Home Healthy food How to Build a DIY Egg Incubator (hatch your own healthy, med-free chicks even if you don’t have a rooster!)

How to Build a DIY Egg Incubator (hatch your own healthy, med-free chicks even if you don’t have a rooster!)

by Contributing Author
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How to make your own egg incubator to hatch fertilized chicken eggs into healthy, drug-free chicks. This ingenious DIY project costs less than $20 and can be used by anyone whose neighborhood ordinance doesn’t allow roosters.

Last year, when Melbourne, Australia, went into the world’s longest lockdown, we experienced our first ever crisis.
Not enough chicken.

Everyone wanted to keep chickens while they were home, but local farms quickly ran out of chickens.

At the same time, egg prices skyrocketed, rising to A$18 per dozen (equivalent to US$12.00 per dozen) in organic food stores.

As a result, my kids and I started looking for alternatives to hatch our own chicks.

mail order fertilized eggs

Roosters are not allowed in our neighborhood, so we decided to purchase fertilized eggs online from a breeder through our local network.

Given that fertilized eggs can persist for weeks without hatching (hatchability begins to decline after seven days), sending by mail was a viable option.

It’s amazing how many people don’t know this!

Buying and building an incubator

Incubators can cost anywhere from $50 to hundreds of dollars for the best models.

To keep things as budget-friendly as possible, we started looking at build-your-own options.

The description of our DIY incubator is detailed below.

Why Incubate Your Own Chicks

Incubating your own chicks has a myriad of benefits.

First of all, it means that we are almost completely self-sufficient, with no reliance on farmers or egg suppliers.

You can also choose your own bird breeds, such as traditional breeds that lay well and produce more nutritious eggs.

In addition, you will have the opportunity to raise healthy and energetic chicks from birth.

This allows us to control the feed supply and avoid the necessary medications (including mRNA vaccination) that can occur on conventional farms.

Building a DIY egg incubator

The purpose of building an incubator is to create the same environment that occurs under breeding hens.

The main factors are temperature and humidity.


Humidity is around 40-50% for the first 18 days and rises to 65-70% after 18 days.

Humidity can be controlled by placing a small dish of water inside the incubator and gently spraying.
Water mist in the air.


Humidity is important for high hatchability, but so is temperature control.

The range should remain stable between 37 and 39 degrees Celsius (98.6 and 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit) throughout the incubation period.

Required equipment

To assemble the DIY incubator, you need to assemble 5 items.

incubator box

The box should safely insulate the eggs so that the temperature remains constant.

It should also have enough space to accommodate the lamps, and there should be room for the glass windows at the top.

Polystyrene or wood are usually the best choices as they insulate heat well and are fairly durable.

Place a small wooden box inside a large polystyrene box so that there is enough insulation around the eggs.


Thermo-hygrometer (in this way) The only item purchased for setting up the incubator.

Display temperature and humidity for consistent monitoring from outside the incubator window.

It costs about $10-20 at a hardware store or online.

If you don’t have access to either of these, the next best thing is a thermometer or similar.

heat lamp

Lamps with incandescent bulbs keep the temperature in the incubator constant.

Heat lamps and light bulbs (globes) can be purchased inexpensively at most hardware stores, but bedside lamps with incandescent bulbs may work well.

Given that the incubator is well sealed, most commercial heat lamps actually make the environment too hot.

I started with the recommended heat lamp, but found the temperature in the incubator to be too high.

After some more experimentation, I found that bedside lamps with incandescent bulbs or globes worked best.

Proper temperature is a “success or failure” factor in ensuring that chickens hatch correctly.

So it’s a good idea to have a heat source and a thermometer ready before ordering eggs.

Leave the heat lamp and thermometer in the box for several days to ensure that the temperature remains constant during that time.

Over the next few days, you may need to adjust your heat source or incubator design to get it right.

glass panel

A glass panel creates a “window” into the incubator so you can see the eggs and check the temperature without opening the box.

Use a piece of glass from an old photo frame, cut this to the top of the incubator box, and secure the edges with strong tape.

egg rack or wood chips

You need a surface to keep your eggs sturdy so they don’t roll or bump.

Sawdust and wood chips work well for us, but I’ve seen incubators with wire racks (kind of like cookie trays) and straw bedding.

Here’s a comparison of different types of chicken bedding to consider.

how to assemble

Put the incubator together and make sure the windows are tightly sealed and that the temperature and humidity are kept constant.

When the eggs arrive, mark each side with a marker pen before placing them in the box.

Once the incubation process has started, you should turn the eggs 2-3 times each day.

Below is a photo of a DIY egg incubator keeping a fertilized egg warm!

Homemade incubator to keep fertilized eggs warm

hatching process

Fertilized eggs hatch after about 21 days in the incubator.

By comparison, eggs kept under breeding hens take a little longer, about 25 days.

You can expect a hatch rate of about 75%.

Note that about half of the eggs that hatch will be roosters. If your neighborhood doesn’t allow it, plan to give all the cocks to a friend who also has chickens.

Your local feed store can also point you to the nearest rooster sanctuary.

The process of hatching eggs in a homemade incubator should proceed as described below to mimic the natural behavior and effects of Mamahen.

Days 1-18

During this time, it is very important to keep the temperature constant and the humidity between 40-50%.

Gently rotate the eggs 2-3 times daily and monitor the temperature and humidity gauges through the incubator window.

Days 18-21

Humidity should be increased to 65-70% during the last few days of incubation and the eggs should not need to be turned.

Watch carefully through the incubator window for signs of hatching.

Use this time to prepare a brooder box with wood shavings, Drug-Free Soy-Free Chick Starterfresh water, and a heat lamp to ensure a place to care for the newly hatched chicks.

Newly hatched chicks in a brooder box

Incubator vs Brudy Mother Hens

Of course, the most “natural” environment for a chick to hatch is under the mother hen.

With this in mind, we deliberately select a few birds to be special mothers in our brood.

Silkies, Cochins and Frizzles are good examples.

If the timing is right, place the fertilized egg under the mother hen and skip the incubator process entirely.

“Time” means “when the mother hen throws a tantrum, sits on her eggs, and wishes to hatch.”

Heritage breeds of chickens generally have a better ability to do this because their egg-laying cycle is based on hormonal cycle patterns.

Modern breeds of laying hens lay eggs more frequently, but this natural breeding pattern rarely occurs.

If the delivery of the fertilized egg is well timed, the egg can be placed under the hen when it arrives in the mail.

However, chickens can become brooding and change their minds, so an incubator could be a great backup option in that scenario.

Also, chickens can be breeding season at the same time they hatch in an incubator (either pure luck or chance).

With any luck, the chick could end up being adopted by a brooding mother. She puts it under her in the middle of the night to start her process.

This eliminates the need for a brooder box entirely.

Chicks and mother chickens hatched in a homemade egg incubator

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