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10 Inventive DIY Incubator Designs That’ll Make You Broody

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This epic guide contains many DIY incubator ideas and tutorials on how to make an incubator. But first, I need to tell a funny story about my hens!

With 12 hens, you’d think at least one of them would be willing to sit on a nest full of eggs from time to time. But – I guess that’s not on my flock’s agenda!

I had one broody hen sometime last year but, after the designated 21 days, nothing emerged. The same thing happened the year before! So, I’m starting to suspect that my hens have something against motherhood.

I don’t blame them! But, I am desperate to have some baby chicks chirruping their way around the farm – so, I have decided to embark on an epic DIY incubator project.

A few years ago, we built an incubator out of some plywood offcuts. With a glass door and a 40-watt incandescent light bulb, we thought we were onto a winner. The fact that that the DIY egg incubator now warms our homemade pies at the local farmer’s market indicates that it wasn’t.

To make our next attempt more effective at hatching chicks than warming pies, I decided to look around for some tips and inspiration. What I found left me initially dumb-struck and then eager to get to work. The designs I came across also highlighted the mistakes we’d made with our first attempt.

The conditions inside the incubator are crucial if it’s to fulfill its role as a substitute hen. Maintaining the required 58-60% humidity levels was challenging – which is a common problem with homemade incubators.

Keeping the eggs at a steady temperature was also tricky and could have been why our hatching process didn’t go according to plan.

I’m hoping one of these 10 DIY incubator designs will give me the solution to my problems and help me create a fully functioning homemade egg incubator!

Related – 44+ DIY Chicken Coop Plans and Ideas! For Free!

The Most Inspiring DIY Egg Incubator Designs

If you need oodles of DIY incubator ideas, then you’re in the right spot! We’re about to share the most innovative egg incubator ideas that fit any budget or style.

# 1 – An Incubator That Thinks Outside the Box

I love the rustic and crafty nature of this DIY incubator. It serves your backyard chicken eggs well enough while also maintaining a bottom-barrel cost. It’s also ludicrously straightforward to make!

Here’s one of my favorite options for learning how to make an incubator without fuss!

A couple of cardboard boxes is all you need to create the exterior of this handy incubator. The smaller incubator box is placed inside the larger box and then insulated.

You can insulate using strips of newspaper, fabric, or wool. A 25-watt bulb forms the primary heat source, while a bowl of water provides a bit of humidity. Undoubtedly one of the cheapest and simplest box incubators you could hope to find.

# 2 – The Fish Tank Incubator

Aquariums make for the perfect controlled environment to nurture and hatch poultry eggs! If you have an old aquarium in your attic that you’re not using, perfect. You found yourself an incubator!

An aquarium serves as the base of this creative and cost-effective design. I love how neatly organized the rows of eggs look. They appear so comfortable, cozy, and content!

I’d say the fish tank incubator makes for a great alternative to a commercial incubator! And it looks relatively easy to construct. It also offers excellent visibility and access – which I like.

Related – What’s the Best Chicken Fence Height to Keep Predators Outside?

# 3 – A Styro-Home for Eggs

a styro home for eggs
We love this nifty DIY incubator anyone can build without a hefty budget. Nurture your eggs and keep them safe without big bucks. Full credit to CyberQuail for the genius design and creativity!

Turning an old Styrofoam container is as good for the environment as it is for your chicken population. Styrofoam is an excellent insulator! It makes keeping the incubator at a constant temperature much more effortless and worry-free than with the glass aquarium above.

A 25-watt light bulb forms a simple heating element, while a bowl of water helps to regulate humidity. It even has a viewing window made from an old picture frame, although how much fun you’ll have watching eggs not hatch is anyone’s guess!

Related – 39 Cheap Ways to Feed Your Chickens: Without Buying Feed!

# 4 – A Basic Incubator for Bottle-Bed Chicks

I love how this DIY incubator has so few moving parts. Simplicity wins the day. I’m always trying to throw away less plastic – and I can’t think of a better way to use an old 5-gallon jug!

