Posted by: Uno

Waterbator - 05/12/13 09:17 PM

I have invented several incubators over the years. I am no genius, amazed some of these things haven't burned my house down! But for me, the fun is in inventing.

Hatched chicks in an old camper fridge with a light bulb for heat and a wool blanket for a door. Fridgebator.

Hatched chicks in a cardboard box. Boxbator.

Hatched chicks in a Styrofoam cooler. Foambator.

Hatched chicks in my big, black roasting pan with a layer of popped popcorn under the eggs, and a bulb under the roaster. Roastbator.

Now am using the big, black roaster again, but this time the eggs are on a plastic liner from a box of wine, filled with water. Bulb under roaster. Waterbator.

The waterbator has undergone lots of tweaking, it is not a perfect design. Biggest problem is getting an accurate switch. My point is to build a bator that anyone could reproduce for little money. For me, going out and buying an expensive thermostat defeats the purpose of a homebuilt bator. Right now I have an awkward wafer device that HUbby cobbled together with wing nuts and hockey tape. But so far (fingers crossed) it seems to be mostly working.

This waterbator is also in response to the often heard agony hatchers have over humidity. IT has been my experience that most of my chicks make it to the finish line and DROWN as they pip, because the egg has not lost enough moisture. But still people insist on adding humidity. I believe that the whole humidity issue would go away if we quit incubating with HOT BLOWING AIR. It's the extremely unnatural and harsh conditions of hot, blowing air that make us have to compensate by adding humidity. Goodbye to hot air, goodbye to humidity worry. I hope.

I maintain that I have never seen a hen sweat on her eggs, since a hen has no sweat ducts/glands. How does a hen add humidity? She does not. However, she also does not dry her eggs out by blowing hot air on them, either. So I hope the warm plastic bag of water mimics the direct body contact of a hen.

So, experiment underway. Friends who drop in see this contraption in the kitchen and assume I'm cooking a turkey, on the floor, with a light bulb. Is it that big a stretch? When I was a kid I cooked awful, gummy little cakes in a little oven, heated with a light bulb.
Posted by: jonnydot

Re: Waterbator - 05/15/13 08:51 AM

Humidity under the hen is caused via her body heat IE micro-climate ,just like an Incubator , the warmer the air the higher the humidity . I have found that fan forced bators give a more uniform heat ,but they dry out membranes as the chicks pip this is especially apparent with small egg species such as Jap quails . This is compounded more if the hatching takes place close to the fan.A bator that has a size say similar to a GQF Sportsman generally has a hatching area in the lower most area as such the membranes are effected less.I also build my own and I build them with a fan with a cfm rating the same as sportsman 210cfm (approx) this dries egg membranes out to much at hatch but is fine for incubation .I would have a separate hatcher with a reduced cfm say approx 150cfm ,based on the fact that the chick upon lockdown generates a little of it's own heat and a slightly cooler spot in the hatcher will have minimal effect. Using a plastic bag of water will aid as a heat sink but do little more as it does not generate heat ..your heat source does this (bulbs /element/cow poo lol or whatever you choose to use ) As for a cheap thermostat you could try a water heater thermostat ,but drill a heap of holes in it to allow a faster response time ,these are very cheap and even free if you find an old heated and pull it to bits ,some room heaters have thermostats and these can also be used these are a little better especially the ones with a digital read out .Hope this helps a little :-)
Posted by: CJR

