How to build egg incubators

Updated July 20, 2017

Incubators are used to hatch fertilised eggs from chickens and other fowl. Chickens naturally perform the incubation task for their eggs; however, there are many instances where an artificial incubator is necessary. Chickens can only incubate a certain number of eggs at a time and will stop laying when "brooding" or sitting on their eggs. Building your own incubator provides you with the freedom to hatch as many eggs as you would like and keep your hen producing eggs during the incubation period. Incubators provide a warm, humid and safe environment for your eggs to hatch.

Place fish tank lengthwise on its side in a warm, dry place where it will not be disturbed. Arrange the tank so that the opening faces toward the front.

Cut plastic so that it is approximately two inches wider that the opening of the tank on each side.

Cover the tank opening with the plastic, taping the bottom and left sides securely to the tank edges. Apply enough tape to prevent heat from escaping from the tank where the plastic is attached. Add the Velcro strips to the remaining top and side of the plastic and adhere to the outside of the tank using the Velcro hooks, making sure that the plastic cover is pulled tight when it is sealed. This will form a door to the incubator out of the plastic sheet so that you can easily open it to rotate the eggs.

Place the lamp in the tank. Add a 60-watt bulb. Run the lamp cord out of the tank through plastic cover opening and plug into an outlet.

Tape the thermometers securely to the inside walls of the tank. Place one on the back wall and the other on the opposite side of the tank from the lamp. Make sure that you can read the temperatures from outside of the tank.

Place towel or cloth in the bottom of the tank to prevent the eggs from rolling around on the glass. You can also use an egg carton to hold the eggs.

Fill the pie plate with warm water and place next to the egg area of the tank.

Turn on the lamp and close the plastic door, securing it with the Velcro. The light bulb will generate heat inside the tank.

Wait approximately five hours and check the temperature on both thermometers. If the temperatures vary, calculate the average of the two. The temperature inside of the tank should remain between 37.2 and 38.3 degrees Cor the eggs to incubate properly. If the temperature is below 37.2 degrees C, seal the plastic cover more securely with tape to prevent heat from escaping and change the light bulb to a 75-watt bulb. If the temperature is too high, switch to a 45-watt bulb. Wait until the correct temperature is achieved before adding the eggs.

Place an "X" on one side of each of the eggs using the marker.

Add the eggs to the tank once the correct temperature has been maintained for three hours.

Turn the eggs daily to promote the growth of the chicks. Use the "X" mark on the eggs to keep track of which eggs have been turned each day. Turn all of the eggs so that the "X" appears on the top of the egg one day and on the bottom the next day.

Check the pie pan daily and refill with water if it is dry.

Keep the incubator completely sealed as much as possible to avoid heat loss.

Check the temperatures daily and change the bulb to a different wattage if necessary to increase or decrease the heat.

Wait approximately 22 days for the eggs to hatch.


The temperature required for hatching may vary between breeds. Research the correct temperature for your breed prior to incubating eggs. The fish tank can be replaced by a sturdy cardboard box with one side cut out.

Things You'll Need

  • 20-gallon rectangular fish tank
  • Clear heavyweight plastic
  • Packing tape
  • Velcro strips
  • Small lamp that will accommodate up to a 75-watt bulb
  • Light bulbs
  • Two large thermometers (not digital)
  • Pie plate
  • Marker
  • Fertilised eggs
  • Towel or cloth
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About the Author

Allison Travis has worked in the association management industry for 10 years with a focus on desktop publishing for associations. She has contributed to the "Quality Assurance Journal," "Quality Matters" Newsletter and numerous other association industry publications. Travis graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.A. in English.