All you need to start building this innovative DIY egg incubator is a 5-gallon reusable water container, like the ones you find on a countertop water dispenser. You can create an adjustable heater using a small 25-watt bulb with a dimmer switch combined with an electronic thermometer.

Related – Our Big List of Solid White Chicken Breeds | Leghorns, Sultans, and More!

# 5 – The Furniture-Grade DIY Egg Incubator

Here’s a DIY incubator with a sleek and polished look. I can’t believe how many farm-fresh eggs this incubator manages to fit into a relatively small interior. The efficiency and economy are both excellent!

If you’re going to hatch chicks in the house, you want your homemade incubator to look the part. Converting an old kitchen or display cabinet creates an attractive design that won’t look out of place in your home.

This significant incubator has a massive hatching drawer capable of housing up to 200 chicken eggs, making it ideal for larger, more commercial operations.

So – if your henhouse produces a boatload of eggs – your search for how to make an incubator is officially over!

If your homestead produces far fewer chicken eggs – then we still have a ton of DIY incubator ideas!

# 6 – A Clear Plastic Closed Incubator

Mini Incubator:

If you want the most adorable DIY egg incubator, then your search is finished! Don’t let the size of this tiny incubator fool you. It’s capable of nurturing and hatching your eggs. For sure!

Large incubator:

Here’s another clever DIY incubator made from a plastic latch-box! The design is similar to other plastic box incubator varieties. However, this design is much larger and provides more breathing room for your eggs.

A clear plastic container with a latching lid is a versatile piece of equipment that easily converts into a makeshift chicken egg incubator of virtually any size.

You can add also get fancy! Imagine adding extra features, such as an aquarium heater or specialized lights to maintain the correct temperature range. Or – keep it simple with a dish of water, a 40-watt bulb, and a handful of wood shavings.

You have options!

# 7 – The Born in A Bowl Homemade Incubator

The coolest part about this bowl egg incubator is that you get to watch the adorable chicks hatch. Don’t take my word for it – see this incubator work with your own eyes!

Although similar to the design above, this approach uses fruit storage or a salad bowl for the main structure.

I love how the incubator easily handles up to 24 eggs maximum. That should be enough eggs for your homestead! The finished incubator looks sleek and similar to some commercial variety incubators and includes a semi-automatic egg turner.

Related – The Ultimate Guide to Bantam Chickens vs. Regular Chickens. Size, Eggs, and Cost!

# 8 – The Box Incubator for Hatching Cool Chicks

Here’s another perfect chicken incubator if you don’t have much cash laying around. The inventor of this DIY incubator promises that you can build it for just twenty bucks! Well, if you adjust for inflation – the price is probably a tad higher now.

Similar to the incubators made from styrofoam boxes, this design gives a defunct cooler box a new lease of life. To build this from scratch, you’ll need an old cooler that you no longer need, tape, glue, a tin tray, a 40-watt bulb, plus a few other essentials.

# 9 – The Plywood Box Incubator

Here’s the perfect incubator idea for those with carpentry skills! Even better if you have some spare plywood collecting dust in your shed or garage. It’s a great way to recycle old wood!

This plywood construction offers an affordable alternative for those who don’t have cooler boxes or styrofoam containers lying around waiting for a revamp. Like our failed DIY incubator, this one sports a plywood foundation, but that’s where the similarities end.

The weight of the plywood provides a sturdy foundation, while the metal rack stops the eggs from rolling around.

If you want to upgrade this still-air incubator, all you need to do is add a fan and a heating pad! Then – your homemade DIY egg incubator will be giving commercial incubators a run for their money.

Without breaking your bank!

# 10 – The Mini Fridge Homemade Egg Incubator

This incubator surprised me – but pleasantly! Using a refrigerator as an incubator has two huge benefits that are clear to see! Fridges already have excellent insulation. They also have plenty of storage space.

An old mini fridge can be converted into a DIY incubator, just as you would a cooler box or styrofoam container. I love the elegant yet simple conversion!

If you’re looking for an easy egg incubator – here’s one of the best bets! The DIY incubator requires very little labor or DIY experience. I suggest taping holes so you can maintain the required humidity levels.

