Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Build a homemade still-air incubator for quail, chickens, ducks


Back in the 1960's, I tried to hatch robin's eggs in an old metal breadbox. I didn't understand the value of the right temperature and humidity, so year after year, I failed to hatch any eggs.  Granted I was only about 8 years old! Years later, hubby Jim and I now hatch quail, chicken, duck, goose and emu eggs with success. We started with a store bought incubator and have progressed to large cabinet style incubators.

You can use anything for an incubator as long as it is fireproof. An aquarium works well and you can look at the eggs easily.  A more inexpensive incubator is a Styrofoam cooler.
You will also need a thermometer with humidity. Quail need about 60-70% humidity and 100* temperature.

Experts recommend that you set the temperature of your still-air incubator to 101 to 102 degrees to best avoid the formation of cold spots on the inside.
Set up before you get eggs and maintain the correct temperature with water, before putting eggs in. Let the eggs set for a day so they are room temperature before adding them to the incubator.
You need heat and moisture. 
You can adjust the height of the bulb, and you can cover part of the top to keep the heat in. Put the light over the water, not the eggs. 
Keep in mind you will need to turn the eggs 3-4 times a day. You may need to adjust the temperature, so check it daily. As the embryos grow, they will create a little heat. 
You can check the fertility after 6 days, using a candling lamp the embryo should be red and clearly visible.
Turn the eggs for 16 days. Then stop. The eggs will hatch at 17-19 dependent on accuracy of temperature. The warmer the temperature, the faster the eggs will hatch, the cooler the temperature, the slower they will hatch. The difference of temperature should be no more than 1 degree from 100*

NOTE: Most duck eggs take longer to incubate: 28 days
 Muscovy Ducks go 31 days.

 Ventilation and getting the wattage right are the keys. Temperature has to stay right and the humidity has to be right at hatch or they die in shell


Mark the eggs with an 'O' on one side of the shell and an 'X' on the opposite side.Place the eggs into the incubator on their sides with the pointed ends angled slightly downward.


Moisture is a bowl or can with water. Heat is a light bulb, the size is whatever will keep the temp at 100 degrees at egg level. Keep the thermometer near the eggs for an accurate reading. 
Cover the water when the eggs start to hatch to avoid accidents. 

From day 16 it is important not to open the incubator, (no matter how tempting it is) until the eggs have hatched and the baby chicks have dried out and are fluffy. This is because they need the humidity generated by themselves to aid hatching,


The babies will need heat and kept draft free after they hatch.





www.highlonesomeranch.com/Chickens.htm

Here is a link to an egg hatch guide:
http://poultrysupply.com/manuals/GQFEggTempChart_from_Kemps_Koops.pdf

46 comments:

  1. I find this blog quite amusing! The tips and the ideas shared here regarding how to make an incubator are simply helpful not only to me but also to many people out there who love making an incubator for a living.

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    1. Thanks... we have 2 large GQF incubators that we use most of the time, but some teacher friends wanted to hatch out some quail eggs without buying an incubator, so we tried this out.
      I love your link and hope people will check out your page! I'll add it to my webpage: www.highlonesomeranch.com/Chickens.htm

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  2. what should be the power of the bulb to produce the required temperature?

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    1. You do not need a high wattage. As you use the incubator, you will need to watch the temp and adjust the the position of the lamp until you reach the optimal temperature.

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  3. what should be the watts of the bulb operating on 240V ac, to produce the required temperature of hatching?

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  4. I would start with a 60 watt bulb a few days before you put any eggs in. That way, you can adjust the height of the bulb (the closer it is to the incubator, the higher the temperature.)

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  5. Hi there. I am also a mother of 3 and am currently homeschooling. My kids and I are keen to raise Chinese/Button quail and are putting together an incubator. thanks for your tips! There are several who courier Japanese quail on trademe. I have found someone who is willing to courier Chinese but she and I are both inexperienced and we weren't sure on the shelf life of fertile quail eggs. Also, are they in a sort of dormant state until placed in an incubator? Lastly do you have any shipping suggestions? I can't seem to find a supplier of quail sized egg cartons online in nz. Thank you for any advice you may have, Tressa

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    1. It is best to use eggs no older than 10 days for an optimal hatch rate.

