How to Build a DIY Homemade Chicken Incubator
Looking for a safe place to put those fertilized chicken eggs where you’ll know they’ll hatch?
You could choose the pricier option and purchase an incubator at a store, or you could embrace your inner handiness by making a homemade chicken incubator.
If the latter sounds like the better option, you’ve come to the right place.
This article will give you all the knowledge you need to craft your chickens’ first home!
What You Need
- Styrofoam cooler
- Serrated knife
- Glass panel
- Duct tape
- Temperature & humidity gauge
- Small bowl & sponge
- Chicken wire (with ¼ inch squares)
- 25-watt bulb
- Light bulb socket with cord
How To Build A Homemade Chicken Incubator In 6 Steps
Even if you are a homesteader, you can make and use a chicken egg incubator for your chicken coop.
At the end of the day, you want your eggs to be in the safest possible environment for the chickens to grow and eventually hatch.
If you are new to incubating eggs, we recommend following our guide instead so you can build an easy homemade incubator for chickens. Check it out!
Note: This incubator will be able to store upwards of 4 eggs depending on the size of your container. For those looking to hatch a higher volume of eggs at once, it may be a better idea to invest in a cabinet incubator and cabinet incubator kit.
1. Cut A Hole For Your Window
We don’t recommend a cardboard box for homemade incubators because they are flimsy and easy to get wet! For this DIY chicken egg incubator guide, you will need a styrofoam container.
You’ll begin by using your serrated knife to remove a square from the top of your cooler for the glass panel to rest upon.
Styrofoam can retain more heat compared to plastic, carton, and glass containers.
You won’t be removing the entire top – instead, base the size of the square you cut on the size of your panel.
Remember to make the hole smaller than your glass window. Otherwise, it will fall through.
2. Place Panel And Thoroughly Tape Edges
Most homemade egg incubators do not have a viewing window, but it doesn’t mean you should skip out too. Throughout the 21 days of incubation, you should keep the eggs at 100º F (1).
Improper control means that the temperature or humidity is too high or too low for a sufficient length of time that it interferes with the normal growth and development of the embryo.
By having a glass window installed, you can keep the heat locked in and prevent drastic temperature fluctuations, which can interfere with the 21 days incubation period.
With that in mind, place your glass panel on top of the hole you’ve cut, making sure it’s evenly spaced around all edges. Now, all you have to do is use duct tape to seal the panel’s edges to the top of your cooler.
Take some extra time to be thorough with the tape to avoid leaks.
You can replace the glass panel that goes on top of the incubator with a plastic one as long as it’s clear enough to give you a proper view inside.
This is especially important in the final days if you want to watch your eggs hatch, as the lid must remain closed!
3. Bend Chicken Wire Into Appropriate Shape
Lay your chicken wire on a flat surface. 1/3 of the way down, bend it at a 90-degree angle, so the section’s remainder points upward.
Now, bend the last third in another 90-degree angle, so it’s pointing right.
Place your bent wire into the incubator with the first section of wire laying flat on the ground, with the middle sticking up, and the last section bent to the right to form a cage for your lightbulb to go underneath.
Some homemade incubator can have an automatic egg turner like in this video below:
For the first 18 days, you will have to turn the eggs to prevent the yolk from sticking to the membrane. If it sticks, the embryo or the yolk will not develop.
4. Cut Hole For Light Bulb And Tape It In
Grab your serrated blade, and use it to cut a small hole in the middle of the right side of your cooler. Never make the hole bigger than the socket’s diameter because any excess space means warm air can exit, making the incubator cooler.
You’ll need to make it airtight using tape after your lightbulb is in, so the smaller the hole, the better.
Creating an airtight seal will trap the warm air and reduce heat loss in your incubator.
Once the socket is snug, get started with that tape. You can stop taping once it is held firmly in place, and you’re sure there aren’t any holes or leaks.
Pro Tip: Opt for a socket with a dimmer switch so you can reduce and increase the brightness without opening the incubator.
