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How to Build a Lamp Oil Heated Incubator

Updated November 21, 2016

Making a home made oil lamp incubator can be a fun and joyous experience for the entire family. Before electricity was available people used oil lamps to hatch their own chicken eggs. Oil lamp incubators are easy to make and easy to use. Just follow these simple instructions and you will be on your way to baby chicks in no time.

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  1. The first thing to do is gather all you materials together. A 10 to 15 gallon aquarium tank works well. You should not try to use a bigger one because they require more heat. Any oil lamp will do as long as it fits inside the tank without sticking out the top.

  2. Take the black cloth and line the bottom of the tank. Try to make it as smooth and level as possible.

  3. Line all 4 sides of the interior of the tank with the aluminium foil. This helps reflect heat back down to the black cloth. If you need to use tape to secure the foil use only black electrical tape because it can stand up to the heat.

  4. After the tank is lined place the pie plate in on one end of the tank upside down. This will hold the oil lamp off the cloth you lined the bottom with. Now place the oil lamp on top of the pie plate.

  5. Next you need to add your small dish to the other end of the tank and fill it with water. Keep it full throughout the incubation period. Add your thermometer next to the water dish.

  6. Finally tear off a piece of aluminium foil large enough to cover the top with at least a 2 inch overhang. Place the foil over the incubator and smash down the edges to hold it in place. With your finger poke a small hole in the foil directly above the oil lamp. Now tear a 4 inch circle out of the foil to act as a vent hole and let the gas escape.

  7. Now all that's left is to add your eggs. Remove the foil top and light the lamp with your matches. Replace the cover. Regulate the temperature by adjusting the flame on the lamp. Allow the temperature to stabilise at 37 degrees C (99 F) for at least 24 hours. Remove the top again and place the eggs about 3 inches away from the base of the oil lamp. Move the thermometer next to the eggs.

  8. Tip

    Mark one side of your eggs with an x and turn each egg a half turn every day during incubation. During the last week of incubation the eggs will give off their own heat so watch the thermometer closely and make adjustments.


    Use caution when working with oil lamps. Never allow the lamp to tip over or come in contact with a flammable surface. Fire will result.

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Things You'll Need

  • 10-15 gallon aquarium
  • Aluminium foil
  • Aluminium pie plate
  • Black cloth
  • Small dish for water
  • Thermometer
  • Oil lamp filled with oil or kerosene
  • Black tape if necessary
  • Matches

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