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  6. Can this incubator be used for turkey eggs also?

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    1. Yes, any eggs can be hatched. The important thing is not the incubator, but keeping the heat and humidity consistant.

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  7. Yesterday we started our chicken flock with 4 laying hens and 2 pullets. While talking to the person we bought our chickens from, he commented that any eggs the chickens laid over the next 7-10 days could be fertile (he had roosters, we opted not to get a rooster). Well, this notion of having fertile eggs got me excited about hatching them. I have been looking at DIY incubators and we have everything needed to put one together. This would be so neat to do! And it could be accomplished by tomorrow. My question is - the hens have already laid some eggs today(3), do I need to collect them now and put them in the incubator tomorrow or should I wait until their are more eggs to collect and incubate them later so there are more that will incubate at the same time. I'm confused about the process of storing fertile eggs to incubate later and just trying to have a successful first time experience. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks

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  8. Eggs will give you a good hatch if they are no older than 10 days. Keep them in the nest until you have the amount you would like. A hen that sets on her nest lays an egg until she has about 12 or more before she starts incubating them, so it is ok not to pop them in the incubator right away.

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  9. Hi there!

    I just moved into a new house, and noticed a duck near the front door on a few occasions. I have found 2 eggs burried in the front garden under the woodchips, however no mama for about 5 days now. I am worried she may have abandoned the nest, and am thinking about incubating the eggs myself - what are your thoughts on this? I have read elsewhere that ducks incubate for 21 days, however your post above says they should hatch around 19 days.(I just want to get it right!)
    Thanks for your insight,

    Anne

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    1. Ducks do take longer than the quail or chicken eggs. Thank you for bringing that to my attention, I will revise this!
      You can incubate eggs that have sat there for 10 days (sometimes longer) The hatch rate will lower the older the eggs

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  10. helpful information..plz tell me the temp and humidity for pigeon egg

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  11. helpful info..plz tell me the temp and humidity require for pigeon egg

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  12. Incubation Temperature 100F
    humidity 85-87
    Do not turn after 15th day
    Humidity last 3 days 90

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  13. thanks...one more question..how i can easily check whether the egg is fertilized or not

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  14. You can candle a pigeon egg after 1 week. You should be able to hold a bright flashlight against the egg, and see veins running through it.

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  15. Hello!
    There has been a clutch of eggs abandoned (the mom laid them in a soil bag on our deck, and I guess our dog/cat/child scared her away), I am not sure how long it has been since she has left--maybe a week?--we live in GA, I know the humidity and day temperatures are enough, but I am not sure about them being left at night (outside without mom), do you think if I built an incubator like this one, that they could still be viable?

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  16. If she was already setting on the eggs and then left, more than likely the embrios have died. If she was in the process of layong them, and hadn't started setting then you could try hatching them in an incubator. Eggs can still be incubated for 10 days (or a little longer) after they were layed.

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  17. Hey buddy how are you? hope fine....help me out i am confused regarding the behavior of male pigeon ,he used to broke his own eggs with chest...? what precaution should i step up?

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  18. Thanks allot for the detailed information on incubation especially on the specific temps that are needed, information was very detailed.

