Growing up in AZ we have always had chickens and other animals. Now that I have a family of my own I am understanding the value of having livestock to take care of as well as for them to take care of us. I have 8 fully grown chickens and we have another 13 chickens that are going to lay within the month. I enjoy the fresh eggs and we supply my parents as well our neighbors with plenty of eggs. Recently my youngest 2 children went with me on a visit to the local duck ponds where we found some duck eggs. I have been wanting to get into quail but have been nervous about the cost of an incubator. So my 4 yr old daughter demanded that we bring the eggs home so they don't die, now I have to make an incubator but I am super strapped for cash due to the introduction of the 3 children into our home, we are adopting them. I want to be able to teach them about life and stuff and it would be fun to have some ducks running around that they could have as pets and be responsible for. So my quest was to make an incubator, fast, and cheap! In this Instructable I will be showing how to make one, not really how to use one. If you have any questions please feel free to ask in the comments and I will help out any way that I can.
Step 1: Locate a Dehydrator With a Variable Thermostat.
First thing I did was brainstorm and with the help from my dad we figured that a dehydrator would work perfectly for our needs. He had one that was going for a yard sale and he gave it to me. It was super dirty and wasn't heating but with a little cleaning I got it to work again. He was going to sell it for 5 bucks but my price was free. The trays looked like this and there was only about an inch or inch and a half between the layers.So I cut them and kept the inside to it. For this part you could use a utility knife or a Dremel. I had a knife close by and the material was pretty brittle from all the years of drying so it went pretty quick.
Step 2: Make a Window!
Remember how I was saying that I went to the duck pond? Well we feed the ducks while we were there. We fed them popcorn and we ended up using all the pop corn. I figured that I could use the plastic from the clear popcorn container to make a neat little window for the kids to watch, or look at the eggs through and monitor the temperatures. So for this part I whipped out my Dremel and used a little cut off blade. I drew a design on the plastic that would fit the top and then drew a design on the top about a quarter inch smaller than the plastic. I just used scissors to cut through through the clear plastic. Then I used some gutter silicon that I had laying around. I think its probably a couple of bucks at a hardware store. So by now I am in it about 10 bucks if I was to pay for anything. (Depending on your yardsaleing skills!) It's probably a good time to mention that hot glue doesn't work. It sticks to the lid super good but not to the clear plastic container(I know i tried it). Also if you have any ugly marker lines due to using a permanent marker you can use some alcohol based solvent to clean those up, including rubbing alcohol. Also I removed the stickers off of the sides of the popcorn jug. It left a really sticky residue but with a little lighter fluid or other flammable liquids it will come right off. Also if you are having trouble taking off the sticker try heating it up with a blow dryer first then peeling it off. With mine it took about 3-4 min to heat it up enough to peel off. A really quick way to dry the silicon is to turn on your the Dehydrator (it is designed to dry stuff out).
Step 3: Ventalation
I used a little piece of plastic to cover about half of the hole in the top for a little bit of ventilation. I don't know if it is too much or not enough, but I do know that you need ventilation. Until lock down ventilation isn't as critical as it is during lock down. It mostly helps to regulate the moisture amount in the incubator.
Step 4: Modifications!
Mine has a little dial to control the temperature. They run a little hot so put it on the coldest setting and go up from there.I didn't do that.So I noticed very quickly that it gets hot. Too hot. I lifted off the cover for the fan that has the heating coils on it. ..... actually first I unplugged it. Always unplug anything that you work on.THEN I took the cover off the fan. On the underside of this cover is where the temperature dial is located. Pull off the dial and take a peek at it. There was a little piece of metal that was limiting the dial from spinning. In the picture the colored red portion is the part that I cut off because it was hitting the section that is circled. So I just cut that off. Now I can turn it cooler and check the temperature. The thermostat is a wafer type (that is the best type for an incubator) and all the dial does is screw in a screw to make the gap closer or further away, no actual electrical connection happening. Plus I figure that I am making it cooler, not hotter.
Step 5: Assembly
OK, At this point everything was going pretty good. My dehydrator didn't want to heat up, so I took the whole thing apart and cleaned it really good. If you do this make sure and set your pieces up so that you don't lose them or get confused on how to put them back together. I am pretty sure that there was only 3 or 4 bolts or screws that I had to unscrew. Make sure that you unplug the machine before doing anything. If you aren't comfortable doing that just try to clean everything the best that you can without submerging the electric components. If you do get them wet make sure you dry it off really good and let it sit out in the sun to dry off. When that is done grab 2 good trays and the modified tray. In the bottom tray put some small clean rocks. Make sure that they don't hold up the tray above it. This will help the dehydrator to keep a stabler temperature. We don't want the temperatures to spike or dip too much. Now put on the middle 2nd tray. This one is just the regular try that is unmodified. Now that the modified tray and place it on the 2nd tray.
Step 6: Final Step
OK, At this point you need to place a thermometer in the incubator. I also put a bowl of water to make sure the humidity level was ok. Try to start your heat on a medium level and leave it for an hour. then come back and check to see what it is. The temperature should be around 99.5 degrees F and 37.5 degrees C. I purchased this thermometer at Walmart for 2 bucks. My dad had a super accurate C thermometer that I shoved into a water bottle filled with water. This does 2 things. It gives me another thermometer so that I can use the average between the 2 and it also gives me an internal temperature reading. Since I can't stick a thermometer into the eggs, this kind of mimics an egg and tells me what temperature it would be in one.
So my price for this was $2.24
Yours might be $5-10 for a dehydrator, $2-5 for the silicon, and $2-10 for the thermometer (depending on which one you get) All in all I would say that you could make it for around $20.00 Not too bad. If you make it post a picture of yours. As always any tips or suggestions would be appreciated.
Step 7: Resources in Your Poultry Raising Endeavors
This website is amazing and very helpful. I like to go to the member pages and also the learning center. There are tons of helpful people that love to share what they know.
Good Luck. I will try to up date this in about a month with my newly hatched ducklings!