Re: Waterbator - 05/15/13 10:29 AM

Appreciate your thinking, Uno--productive!!!
Hens that steal nests out on the ground, usually have 100% hatch (pheasants, and ground nesting birds, also)--the humidity must be about perfect--ground source-- and nearly perfect insulation by the warm body and plumage of the hen. Their turning of the eggs keeps the yolk parts from settling and evaporation equal through the shell, all around. When I used a larger incubator, I rotated the the eggs from the fan area, otherwise the eggs on the opposite side hatched later and I like an even hatch. (Different incubators, differences to discover!) I do not use the automatic turner in my mini Brinsea, but turn and move the rotating tray several times a day, so that eggs are in different positions from the fan. I candle almost daily after day 4 when I turn the eggs (bantam eggs are easy to check for the little "red spider" by day 4) right up to hatch. You can watch the size and position of the air sac, see when the tiny beak pushes into the air and pipping will begin! This way, the few "breach babies" are identified and can help them hatch, if necessary. Last 2 or 3 days I leave the eggs alone, that are due to hatch. (Yes there is writing on each egg, Band numbers of parents, date of lay--and when new eggs are added, also write the day of set and hatch due date, right on those eggs!) Humidity has not seemed to be a problem. I keep water in that little central "well", and it needs a little water added every day or 2! In every set since I got it in January, there has been 100% hatch of fertile eggs and there has sevesral times. been 3 hatch dates of the 7 eggs it holds, as I add eggs as chicks hatch or an infertile egg removed, with just one to 5 chicks at a time. Take time out to clean the base and egg tray and set new eggs. It is a nice activity--to be enjoyed as much as watching chicks grow and mature! Your incubator designs are great and useful information, UNO--THANKS CJR
Posted by: Uno

Re: Waterbator - 07/11/13 01:32 AM

It's been a while since I popped in here, Hi to you, CJR!

Jonnydot, I have thought and thought about this humidity thing. There are LOTS of theories floating around. You say that humidity is caused by the hen and her microclimate. I disagree. I think humidity is caused by the eggs, which are 99% water (or some high percentage like that). The EGGS lose their water into the air and the hen preserves that humidity with her body. But she does not cause it, she is the caretaker of it. Between the moisture in the eggs and the warm contact of the hen, the perfect atmosphere is created.

The Waterbator had some big glitches, it turns out. First was my wafer unit. It was not designed very well. Every now and then it went crazy and the temps either went way up or too low. It was an experimental design, I suspected it might not work too well, but have yet to think of a better design. Hubby is encouraging me to buy a digital switch, but I am resisting, since I wanted to make this with easy to access parts.

The waterbag was indeed a heat sink, a darn good one! Picture eggs on a waterbed bladder, that's what this was. A plastic wine skin (from a box of wine) filled with water, heated from below with a light bulb. If my switch had not been wonky, this would have been perfect.

BUT..I still had eggs that had not evaporated enough. First hatch I covered the roaster (the water bag is sitting in my big, black roaster) with a lid. Next hatch I left the lid off and covered with a towel only. Then I started flipping back an edge of the towel. Either I live in a ridiculously humid place, OR my egg shells are too dense to allow rapid enough evaporation. I had a high failure rate for 2 reasons, I think. Temp spikes and drops lost eggs along the way. The ones that did make it to hatch often hatched into eggs that drowned them. So not enough evaporation. Sloppy, wet eggs.

The one advantage I found: I find wet/cold chicks put back in the forced air Hovabator seem to stay cold for a long time, as if they just can't get warm. But when you place a cold chick on that warm water bag, he cuddles down and is cozy in seconds. It warms chicks up a lot faster than a conventional bator.

But it still needs fine tuning.
Posted by: Uno

Re: Waterbator - 02/12/14 01:10 PM


I have fired up the waterbator again, with some changes.

I gave in an ordered the digital temperature controller that Hub wanted me to try. Holy smokes! That thing is accurate! Wish I'd had it years ago!

I used to heat the water bag from below with a light bulb. The frequent on/ off cycling tends to be hard on bulbs and when they burn out in the middle of the night, you wake up to cold eggs. I am now using an old heating pad I got at the thrift store. The heat pad sits below the water bag, the eggs on top of he waterbag. Fingers crossed that it doesn't pack it in before these eggs are done.

