Essential Components You'll Need to Build Your Own Incubator

There are some basic things that every incubator needs.  Here is a list of them along with information about each one.

Depending on how many eggs you want to hatch at a time, you may want something small that will hold just 20-30 eggs or a larger, cabinet style unit that will hold several hundred.  Determine how many eggs you want to incubate and then decide on the container.  The more insulation it has, the less energy it will require to keep it at the correct temperature.  You don't want something that will be drafty, but you do need some way for fresh air to come into the container.  The developing embryos need oxygen just like you and I do.  The shell is poreous and allows carbon dioxide to leave and oxygen to enter.  A viewing window is handy for observing the eggs, especially while they hatch.  

The size of the container, the amount of insulation it has, and the room temperature will all have an impact on how much energy, measured in Watts, you need for your incubator.  Some of the popular table-top incubators (such as Little Giant and Hova-Bator) use a low wattage heating element.  The Little Giant uses a 40 watt heater and the Hova-Bator uses a 25 watt heater.  The larger Sportsman 1502 cabinet incubator uses a 225 watt heater.

Keeping a good temperature is so important for a good hatch.  Developing embryos are quite particular about the temperature they need.  A good thermostat will help you keep the temperature in the appropriate temperature range. The generally accepted ideal temperature is 99.5 degrees F (37.5 degrees C) for almost all birds.  However, there are some exceptions.  Emu eggs, for example, require a temperature between 96.5 - 97.5 degrees F.

Humidity control
Managing humidity in your incubator is a matter of keeping the appropriate amount of water surface area.  As a general rule, the more water surface area, the higher the humidity will be in your incubator.  You can use a container to hold water and refill it as needed.  Many people find that putting a sponge in the water with part of the sponge above the water level will increase the humidity level.  This is particularly helpful during the lock-down period the last 2-3 days of your hatch. 

Thermometer and hygrometer
A thermometer will measure the temperature and allow you to adjust the thermostat accordingly.  A hygrometer will measure the relative humidity. There are analog devices and digital types as well.  All measurement devices will have some variability, so testing and calibrating your device is always a good idea. 

Egg Turner
The egg turner will rotate the eggs gently back and forth to keep the yolk sack from sticking to the shell and providing needed exercise for the developing embryo.  This can also be done by hand if you prefer not to spend money on an automatic egg turner. 

An egg candler is a modified light that allows you to make the egg glow enough to see if the egg is developing.  With a good candler, you can see the baby bird moving and how the air sack is developing.  If the egg is not developing, you can remove it to make room for good eggs. 

At, we have a nice selection of products for both the do-it-yourself'er and those who prefer to purchase the whole incubator kits.