Making an incubator

5 10 2013

Our ducklings hatched last week.  All five of them, which from two clutches of some thirty six eggs was frankly disappointing.  I don’t know if it’s a case of bad mothering on the part of our hens, bad fertilisation from the drakesducklings (yes, we have two drakes, you’d think between them they’d get the job done…), but whilst Christmas Dinner is now secure, five ducks (even every five weeks) is hardly going to keep us in sustainable meat production.

So I hopped on youtube, the fount of wisdom for almost anything you may need to survive life, from how to fix your rideon mower, to building a chicken plucker (my next project – because plucking ducks is not a job I enjoy) to yes, building an egg incubator from scratch.  Mind you, you have to screen the idiots from those who know what they are doing, there’s some ning nongs out there with video cameras, let me tell you….!

Incubator turned on

Incubator turned on

I already had an old Broccolli polystyrene box with lid lying around, so I started by cutting a rectangular hole in the top so that I can see inside it.  The hole was covered with a spare piece of glass I’ve kept in case our old windows ever need fixing.  Electrical tape did an excellent job at holding it in place.

Next, I went to Bunnings to spend some of that money a couple of you have donated via this blog (much appreciated, thanks to all concerned – and NO this isn’t me begging for more…) and purchased a reading lamp holder with a dimmer and a 25W incandescent light bulb.  I never thought I’d ever buy one of those again, but they make good heaters, which is why no-one uses them anymore, they are even outnumbered ten to one on shop shelves by CFLs and LEDs, making them hard to find….

Dimmer and wiring arrangement

Dimmer and wiring arrangement

To incubate eggs you also need to know what the humidity in the box is, so I also

25W bulb with hi-tech humidifier

25W bulb with hi-tech humidifier

purchased a combined digital thermometer and hygrometer online for the princely sum of twelve bucks.  A word on digital thermometers though, I have three of them now, this one, the one I use to make cheese, and the one incorporated in my energy monitor, and you wouldn’t believe it, their readings inside the box were all different…..  So, which one to believe?  In the end I decided to stick with the one I bought for the job, and suck and see…….  proper scientific observations and record keeping (not something I’m particularly good at!) will have to be followed.  Apparently Muscovy eggs have to be incubated at 37.5°C, and if you go over 40°C you kill the embryo, and if you go under the eggs take longer than the prescribed 35 days to hatch….  so we will see what we will see.

I’ve had the unit on for several days now trying to stabilise the temperature, but I have serious doubts now that the dimmer I bought (the cheapest one Bunnings had at $30!) is any good……  it makes the light flicker (which would be really annoying if you were actually using it to dim the light in a room) and even if I achieve a steady temperature during the day, it drops significantly overnight which makes me wonder if the dimmer itself isn’t affected by the heat inside the box……  so I may yet return it and buy a dearer one.

I’m also a little concerned that the heat is vaporising the polystyrene.  When I lift the lid, this overpowering plasticy odour emanates from within, and I can’t help wondering if the gases may go through the porous egg shells and kill the embryos……  it is getting better with time passing, but I wonder how long before it feels safe to use?

So much to think about…..  I’ll of course keep you posted.

This entire project was totally revised here….

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5 responses

5 10 2013
Shirley Goodbar

a wood box is always preferable to plastic of any sort for incubators. We had pretty good results with chicken eggs (in the days before the advent of polystyrene, actually!) but the poly boxes are good for other things like seedlings.

5 10 2013
mikestasse

Thanks for the tip Shirley…… I chose polystyrene for its obvious insulating properties….. how big is your box and what sort of wood did you use?

5 10 2013
gbell12

We’re hard assess here – if you can’t raise your own damn chicks, your genetics aren’t really welcome 🙂 Last thing we need are critters that are more and more dependent on our time and technology with each passing generation.

It’s not quite so absolute as that, but an involved incubator and all that attending can’t be that sustainable.

Personal choice, of course.

5 10 2013
mikestasse

Point taken……. but we ARE raising “our own damn chicks”. And you know me, nothing we do is sustainable…!

5 10 2013
gbell12

Sorry, by “you” I meant duck mothers!

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