No fan, no added humidity, hand turning. Direct contact heat source like a hen's chest against her eggs. Fingers crossed...the most important part, crossed fingers!
Posted by: CJR

Re: Waterbator - 02/12/14 06:16 PM

Perhaps you can find the LONG LIFE incandescant bulbs. 40W,60W, 70W-90W. (from catalogs) Give off light and heat equivilant to the regular W bulbs. I got several boxes of them and glad I did. Will last my lifetime! I use them to brood my chicks--last for years, 24-7 for weeks, then for other sessions of many weeks for later hatches. Incandescants were supposed to be phased out, but I understand, now postponed. I am prepared!

Good luck with that waterbator--have my first 12 chicks from 1 1/2 sessions with my Mini Brinsea, that hatches 7 bantam eggs, just right for my shoebox start with them, TOO COLD to let the dear hens hatch and raise them, although I let one go halfway through her set,until I could move them to the Brinsea. Sorry not to allow a LOVELY broody to enjoy chicks, but this WEATHER is not forgiving, and I can be a good-broody, too! AND they are so gentle and tame, they love my hands--very nice for 4Hers who will get some of these gentle chicks, when they can come for them! So glad to hear about your doings, Uno, let us know how this hatch develops! BE MY Valentine
Posted by: Uno

Re: Waterbator - 02/12/14 09:59 PM

Of COURSE I will be your Valentine! I would be honoured!

They have outlawed the incandescent bulbs here. Bought 3 new LED bulbs for my kitchen lights, it cost $35, I almost had a stroke!

If we find an old style 100 watt bulb on a store shelf, we grab it! They're precious like gold!

So far with the waterbator, the heating pad seems to be doing a good job. WHen the power turns off, the pad does not immediately get cold, it holds its heat for a while, as does the water. Between the water bladder and the heat pad, those eggs have no idea they're not under a hen. Happy as clams!

I am trusting that within the next couple of weeks we will have an improvement in this atrocious weather we've been having. The babies will live in the house for a week or so before going out to their chick pen. BUT...my dear Valentine...I won't count my chicks before they're hatched! Stay well and I'll give a report when the hatch does (or does not!) happen.
Posted by: Foehn

Re: Waterbator - 02/22/14 07:06 PM

I have a first time broody sitting on her last egg. Most she either broke, or ate or the other hens destroyed fighting over laying where she was sitting. Stupid girls. They had perfectly adequate other places to lay. In the end I put a baffle board in to stop the others annoying her. Yesterday her second last egg pipped, so I have a very noisy super stroppy chick in the incubator this morning. I will slip it back under the hen tonight and remove her other egg to the incubator.
The chick is a pure bred barnevelder, but it is a pale ginger, so I'm mystified as to why it is not the right colour.
I would raise this chick myself it it wasn't for the three week old Muscovy duck that is taking up my brooder at present. Lucky duck is a character. He/she is the only survivor of ten eggs that another first time broody hen was sitting on, and the same thing happened. Too much competition for the layers to go elsewhere it seems. I desperately need OH to build me a broody coop, as all mine are taken up with chicks I did hatch in the incubator and then put under my faithful clucky Araucana bantam cross, who is now nine years old and still going strong. Some of you might remember her as "Little Nasty" She has raised the majority of the hens I have. She has weaned the last lot she had now and the little horrors are escape freaks and spend most of their time destroying my garden. Every time I stop them getting out they find another way. The latest way is to exit the hen run/orchard via the paddock which is full of cattle at the moment and make a long trek back down the fenceline until they reach the gate at the back of the house and hop through it. Grrr!
Posted by: Uno

Re: Waterbator - 03/10/15 12:57 AM

Despite the waterbator being a brilliant concept, it just didn't work. Not even with the new fangled digital temperature controller. I have two theories why.

The volume of water in the bag was not enough to protect the eggs from the incredible blast of heat from the heating pad below the water. Believe it or not that water still had hot and cold spots. I thought heat would move through water more naturally than through air. Maybe it does, at certain volumes, but not at the volume of water I had in the wine skin. It was perhaps an inch deep. Just one inch of water between a very intense heating pad element and the eggs.