Also, in this design – a heating pad provides the heat source instead of a light bulb. The heating pad increases the cost of this incubator a tad bit compared to other, more economical designs.

But – I still think it’s a worthy DIY egg incubator design overall!

4 Expert Tips for Building An Effective DIY Egg Incubator!

When designing your homemade incubator, pay particular attention to the following:

Can You Access the Eggs?

Chicken eggs need turning at least two to three times a day so, you need to be able to access them effortlessly – and without letting too much heat escape!

Alternatively, you could design your incubator around a semi-automatic egg turner and make your life that little bit easier.

Related – When Do Chickens Start Laying Eggs? 5 Signs Your Hens Are Ready to Lay!

What Type of Heat Source Is Best?

Although you can get custom-made incubator heaters, most of the designs listed above use light bulbs as the sole heat source. The size of your incubator will dictate what wattage you need.

A small incubator made of styrofoam, for example, only requires a 25-watt bulb, whereas a larger one, like the Furniture-Grade DIY Egg Incubator, would need a 250w bulb or heat lamp.

Related – How Long Do Chickens Live and Lay Eggs? Full Chicken Lifespan Facts Explained!

How Can You Adjust the Temperature?

Whether you’re using a light bulb or heat lamp, a thermostat is vital if you want to maintain a steady temperature.

Ideally, you want the temperature inside a still-air incubator to hover around 101 to 102 to prevent cold spots from occurring.

How Is the Required Humidity Achieved and Maintained?

A bowl of water is usually sufficient for creating the 50 to 55% humidity needed to hatch chicken eggs.

If the humidity drops for any reason, you can quickly increase it again by adding a sponge of floral foam brick to magnify the water’s surface area. If you need to decrease the humidity – remove the water.

One More DIY Incubator Story and Tip!

One of the things that most inspired me about these homemade incubator designs is how few DIY skills are required to build them!

I’m not particularly adept in that department, but I’m pretty confident I could transform my old cooler box into an incubator without too many injuries or disasters. 

Before I get to work, I need to invest in a few extras! I need a thermostat, thermometer, light bulb, and – possibly even a hygrometer to measure humidity.

Oh, and I need my hens to lay me a few eggs because, no matter how impressive your incubator, it won’t be capable of that!

Hopefully, I’ll be celebrating the arrival of some fluffy chicks in a few weeks, at which point I’ll be trying to figure out how to build a low-cost chicken brooder! But, that’s for another article.

More How to Make an Incubator FAQs

Do you still need more DIY incubator ideas? Then you may have questions! We put together some of the most common egg incubator FAQs you and your flock may encounter in your travels.

How Can I Make a Homemade Incubator?

There are tons of DIY incubator tutorials in this article that you can use. We also have one more we can share!

I read an epic DIY incubator tutorial from the Incubation and Embryology blog on the University of Illinois Extension. It’s a great read and worth checking!

They share an excellent DIY incubator guide – complete with illustrations so that it’s straightforward to assemble.

You’ll need two cardboard boxes, a plexiglass pane, some welded mesh hardware cloth, a heating element, masking tape, wood shavings, plus a brooding thermometer.

(You also need plywood or a similar material.)

Overall – if you’re looking for a cheap solution for how to make an incubator, you can’t go wrong!

How Do You Turn an Egg in an Incubator by Hand?

Very carefully!

Also, one big tip is to keep track of how many times you turn your eggs! You want to turn your eggs at least 2 to 3 times per day.

During the last three days leading up to hatching – stop turning your eggs!

Want more tips for hatching your eggs? Read these important incubation factors from the Mississippi State University Extension.

They include a handful of helpful egg-turning tips – including how to keep track of your egg-turning progress without missing a beat!

(They know what they’re talking about when it comes to eggs – highly recommended!)

Can You Hatch Supermarket Eggs?

No, not usually! 

The chicken eggs you find in most supermarkets come from commercial farms. In commercial farms – the eggs don’t get fertilized!

Without egg fertilization – you don’t have baby chicks!


Thanks again for reading this guide.

If you have more DIY incubator ideas – or if you have any fun and adorable chicken stories to share, we love to hear them!

Have a great day!

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