet.  I will let everyone know if it actually can hatch eggs.

There are more pics posted if anyone is trying to follow my shabby directions....
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Chukar and Pheasant Propogation - Trust my advice based on the knowledge that I have not been doing this very long and don't know a lot more than I do know...  But at least I know that I don't know
CharlieHorse
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« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2008, 11:37:05 PM »

Looks real good scuba!

I don't know about humidity pan in the bottom, I think the fan needs to blow across the water and it is usually neccasary to use humidity pads in order to get the humidity level desired.

I'd have to question the accuracy of the baseboard thermostat. Any heating and cooling thermostat would have too much of a differential and a baseboard thermostat is one of the poorest thermostats that I know of.  The differential (in case you don't know) on a thermostat allows the temperature in the room to change 3-4 degrees before it kicks on and off (otherwise your furnace would cycle on and off repeatedly), some have a "anticipator" that can be adjusted to increase or decrease this setting, but I don't believe that you can adjust it down far enough to maintain a nice smooth constant temperature. Commercially built incubators are switching on and off constantly (quite a few times in a minute). I'd invest in a wafer type or electronic incubator thermostat before I would rely on that thing.  There's not a whole lot of options on thermostats when you're trying to maintain a constant even 99.5 degrees....been there. Most HVAC stats won't even go that high.

Look here for complete assembly:

http://www.cutlersupply.com/store/item.0757.html

Browse around the site for more goodies.

Good Luck and   s98
« Last Edit: July 10, 2008, 11:38:53 PM by CharlieHorse » Logged

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Little Bear Game Farm
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« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2008, 05:49:16 PM »

Charlie, you were right on about the HVAC thermo, temps ranged from 91 to 106, not what I'm looking for.  So, I broke down today and sent a couple hundred to Cutler for an electric thermo and the auto turner for the 1502.  I'm hoping to get this thing going soon because my luck has gotten even worse with the little giant foced air.  35% hatch on my last batch of coturnix.  It was fairly hot the week the eggs were shipped to me, so that may be a cause.  One more batch through the little giant with homegrown eggs, then hopefully I'll have the big one going!
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Chukar and Pheasant Propogation - Trust my advice based on the knowledge that I have not been doing this very long and don't know a lot more than I do know...  But at least I know that I don't know
Little Bear Game Farm
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« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2008, 08:27:17 AM »

Good Morning!

Does anyone know how much ventilation is required for an incubator during setting and also during hatching?  A couple threads said to drill a bunch of holes in the back when you build your own incubator but that is kind of broad.

Also, I found an old thread (2005) that said an electronic thermostat can not handle the amperage of using light bulbs for a heat source and will burn up.  Has anyone had this problem?  I wish I had seen that thread a couple days ago because I got an electro thermo coming from Cutler and was hoping to get my project up and running this weekend.

Thanks!
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Chukar and Pheasant Propogation - Trust my advice based on the knowledge that I have not been doing this very long and don't know a lot more than I do know...  But at least I know that I don't know
CharlieHorse
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« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2008, 09:53:35 AM »

Quote
an electronic thermostat can not handle the amperage of using light bulbs for a heat source and will burn up.

I don't know what the amp rating is on the stats, but I'd think they would be good for 250 watts (about 2.3 amps) or more?  I know the wafer switch is good for it.  Wire one of those electronic stats up wrong and you'll need a new one. 
« Last Edit: July 16, 2008, 10:17:09 AM by CharlieHorse » Logged

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wildergamebirds
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« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2008, 10:11:27 AM »


  You might need to use a relay.  Check amperage rating, first.  You want a little "cushion" in rating, in case of voltage drop.  Like Charlie said, it will probably work.  Graingers is a good place to look for relay, if you need one.  They also have the heat elements used in many of the larger incubators.  They are not cheap, but last forever.
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Pheasant Hollow Farm
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« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2008, 10:44:07 AM »

Good Morning!

Does anyone know how much ventilation is required for an incubator during setting and also during hatching?  A couple threads said to drill a bunch of holes in the back when you build your own incubator but that is kind of broad.