The second problem was heat location in relation to embryo location.

When an egg lies in the nest, where does the embryo mostly sit? At the top of the egg. Where does a hen apply heat? To the top of the egg. Where did my waterbator apply heat? To the BOTTOM of the egg. Even though the water, where the egg sat on it was 99.5, I think the embryo at the top of the egg was a hair too cool. The egg was not surrounded by warm air, it was heated by contact with a warm bag of water. The temp was perfect at the point that contact was made. But I think the egg cooled towards the top and I think this killed the embryos.

I now have an invention I call the Noodlebator and I think it's perfect! Well, I think that about all my stupid incubators. It consist of a pool noodle (one of those long, tubular pool flotation devices) bent into a circle. Inside this sits a bulb with the heat directed upwards. Over all this is a very old, blue enamel wash basin. This sits upside down, like a dome. The heat rises, hits the dome shaped top, drops down, heats the eggs. I did hatch eggs in this last year, chickens and ducks.

It looks completely insane sitting in my kitchen, but my friends are used to the crazy inventions I dream up to hatch eggs. I think this design has merit, I just have to tweak it some.
Posted by: Foehn

Re: Waterbator - 03/14/15 01:20 PM

Who knows Uno, maybe some day you will have a superduper incubator named after you and make millions! It's being inventive that has made this world we all live in and able to enjoy the "comforts" that have been the fallout from that inventive thinking. Who for instance dreamed up the simple art of printing the measurement on the side of electrical cable to make the job of an electrician so much easier. No longer does he need to get out the tape measure, or guestimate the length of cable used so he can charge it out at an arm and a leg.
Posted by: Uno

Re: Waterbator - 03/14/15 11:05 PM

That's my plan, make a million!

Watch out for electricians who sell by the foot but charge by the arm and leg!
Posted by: Robbie

Re: Waterbator - 04/19/15 05:38 AM

Uno, I hve been following your water/mojobator/unobator idea for a while with interest, and I think I know what the problem might be. I built my own incubator and added two large hot water bottles to serve (I thought) as a way to moderate temperature swings when I opened the incubator. What I did find was that although the air temperature was 99.5 degrees, the water temperature was only 94.8 and the bottles were acting as cooling pads rather than heating pads. It was too cold for the eggs to incubate properly. I did put water hotter than the incubator in at the start, thinking equilibrium would be reached at 99.5 oF. I think that because the incubator's insulation wasn't perfect, heat was being conducted out of the incubator via the water bottles, cooling them. The water cannot evaporate from the closed bottles so that must be the reason the water was cooler than air temperature. My thoughts are that the water itself must be heated if it is to be used in an incubator, but it might be too tricky to heat the water to a consistently proper temperature. I am curious, Did you take the temperature of the water or was it the temperature of the air just above the water? In my incubator the air temperature was different than the water temperature. If the water temperature was indeed 99.5 oF in your incubator, then perhaps the eggs need to be turned more often and that would solve the problem.
Posted by: Uno

Re: Waterbator - 04/22/15 12:07 AM

Robbie, thanks for your interest.

As I think I've already said (been a while since I was here) my temp probe was taped to the surface of the water bag, and it was reading 99.5.

I still think the problem was that the egg, where it contacts the water bag, was 99.5. But the embryo, floating at the top of the egg, was not warm enough. A hen sits on the TOP of the eggs, applying her body heat at the top, where the embryo sits. I was doing it in reverse, heating from the bottom, and it just didn't work.

I have now moved on to a new design, the Noodlebator, which is a pool noodle and an antique bread pan with a light bulb and digital controller. Hatched out my chicks and ducklings in it so far this year. And I don't add any water for humidity.

