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How to Build an Incubator From an Old Refrigerator

Updated July 19, 2017

If you are breeding birds or reptiles, you will need an incubator to hatch their eggs. An old refrigerator is easy to convert into a large-capacity incubator with multiple shelves for placing your clutch boxes. The insulation in a refrigerator's main compartment works very well to maintain a steady and proper temperature and humidity for your eggs. You can also use the freezer compartment, if it has one, to store extra supplies.

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  1. Lighten your load. Cut off or unscrew any unnecessary parts, such as the refrigerator's coils. Although this step is not vital, you will be glad you did when you need to relocate the unit later.

  2. Drill a hole near the middle of the back of the larger refrigerator compartment.

  3. Pull the power cord for the heat tape through the hole with a wire coat hanger so that the plug is outside the refrigerator.

  4. Attach the heat tape in place with the aluminium tape. Secure the tape on the back wall of the refrigerator, near the centre for more even distribution of heat.

  5. Pull the probe for your thermostat through the hole with the coat hanger and into the compartment.

  6. Tape the thermostat probe as close as possible to the heat tape with aluminium tape.

  7. Attach the probe of the thermometer and the body of the thermometer to different areas of the incubator with either tape or the suction cups usually included with this style thermometer. You want to monitor the temperature in different areas of your incubator to make sure it is consistent.

  8. Plug the heat tape cord into the thermostat and adjust until your thermometer reads the desired temperature.

  9. Tip

    Heat tape requires a good quality thermostat to operate safely. Less temperature variation, from a better thermostat, will increase your chances of success in hatching. Use a battery-powered indoor/outdoor thermometer so you do not have to run additional wires out of your incubator. You may want to wire a small fan inside your incubator as well to circulate the air and reduce the chance of hot spots developing. Test and run you incubator for one to two weeks before you expect to actually need it to ensure everything works properly.


    Have your refrigerator's coolant drained by a licensed professional (appliance technician, junk dealer, etc.) before removing any parts. Venting freon is illegal and can be dangerous.

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Things You'll Need

  • Refrigerator
  • Bolt cutters
  • Wire cutters
  • Screwdrivers (depending on what you are removing from the refrigerator)
  • Power drill
  • 3-foot section of prewired heat tape
  • Aluminium tape
  • Wire coat hanger
  • Digital indoor/outdoor thermometer/hygrometer with probe
  • Thermostat with probe

About the Author

Residing in northern Georgia, Anna Rose began writing in 1997 and was first published for a scholarship in the local Jackson EMC newsletter. Rose also holds a Master of Science in organizational leadership from Brenau University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in agriculture from the University of Georgia.

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