5. Add Wet Sponge And Dish To Your Egg Incubator
In this step, you will need to add some water to a small dish and rest a sponge on top. This will give you control over the humidity of your incubator.
If you want it more humid, add more water.
On the contrary, you can decrease humidity by emptying the water or even removing the sponge altogether.
After placing your temperature gauge in the corner furthest from the lightbulb, you can set the dish right next to it.
6. Calibrate The Homemade Incubator
Before you place your eggs inside the incubator, you need to make sure the environment inside is correctly calibrated.
To do this, you’ll need to let your incubator sit for a bit while you pay attention to your temperature and humidity.
You should then connect the top of your cooler and give the incubator a good couple of hours to warm up.
You’d want to keep the temperature of the incubator around 99-102 degrees Fahrenheit (2).
Some homemade incubator has a thermostat to maintain that recommended temperature. You can integrate a store-bought thermostat kit or water heater thermostat; however, you will need to rewire it to your incubator system.
How about the humidity?
For the first 17 days, you will need to keep your incubator’s humidity level to about 50-55%. For the last few days before hatching, increase it to 70% (3).
That’s it. You’re all done! Don’t forget to turn the eggs so chicks can hatch after 21 days!
You now know how to make a homemade incubator from scratch! Assuming you already have fertilized eggs, you can get started ASAP.
Note: Are you looking to find a good chicken for laying eggs? Take a look at this list of the ten best egg-laying chickens. And while you’re waiting for your eggs to hatch, take some time and read this guide on raising baby chicks.
Incubating eggs is an amazing part of the experience, and you don’t want to miss out! Although you can purchase pre-built incubators, they are not always economical, especially if you are tight on a budget or you’re starting your hobby farm.
For a more budget-friendly approach to hatching eggs from less broody chickens, you can build your incubator at home! All you need are wires or hardware cloth, light, styrofoam container, and duct tape.
Whenever your chickens have eggs, you will have a dedicated space where you can be sure your eggs are safe – and give you a good view of the process! For a higher success rate, wait at least 24 hours before putting them in incubators.
Thanks for stopping by! As always, never be afraid to discuss your opinions in the comments and give this article a share if you enjoyed it!
The bulb used in an incubator is an incandescent bulb. It is preferred in DIY incubators because they emit more heat than LED bulbs.
Our guide mentioned using a 25-watt bulb, but you can opt for higher wattage, especially if you’re planning to build a large size incubator. Regardless of the wattage, you should always pay attention to recommended temperature and humidity levels so baby chicks can hatch after 21 days.
Yes, you can use a heat lamp for a DIY incubator. However, this is not advisable. Heat lamps emit too much heat that they can cook the eggs. Your best choice is to use an incandescent bulb. This type of bulb provides warmth in the air and does not radiate it into the object (in this case, the eggs). If you still prefer a heat lamp, you should proceed with caution. You should never put the eggs underneath the light.
Yes, you can use a plastic tub or container for your homemade incubator. However, plastic is not great for heat retention. If there are significant heat and humidity loss, you can expect a lower hatch rate. Moreover, you’ll have to use a power tool like a drill to have a cutout for the window panel and bulb socket.
Cooler made from styrofoam is more suitable because it has better insulating properties to trap warm air. Plus, it’s easier to transform into an incubator.
Some backyard farmers also use carton boxes or an empty aquarium for incubating chicken eggs. Although you can use these materials, you have to amend the container to ensure an airtight seal and proper light positioning.
- Important incubation factors. Retrieved from: https://extension.msstate.edu/content/important-incubation-factors
- Expert Tips for Incubating Chicken Eggs. Retrieved from: https://www.grit.com/animals/incubating-chicken-eggs
- Hatching Eggs at Home: A 21-Day Guide for Baby Chicks. Retrieved from: https://www.purinamills.com/chicken-feed/education/detail/hatching-eggs-at-home-a-21-day-guide-for-baby-chicks