If there was a way to get the water bag on TOP of the eggs, it might work, but I cant's imagine chicks trying to hatch with a massive bag of water on top of them. Water is heavy!
Posted by: Robbie

Re: Waterbator - 04/24/15 06:15 AM

So, perhaps the answer is to turn the eggs very often if they are on the water? that could do it.
I have re started my incubator with a fresh clutch of eggs, and without the water bags and evertyhing seems to be running smoothly.
I can't for the life of me picture the noodlebator..... can we see some photos? I'd be very interested in them.
Posted by: Uno

Re: Waterbator - 04/24/15 08:27 PM

I'm trying to remember how to post pictures here ...
Posted by: Uno

Re: Waterbator - 04/24/15 08:41 PM

Posted by: Uno

Re: Waterbator - 04/24/15 08:43 PM

Posted by: Uno

Re: Waterbator - 04/24/15 08:48 PM

A pool noodle curled into a big O shape.
A light bulb and digital temperature controller.
Bulb surrounded by foil cone to direct heat and light upwards, do not want glare on eggs, which causes hot spots.
Antique bread pan with a gasket of waterline insulation taped to the rim, is the top of the Noodlebator.
I cover the whole thing with a towel.
I dry hatch, no humidity added.
Last year and this I have hatched in the Noodlebator.
I think the dome shape and heat holding ability of the bowl is key.
Clean up is a snap! Throw the bottom towel in the laundry, and wipe everything down with a bleachy cloth. Done!

Posted by: Robbie

Re: Waterbator - 04/26/15 06:36 PM

That is very interesting indeed..... how does air get in there so the eggs don't suffocate? I take it you lift the top off to turn the eggs? How long does it take to get back up to correct temperature? And you don't add water to increase the humidity at lockdown?
Posted by: Uno

Re: Waterbator - 04/26/15 08:44 PM

I do not add water. Not even for duck eggs.

I candle every day so that lets air in. Plus the extension cords running here and there make small air gaps. Plus there might be the odd rust hole in the old bread bowl.

The bread bowl is enamel and holds some heat for a while, a very short term heat sink. But it comes back up to temp quite quickly, I'd say in about 5 minutes. 40 watt bulb. 60 is too hot.

I do not worry too much about the eggs cooling off for a bit while I candle them. I figure the hen gets off her nest to eat and go to the bathroom, so eggs must be designed to have a little bit of no heat.

I made some modifications since this pic. There is not a lot of room in there, so I carved off the inside inch of the pool noodle all the way around to give me a bit more room.

The other problem is that when chicks hatch and wobble around, they bang into the light bulb and burn themselves and knock the tinfoil wrapping off kilter. I have devised cages to set hatching eggs into, but they get out of the cages pretty quick. Am going to have to come up with a better chick containment plan.
Posted by: CJR

Re: Waterbator - 04/27/15 09:48 AM

Wish you could run for US President. We need someone who can not only "think things out", but then DO IT!
And it would help, if she/he raised chickens! You have my vote, UNO
Posted by: Robbie

Re: Waterbator - 04/28/15 05:36 AM

Would it be possible to mount the light bulb in the bottom (top) of the bowl with metal screws? If you used an appliance 40 watt bulb it would be smaller than a regular bulb, and it could be caged off with a wire housing so the chicks don't get burned. You could tape the cord to the side of the bowl so that stays out of the way. The aluminum tape that's supplied with reflectix insulation sticks to pretty well everything.
Just thinking out loud!
Posted by: Uno

Re: Waterbator - 04/29/15 01:19 AM

CJR, don't know that inventing ridiculous incubators makes me presidential material, but you never know! I will consider it should anyone ask me to run.

Robbie, I also think out loud! Often in the middle of the night when I can't sleep.

There is a reason I have the bulb in the bottom. I wanted natural rising and falling of heated air to form it's own movement inside the dome shape. I was trying to stay away from needing fans, which I think contribute all manner of badness to hatching. Hot blowing air makes the need for humidity, in my opinion. I want to avoid adding humidity and thus must avoid hot, blowing air.