Also, I found an old thread (2005) that said an electronic thermostat can not handle the amperage of using light bulbs for a heat source and will burn up.  Has anyone had this problem?  I wish I had seen that thread a couple days ago because I got an electro thermo coming from Cutler and was hoping to get my project up and running this weekend.

Thanks!

scuba2280 question to:

Quote
Does anyone know how much ventilation is required for an incubator during setting and also during hatching?  A couple threads said to drill a bunch of holes in the back when you build your own incubator but that is kind of broad.


It is not so much about ventilation, as it is about HUMIDITY CONTROL! Remember, humidity will be in direct correlation to empty space as to occupied space, where as the eggs will absorb the moisture, and an empty cabinet will condensate, and form water droplets and produce rain.

The same principle as a terrarium. Take a fish tank and add soil, water, and a heat source, then cover with plastic wrap. You will see the water forming on the top of the plastic wrap. Once the entrap air has escaped, the moisture is removed and then will dry out without add water.

By adding plants to the terrarium, like the adding of additional eggs to a 1/2 loaded incubator, the moisture will dissipate faster. Controlling the amount of moisture is the key issue.

Depending on the size of the converted Refrigerator to an incubator and the air circulating fan, heat source and water pan has been properly located, this is where I would start:

Drill 4,  2" holes, two (2) on top, both side of the incubator and two (2) on the bottom both side, and make at two (2) slide covers for the top to regulated (open and closing the holes) the humidity if your heat source and water pan/tray are on top. The air circulating fan should be blowing over the top of the water pan.

The top two (2) holes are the inlet vent, and the bottom two (2) are for the exhaust vent. Keep the back of your incubator/ Refrigerator at least two (2) feet from the wall and out of direct sunlight, and clear of any obstructions for the air to circulate. Do a test run of the humidity, if you can't achieve the desired humidity either go with smaller holes, or enlarge them.

Steve
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Little Bear Game Farm
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« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2008, 01:55:06 PM »

Thank You!  Great Info!

So basically, I will be changing my ventilation requirements constantly depending on if I have one or all three of my setting trays loaded or if my hatching tray is being utilized. 

I've read humidity requirements are higher during the hatching process.  My setup is basically the same as the Sportsman with the hatching tray at the bottom.  Wouldn't there be a higher humidity directly after the fan meaning the eggs in the setting trays would actually grab more of the moisture before the air moved down to the hatching eggs.   I do mist my eggs when I place them in the hatcher to soften them.  Is there another way to increase the humidity in the bottom level of the incubator by the hatching tray?  I've never seen a Sportsman in person but would it make more sense to have the hatching tray closest to the fan to be able to grab the most moisture?  OK, I'll stop now....

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Pheasant Hollow Farm
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« Reply #9 on: July 16, 2008, 02:46:08 PM »

Thank You!  Great Info!

So basically, I will be changing my ventilation requirements constantly depending on if I have one or all three of my setting trays loaded or if my hatching tray is being utilized. 

I've read humidity requirements are higher during the hatching process.  My setup is basically the same as the Sportsman with the hatching tray at the bottom.  Wouldn't there be a higher humidity directly after the fan meaning the eggs in the setting trays would actually grab more of the moisture before the air moved down to the hatching eggs.   I do mist my eggs when I place them in the hatcher to soften them.  Is there another way to increase the humidity in the bottom level of the incubator by the hatching tray?  I've never seen a Sportsman in person but would it make more sense to have the hatching tray closest to the fan to be able to grab the most moisture?  OK, I'll stop now....



scuba2280,

It takes more adjustments to correct the humidity if more eggs are loaded. The proper way to do it is if you completely load the incubator first. If you donít have a full load just incubate what you have. Constant alteration of the humidity level is not good for the eggs. That is why they make incubators of different sizes. They are made to be run at full capacity.