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  19. Great blog! Really useful and detailed information! You can also add some video tutorials like this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-o2JqjkB3pg

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  20. Need help found gambel quail eggs 3 and 2 were compromised as of yesterday... so I took the sole egg in. Needing to know how to incubate this one egg. I read all your posts but since this is one egg... can you offer some advice on the container I can use... does it have to be glass or Styrofoam or can I use a type of plastic like tupperware? You said a 60 watt bulb - is that too much for one egg? I know the probability of this little egg hatching is low... but I have to try. So what watt bulb and container do you recommend. Lastly, do you eventually take the heat out of the incubator- considering you say to not open it after day 16? would you mind clarifying that part... thank a ton

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    1. Any container (larger or smaller) and any size bulb can be used, as long as you maintain 100 degrees at the egg. The heat can come from below or above the container.
      No, the heat is never taken away from the egg, and the chick will need heat when it is born until it is fully feathered. After the chick is born, put it in a longer container, so it has the opportunity to sit below the heat, or go to a cooler spot. He will regulate his heat at that point

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  21. for muscovy ducks is the temperature 100 humidity between 90 95

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  22. Temperature of 100 is great.
    Humidity of 90 - 95 is too high and very difficult to achieve

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  23. Temperature of 100 is great.
    Humidity of 90 - 95 is too high and very difficult to achieve

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  24. Temperature of 100 is great.
    Humidity of 90 - 95 is too high and very difficult to achieve

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  25. If you do have to store them, keep them in cases with the large end up in a climate controlled environment, ideally between 50 60 degrees F. and 75 percent humidity.

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  26. Hi there, I have some questions on incubating our six duck eggs. Two weeks ago my daughter found a dead mama duck about five/ten feet from its nest. There were eight eggs and she took six and left two. I was upset with her..telling her that nature should be left alone and when she went to go return the six eggs the two that she left were smashed. So she decided to bring them back home. I made an incubator with a heating pad and 60w light. I have been watching the temp (95*F-101*F)using a larger size thermometer placed on the heating pad with the eggs. I put a dish of water in there and I've been lightly wetting them down. I have not been measuring the humidity. They all have veining and even moving. We have had them now for 13 days and watched them grow. It looks like they may be ready to hatch compared to some candling pictures I've seen. Should I do anything different. I feel our method of care is working but I want to make sure nothing goes wrong. Should I get a different thermometer and buy something to measure the humidity? I want to give these eggs the best possible chance of hatching safely. Any ideas and information would be much appreciated.

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    1. It sounds like you are doing everything right. Ducks take around 28 - 30 days to hatch. As long as they seem to have been growing, the humidity is probably fine.
      If you feel they are close to hatching, do not turn or move them.

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  27. Hi I have a total of 28 Peking duck eggs and me and my uncle want to try and hatch them but I want to know if it's a good idea to just put them all in a incubator or try and guess which ones are old oh and one more thing is it normal for duck eggs to come in different sizes. Our 4 females and one male have been popping eggs out for 5 1/2 weeks I believe but we have 6-7 recent ones. I need help.

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  28. Hi I have a total of 28 Peking duck eggs and me and my uncle want to try and hatch them but I want to know if it's a good idea to just put them all in a incubator or try and guess which ones are old oh and one more thing is it normal for duck eggs to come in different sizes. Our 4 females and one male have been popping eggs out for 5 1/2 weeks I believe but we have 6-7 recent ones. I need help.

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  29. You can put all of them inn the incubator and then candle them by day 6. On day 6 you will see blood lines. You can candle them earlier...by day 4 there will be a large shadow. Of you don't see these signs, take the egg out.

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  30. I have khaki Campbell's I heard temp. Should be about 98.8℉ is that right and not sure about the humidity.. And also how do you keep track of the humidity level?

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    1. We hatched our duck eggs at 99 - 100*. We had a cabinet incubator and added another pan of water to increase the humidity.
      You can buy a hydrometer at Wal-Mart. Humidity should be above, 70 and less than 90

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  31. Is there a certain kind of bulb you should use? Like a reptile light or will a household light do? And for either what w? I have a 20gal. Tank and a normal 120w doesn't seem to be enough...... Need help... Thanks so much.....

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    1. We used a 60w household bulb in a 10 gal. aquarium. Be sure to cover the to to keep the heart in.
      If the 120w isn't enough and you have a reliable thermometer, go to 2 lights on each end

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  32. Should you keep the hydrometer by the eggs or by the light and water?

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