we first started thinking about hatching our own chickens a few years
ago, we bought a Little Giant Still Air Incubator with the egg turner
attachment at the local feed store. The incubator was a bit of an
impluse purchase, so I wasn’t surprised that I came to regret it.
The trouble with these
cheap incubators is that they don’t have an internal thermostat, so
they are only effective if you keep them in a room with a very constant
temperature. We don’t believe in major climate control, so even
the heated rooms in our house vary in temperature by at least twenty
degrees on an average day. Our attempt at hatching eggs with the
incubator resulted in 100% failure.
That’s not to say that
the Little Giant Still Air Incubator is a complete dud. Reports
on the internet suggest that if you have central heating and don’t mind
fiddling with the temperature dial a few times a day, you can use the
cheap incubator with good results. Right now, we’re experimenting
with a broody
hen instead, but may
pony up the cash for a more utilitarian incubator in the future.
a homemade chicken
waterer that keeps
the brood box dry and disease-free.
I’ve got a similar cheap incubator – a HovaBator. It works the same way, and was fiddly to use.
Next time we hatch eggs, I’m going to hack it with a FridgeMate digital temperature controller (see my chest fridge conversion here http://green-change.com/2009/05/23/chest-fridge-conversion/ for details). It can control from -40C up to 70C, so you can probably think of a lot of uses for it. They only cost about AUD$50.
I’ll mount the temperature probe inside the incubator, somewhere in amongst the eggs. Then turn the incubator’s control right up to maximum, and plug it into the FridgeMate for power and program the temperature I want. The FridgeMate will then cut and connect the mains power as required to maintain the set temperature.
I’ll post something in spring (that’s southern hemisphere spring!) when I get around to trying this out.
That is such a great solution!!! Please do keep me updated on your progress. We’ve considered getting one of those freezer to fridge conversion thermostats, and this would definitely make it worthwhile to have on hand.
It’s been a while (cough… 2.5 years!), but I finally got around to running my incubator with a Fridgemate. It works beautifully! You can check out my instructions here:
Darren — Thanks for commenting! I was reading your post this past weekend and trying to decide where would be the best place to share your data. Right here works well. 🙂
No problem! I forgot to mention that the temperature controller I used is now available on eBay for about $15-$20. It controls down to an accuracy of 1 C. For slightly more money, you can get ones that are accurate down to 0.1 C which would be even better for incubating.
Little giant cost me $100 in eggs alone. It is not reliable as the thermostat will not stay constant, its radical. Set on00 degrees was good for 13 days, but the 14 day it climbed to 120 degrees.