Heat rises, this is why the air circulating fan is used. The theory behind it is to distribute an even heat. Much like the newer convection ovens in the house to bake or roast with, compared to the standard house ovens without the circulating fan.

I havenít found that much difference in the humidity in the GQF from top to bottom, but then again my hatches have been in the 90-95% range, and I use an independent hatcher. This is what the fan also achieves; it distributes both the heat and humidity. This is the reason why GQF has the thermometer mounted on the side of the incubator, and has it over the water tray. The same reason being that a wick can be applied over the thermometer stem and the remaining end of the wick in the water tray to give you your relative humidity readings as a wet bulb temperature, as the fan is blowing warm air over the dampened wick.

Quote
Is there another way to increase the humidity in the bottom level of the incubator by the hatching tray
I donít think so, the relative readings are the overall reading in the contained compartment. You might be able to achieve this by building a separate enclosed compartment, adding an additional heater, fan, and water tray.

By restricting the airflow from the top, the overall humidity is going to rise, keep in mind heat rises. By the closing of the bottom holes, or regulating the openings, will only cause water to settle on the bottom floor of the incubator.

You have to realize, the GQF incubator bottom-hatching tray is not set up to hatch a full complement of the 3 turning egg trays of incubated eggs. The bottom tray is to be used as a hatcher for only one lot of eggs (1) tray.

If you want to use the incubator with the 3 trays as a hatcher, get 3 tops to cover the eggs and then change the temps and humidity level for the appropriate eggs you are doing. This rule of thumb would also adhere to the converted refrigerator.

Hope this helps!

Steve
Pheasant Hollow Farm
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« Reply #10 on: July 16, 2008, 03:17:30 PM »

So, I'm guessing this is your first year raising game birds  :?: This is an unbelievable amount of help and I definitely appreciate it.  I can't wait to get this thing going and that is my plan, to be able to set a weeks worth of eggs each week for my coturnix and rotate them to the hatching tray each week. 

Thanks Steve!
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Chukar and Pheasant Propogation - Trust my advice based on the knowledge that I have not been doing this very long and don't know a lot more than I do know...  But at least I know that I don't know
Pheasant Hollow Farm
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« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2008, 03:21:18 PM »

So, I'm guessing this is your first year raising game birds  :?: This is an unbelievable amount of help and I definitely appreciate it.  I can't wait to get this thing going and that is my plan, to be able to set a weeks worth of eggs each week for my coturnix and rotate them to the hatching tray each week. 

Thanks Steve!

Good luck to ya scuba2280 ! Keep us posted on the developments. Glad to be of help.

Steve
Pheasant Hollow Farm

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Little Bear Game Farm
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« Reply #12 on: July 21, 2008, 05:55:11 PM »

Finally got her going this past weekend.  It was a little trickier than than what I thought it would be when I started.  I would recommend to people to have all of the parts first.  I got lucky in that I was able to fit the auto turner in with little modification to what I had.  I was also able to get a humidity pan to fit so the air blows across the humidity pad.  I've updated some pics on photobucket.  I'm thinking Wednesday I'll be setting my first batch.  I have a couple little kinks to work out but minor items.  Thanks for the help and I'll let you know what happens in about 3 weeks  :wink:
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Chukar and Pheasant Propogation - Trust my advice based on the knowledge that I have not been doing this very long and don't know a lot more than I do know...  But at least I know that I don't know
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« Reply #13 on: July 24, 2008, 01:01:55 PM »

Quick Q:  Is the electronic thermostat from GQF supposed to cause my heat lamps to flicker?  My incubator will maintain the proper temp but the lamps are constantly flicking on and off.  Is that how this thermostat works?  I think I have everything wired right and I just don't want to burn anything up.   I know that you typically use a heating element with this thermo so maybe that is something I have to switch to.

Thanks!
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Chukar and Pheasant Propogation - Trust my advice based on the knowledge that I have not been doing this very long and don't know a lot more than I do know...  But at least I know that I don't know
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« Reply #14 on: July 24, 2008, 01:50:10 PM »

scuba2280,   I believe you answered your own question
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