However, overhead heat, like in the Hovabator, was notorious for hot and cold spots in even a small area like the inside of the Hovabator. So I didn't want a fan, but I did want the air to move, and I figured hot air rising then hot air falling would create enough movement to keep the interior bator temp fairly even. It does. Sort of.

The eggs closest the bulb do get warmer.

Plus an overhead bulb puts direct light onto the eggs. The glare of a light bulb creates hot spots where it hits eggs and this way, with the bulb on the base, wrapped and the light and heat going up, the eggs are protected from the uneven heat caused by glare. I use a long, thin 40 watt bulb, not a regular round one.
Posted by: Robbie

Re: Waterbator - 04/29/15 05:00 AM

I forgot to ask..... how often are you turning the eggs? You just pop off the lid and hand turn them?
Posted by: Uno

Re: Waterbator - 04/29/15 07:49 PM

I turn the eggs once or twice a day. By hand. Pop off the top, careful not to drop it on the eggs! I also candle every day. Set all the eggs on the kitchen table, turn out all the lights, get my little LED flashlight and candle away. This allows the eggs to cool as well as turns the and gets them fresh air.

It's all pretty low tech and no stress. If they cool a bit, they cool. If I forget to turn them one day, I forget. Humidity, pffft, don't give a fig. My eggs hatch anyway.

The secret is the digital temperature controller. I never had any luck controlling the temps of my bators with a wafer. Those digital temp controllers are slick units! WIsh I'd had one years ago!
Posted by: Robbie

Re: Waterbator - 04/30/15 05:53 AM

Uno can you give more information on the thermostat you are using? I have a combo digital proportional thermostat/heater from Incubator warehouse, but I'd like a second thermostat that I can hook up to a second heater.
Posted by: Uno

Re: Waterbator - 05/02/15 08:00 PM

Digital temp controller is an STC 1000. Got it off ebay for about $30. Had Hub wire it into an extension cord and light bulb.

I can adjust the temp in the Noodlebator by moving the probe closer to or further from the light bulb.

Another item I find valuable is one of those flexible fever tester strips. (buy them at the drugstore where they sell medical thermometers) It's like a band-aid with mood ring stuff in it and you stick it on your kid's forehead to see what temperature they are having. If I want to test the temp of an egg I take it out of the bator and immediately wrap this tester strip around it. If it shows 100, I'm good with that. If it hits 102, I flip out and adjust the bator. Handy little unit to test the surface temp of an egg. I figure surface temp and internal temp are closely related.
Posted by: Robbie

Re: Waterbator - 05/05/15 06:08 AM

Thanks, I'll check those out. Did you have to calibrate it before you used it?
Those fever strips are a great idea. I could stick one in the incubator for a quick visual confirmation....can't have too many back-ups of back-ups!
Posted by: Uno

Re: Waterbator - 05/07/15 07:38 AM

No, I did not calibrate the digital, although I have calibrated every other thermometer against my medical thermometer.

The fever strip will not work in your incubator as a temp indicator. IT works through direct contact with a heated surface, not air temperature. I do not rely on it as an accurate temp measurement.

If I pick up an egg and think, gee, that feel awfully warm, I wrap the fever strip around it to confirm or deny my suspicion. If the 100 degree mark does NOT light up, then I know the egg is likely okay. IF the 102 mark lights up, eek, I do something to get the temp down. But they are NOT dead accurate, more of a guideline.
Posted by: Robbie

Re: Waterbator - 05/07/15 03:08 PM

Thanks Uno.
Something weird is going on with my Incukit, my combo proportional thermostat/heater. The blasted thing is shutting itself off somehow. First time it happened I thought I'd pulled the power cord out by mistake, the second time I know it did it itself..... Another batch of test eggs wasted..... I need to get my incubator going for some red dorking, dark cornish and buckeye eggs for the week of the 25th. I'll probably just order one of those STC 1000, sounds like a reliable thermostat and wire up a couple of light bulbs (in case one burns out! ) rather than risk having the same thing keep happening with the Incubator Warehouse incukit. Not impressed.