Incubation is a technology that provides farmers an opportunity to produce chicks from eggs without the help of the mother hen/bird. Incubating and hatching eggs is a simple task if you know the right way to do it. The most important difference between natural and artificial incubator is that in natural incubation, parent provides warmth by contact. But in the artificial method, we incubate the egg without touching it. The health of the egg is very important for the development of the embryo within the egg. Improper temperature or humidity will lead to the death of the embryo. In this project, we are going to build the hen egg incubator by using some ready-made modules and with a common incandescent bulb. All the components used in this project are easily available and also there are no programming skills needed for making this incubator. So, let's get started…
How does an Automatic Egg Incubator Work?
Before proceeding further, let’s first understand how a hen hatches her eggs and how this artificial incubator will work. Naturally, the female bird (called brood) sits on the eggs for 21 days, leaving only for food and water. When the hen sits on the eggs, the hen heats the eggs to 35 - 40.5 degrees Celsius. The hen turns the eggs regularly by using her beak to scoop under the egg and roll it towards her. The humidity comes from the environment, the hen's body, and any moisture she transfers back to the nest on her feathers. After 21 days, 90% of the egg will hatch.
Now, to hatch eggs artificially inside the incubator, we need to give the above-mentioned optimum temperature and humidity for 21 days. So, in the artificial system, we used a Thermostat to detect the incubator temperature and an electric bulb is used as a heater, to provide a suitable temperature to the egg. So, first we set the optimum temperature in the thermostat (the ideal temperature for hatching chicken eggs is around 37.5 degrees Celsius). If the temperature goes below this optimum value the thermostat will turn on the bulb thus the temperature will increase, when the temperature goes above the optimum temperature, then the thermostat will turn off the light and that will decrease the temperature. This cycle repeats and temperature stays constant.
Materials Needed for Making Automatic Incubator
- W1209 Thermostat*1
- Incandescent lamp 40 Watt*1
- Bulb holder with wire*1
- 12V Fan (optional) *1
- Thermocol box or cardboard box*1
The W1209 thermostat is the heart of our incubator. This thermostat is basically an NTC with an STM microprocessor, a seven-segment display and a relay. NTC temperature sensor allows the module to intelligently control electrical devices according to the temperature. NTC thermistor has a negative temperature coefficient, which means the resistance decreases with increasing temperature. The relay can operate at voltages up to a maximum of 240V AC at 5A or 14V DC at 10A to power on. The temperature is displayed in degree centigrade and with the help of a 7-segment display and the relay, the state is displayed with the help of the LED present on the W1209 module. The sensor of the W1209 is a 10kNTC. The Thermostat needs 12 Volt, mainly for the relay and has a 5 Volt regulator for the controller circuit.
W1209 Thermostat Specifications
- Temperature control range: -50 ~ 110 ° C
- Resolution: -9.9 to 99.9 is 0.1°
- Control accuracy: 0.1 ° C
- Hysteresis accuracy: 0.1 ° C
- Refresh rate: 0.5 S Input
- Power: DC12V
- Measuring inputs: NTC (10K 0.5%) Waterproof sensor
- Output: 1 Channel relay output
- Size: 49(L) * 40 (W) * 15.8(D) mm
- Power consumption: Static current:<=35MA
Setting the Temperature in the Thermostat
After turning on the thermostat, you can see the current temperature on the 7-segment display. if the display shows 'LL', then the sensor is open. So, reconnect the sensor.
In the thermostat, there are three buttons labelled as SET, + and -. To set the temperature just press the SET button. The temperature values will start flashing and you can set that to the desired (37.5) switching temperature with the '+' and '-' keys. After selecting the set temperature just press SET again to save the temperature.
In the default setting, the device is most likely set as a cooler rather than a heater. Then it will turn on the relay or connected device whenever the optimum temperature is reached. We need just the opposite of this controlling system. That is we need to turn on the connected bulb whenever the temperature goes below the optimum temperature. To change that press the SET for 5 secs button until P0 appears in the display. This thermostat has 7 (P0-P6) functions or modes. we can select each function by pressing the + or – buttons. Now select P0 and press SET again to select P0 mode. Now the display will show a 'C' (for Cooler). Press the '+' button to change 'C' to 'H' (for Heater) then press SET again to save the changes.
Now select P1, this is called Hysteresis. The hysteresis sets the difference between the on and off temperature and has to prevent the relay to continuously switch on and off. Set this value as 1.0 degrees. This is enough of our application.
By the way, other modes of the thermostat are following
- P2 Highest temperature
- P3 Lowest temperature
- P4 calibration
- P5 - Delay starting time
- P6 - High-temperature Alarm
Making the Incubation Box
As we said earlier to hatch an egg, we need to provide a stable optimum temperature for that we need to make an environment. Here, I am going with a rectangular styrofoam box with its lid. I collected this from the medical shop. You can use any material for making the box. If you are going with wood or cardboard then after making the box you have to add some Styrofoam to seal the box. In the following lines, I am explaining how I made my incubator. No matter which material you are using just follow below steps to make the incubator.
After the ‘box’ is made, you’ll need to make a hole in the Styrofoam lid. Ideally, if the box is rectangular, it should be cut at either side. The hole should be just about big enough to fit the holder of a 40w light bulb. Also, make a small hole to put the sensor on it and finally, make a small slit in the side for ventilation.
Assembling the Incubator Control System
Connections are very simple and doesn’t require much knowledge in electronics for making this.
The heart of the control system is the thermostat. And it has a screw terminal and 4 connections which are labelled as k0, k1,12v and gnd. First, connect the ground and 12volt out of the adapter to the ground and 12volt screw point. Connect one end of the bulb directly to k0 another ends to one AC pin. Connect the next AC pin directly to k1. Follow the connection diagram for easy assembling. Make sure, there is no short circuit in the circuit. Also, connect the sensor to its socket.
After connecting everything I placed the circuit in a plastic box and closed everything. Then I inserted the incandescent bulb and sensor and placed the whole circuit on the top of the box. Remember to place the sensor near the eggs. Also, connect the fan to 12volt input( if you are using it). Now, our incubator is ready for use.
Testing the Artificial Incubator
As we have everything ready, let’s first test the setup without the eggs. For that turn on the incubator and monitor the temperature and humidity for a day and make the adjustments to the ventilation readings until they are at optimal levels. Now after making the changes put the eggs inside the incubator box, put the eggs close together, as this helps them maintain a constant temperature. It's important to use fertilized eggs, store-bought eggs will not hatch. Turn the eggs two times daily for the first 18 days. You can mark one side of each egg using a pen so you can easily identify the sides. After 15-18 days test each egg with a flashlight, this method is called candling. Simply hold an egg against a bright light (phone flashlight) in a dark room to see inside. A living embryo appears as a dark spot with blood vessels radiating out from it. A dead embryo can show up as a ring or a streak of blood inside the shell. If you find any bad or infertile eggs, remove them from the incubator. After 21 days 50-80% of eggs will hatch.
So, hope you learn how to make a simple chicken incubator. If you have any doubts then you can comment below.