The CyberQuail Guide
to Home-Made Incubators

Click here for info on how to candle button eggs

Tony's Styro Cooler Incubator

Go to your local hardware (or whatever store sells them where you are) and purchase a styrophoam cooler. Get the bigger one if they have it.

Purchase a light socket that has a cord with it. The light socket should have an on/off switch. [Editor's note: if you wire a dimmer switch into the cord, it will be much easier to regulate the temperature of your incubator. The dimmer switch will set you back another few dollars at WalMart, but should be well worth it.]

Place the light socket (without the bulb) on the lid in the middle and trace a circle with a pen around the socket. Then gently using a sharp knife, cut around the circle you made. Gently place the light socket in the hole you cut making sure that the switch is on the outside. The socket should hold firm. I find using a little bit of carpenters glue (in the inside of the lid around the socket) is good to use to ensure a firm hold.

For viewing you can either do one of two things......

Find an old picture frame with a glass (the dollar store carries them as well) and cut a little smaller than the size of the glass on the right & left side of the cooler lid. You want to make sure there's enough space around the sides to glue the glass in. You can tape it as well but I use carpenters glue to glue the glass. Make sure the glass isn't to big otherwise you may cut into the centre hole where the lightsocket is.


You can cut a square (I did it this time) on the side of the cooler. I used an 8 x 11 piece of glass from a picture frame. I find placing the glass on the side gives for better viewing.

Poke a few holes along the sides of the cooler for ventilation. I use a screw driver. If the cooler you're using is the bigger one, then place a 25 watt bulb (new) in the socket. If it's a smaller cooler, try a 15 watt bulb.

If you can, try to find a small fan that will fit in the cooler. (I bought one at Walmart for a few bucks). It will be difficult to maintain the proper temp. without the fan. A light only bator will not give you a steady temp. The fan circulates the warm air that the lightbulb is giving off thus giving a more even temp.

Place a small bowl in the bator for humidity. I've never had a problem with humidity and a hatch rate in the bator even though it's usually at 60%.

Turn on the bulb and the fan for a few hours before you place the eggs in the bator. You need to check periodically to see what the temp. is going to be. If you find that the temp. is too high, then pierce a few more holes on the side of the bator to let the excess warm air out.

If you find the temp. is too low, then place some scotch tape over some of the ventilation holes.

This bator is so easy to make and should take you no more than 25 min. to make. It cost me roughly about $20.00 to make. Also, once you place eggs in there and you go to turn them, make sure you shut the fan off first cuz the fan running will cool the eggs quickly. Also, you don't want to touch the propeller either. The propeller on the fan I bought is plastic making it safe.

Regarding the thermometer. Make sure the base of the thermometer (the oval part) is the same height as the eggs. If the thermometer is placed to high then you won't be getting the proper temp. for the eggs.

Frank's Guerrilla Incubator

This is a plan for an inexpensive incubator for quail and chicken eggs any one can easily construct.

Materials needed:

5 each12"x12" @ " plywood
1 "13"x13" @ " plywood
1 "5"x 6" @ 1/4" plywood
1 ""x1/2" @ 8 feet
1 ""x1" @ 3" plywood
1 "bulb holder or lamp base
1 "electric cord
1 "light damper
4 "brass hinges

Carpenter's glue, nails, aluminum foil. Netting.

Almost all items can be scrounged, recycled, begged, i.e. cheap if you do not count your time to build the apparatus.

Tools needed:

  • Drill and ” drill bit
  • Hammer
  • Screw driver to install hinges and assemble the lamp components.


Obtain plywood from construction site. Ask politely, explain what for, and you not only get the wood but may even have it cut to size. Take it without permission and you might spend time before the bar: Not a fantastic savings plan.

Drill vent holes into the two boards that make up the sides. Those on the side of the lamp at the rear bottom, the others kitty corner, i.e. on top of the opposite board, in front.

Install the rails to the side boards; the top of the rail should be 3” below the roof.

Install the 5”x6” board above where the lamp will be. This will be the reflector/diffuser shield.

Drill holes for the wiring into the rear board and install the lamp base.

Cut top board/roof into two sections with a ration 1 to 2; join the two pieces with a set of hinges on top.


Mount side boards onto bottom. Mount rear board. Attach the larger top piece to the rear of the box. The short piece of wood is nailed or screwed to the front to form a lip that fits over the main door. Attach the front panel (main door) with hinges at the bottom. The hinges are screwed to the inside of the box. Attach two rails under the box to act as feet.

Next, glue aluminum foil over the inside walls of the incubator; also cover the reflector shelf with foil. Make sure the vent holes are not obstructed.

Finally, wire the lamp and the damper.

That is the incubator. You can further insulate the apparatus by mounting aluminum bubble wrap over the outside.

Take the remaining ” square stock and make a frame that easily slides on the rail. Cover the frame with netting (I use that from an onion bag from the grocer).

To Operate:

Place a wet bulb thermometer into the incubator on the shelf in front and turn the light on. After a couple of hours, check and record the temperature. The damper enables you to fine tune the temperature. Once you achieve consistent warmth, place a hydrometer at the bottom, and a glass jar with water. Regulate the humidity by covering the jar with aluminum foil and punch holes into the cover. When all is right, add the eggs and follow standard incubating procedures.

Dat's eet, mun!

Candling Button Eggs

Candling these eggs is tough, because the shells are so dark, it's almost impossible to see in. I made a little candler out of a small cardboard box lid with a hole in the center and a rubber garden hose washer glued over the hole to set the egg in - it's just the right size, and the edges of the box lid keep the egg from falling to the floor if it happens to topple off the washer.

You have to do this in a dark room so as to concentrate the light from a flashlight (I've used a mini-maglite with pretty good results), which you would shine up from under the egg and, looking down from the top, you should be able to see inside at least a bit.

Look for a network of veins around the edges of the shell (after day 3) and a dark mass, which would be the developing embryo (after day 7). You can keep the eggs out of the incubator for up to 20 minutes, though of course, less time is better.

Don't candle after day 11 (this is not an exact date, but I prefer to err on the side of caution); the later in incubation you are, the less fluctuation in temperature the eggs can withstand, and what a heartbreak it would be to break an egg with an almost fully-formed chick inside!

If you can't see anything but darkness, don't despair; it may still be a good egg! Remember, these are extremely dark shells, and much more difficult to see through than a chicken egg. If there's any possibility that the egg may hatch, keep on incubating it!

Click Here for a page with some good photos of candled chicken eggs - much more distinct than what you'll see with your button egg, but useful to know what you're looking for.