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Off Grid Incubator?

Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1404
Location: Chihuahua Desert
We want to hatch some eggs this year, probably turkeys and muscovy ducks. One problem, though: we are off-grid, which means we don't have a bunch of spare electricity to run a 100 watt appliance 24 hours a day for 21+ days.

So.... does anyone know of an off-grid version (aside from a broody hen)?

I was thinking a hot compost pile might work. You'd have to make some sort of auto-vent to regulate the temps, but I can keep an insulated box around 120F pretty easily with compost.

We have a big solar hot water tank (400 gallons) that sits at about 120F all the time. It is in a big insulated box, and if we put the eggs above a layer of insulation, the temp should hover around 95-105 (hopefully).

We also have propane for the stove, and I could probably convince the wife to spend some extra $$$ on propane if we got some turkeys or ducks out of it.

Alternatively, I could just beg a neighbor for some extra electricity.

Any other ideas?


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Ronald Greek


Joined: Oct 15, 2010
Posts: 22
Location: Outside Yuma, Arizona
The wife seems to think I’m nuts… With that caveat presented…

How about containers of water, block of metal, rock, etc. heated in a “solar oven” and kept swapped out?
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree

Joined: Apr 03, 2010
Posts: 4820
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
    
181
People make and use kerosene incubators with 12v air circulation.

kerosene incubator pdf download

Some of the info might be useful even if you want to use a different heating system.


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Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1404
Location: Chihuahua Desert
I have seen the kerosene or oil lamp designs, and I imagine I could make a propane burner to do something similar (we don't have kerosene here).

I wonder how much electricity a DC incubator would pull over the course of a day? I guess it depends a lot on surrounding environment, etc, but I could see it needing 600 watts/day.

Heating some thermal mass in a solar oven might work, except for cloudy days.

I am thinking that putting them in the solar water heater box might be the way to go. I need to put some thermometers in there to see the temps at different levels in between layers of insulation. I might try it with some chicken eggs first and see if it works.
Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 2973
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  51
I'm off grid too and hatched some turkey eggs this summer. I don't think the incubator used too much energy because it's insulated and it was in a closed off room during the summer so it didn't take much to bring it up to temp.

My problem was the eggs hatched at different times because I didn't group them together. They all lasted about 2 weeks and then died. In hindsight I think it wasn't warm enough.

The year before that I got day old poults and none died. I had 10 of them in a 20 gallon aquarium with heat bricks on the bottom to store heat. The heat lamp (maybe a 50 watt bulb) was connected to a thermostat so it shut off when it reached temp so as not to waste energy.

This year, they were in a larger container and there were less of them.

I'll try again this year.

Good luck.


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Dennis Yo


Joined: Dec 23, 2011
Posts: 1
The electrical load it takes depends on the size of the incubator, of course, but many of the small models that hold up to 2 dozen chicken eggs don't take much power. I have a Brinsea Octagon 20 with a turner, the incubator itself is 45 watts peak load, 25 watts operating load (whatever that means, I guess it takes more for milisecond when it first turns on the heating element), and the turner takes a whopping 3 watts.

Mine can hold about 20 turkey eggs, or about 24 hens eggs, or as many as 100 Coturnix quail eggs.

This would probably be "doable" for someone off grid with the right kind of solar battery charger/backup unit. I think a lot of the small incubators in this size range are probably similar in power requirements.
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1404
Location: Chihuahua Desert
This would probably be "doable" for someone off grid with the right kind of solar battery charger/backup unit. I think a lot of the small incubators in this size range are probably similar in power requirements.

maybe. If it is running at 25 watts (operating load) for at least 1/2 the time (this is the big variable), then you are looking at 300 watt-hours a day, which could be doable. If it needs to run all day, then at 600 watt-hours, it is pulling more than a fridge.
Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 2973
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  51
velacreations Hatfield wrote:If it is running at 25 watts (operating load) for at least 1/2 the time (this is the big variable), then you are looking at 300 watt-hours a day, which could be doable. If it needs to run all day, then at 600 watt-hours, it is pulling more than a fridge.


It's not going to run 50% of the time if its indoors. If your house is warm and not drafty it'll be fine. If it is drafty put it in a larger box and in a relatively warm spot.
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1404
Location: Chihuahua Desert
that's the problem I am having, though. How much does it run? We have a sealed house that maintains 70-75 temps inside (passive solar), so I don't think it would have to run much to make it work, but who knows? I haven't seen any data suggesting the daily energy usage for these things.
Stefan Pagel


Joined: May 09, 2012
Posts: 27
Most of these incubators are not insulated very well. Make a 100mm poly box for it with some ventilation at the bottom and place it on a high shelf in the warmest room of the house. It should use very little electricity.

But of course a broody hen is much cheaper to run
A croad langshan hen can sit on 14+ eggs and she makes an excellent mother.


24 acres of grass/bog land in the Scottish Highlands
(Kune kune pigs, pygmy goats, chickens)
Planned: Build a RMH in the animal house, Build a green house
R Scott


Joined: Apr 13, 2012
Posts: 2428
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
    
  28
I think ours ran 50% of the time, sitting on the slab in the basement at about 68 degrees air temp and 60 degree slab. They are very thin styrofoam with the whole top being an uninsulated window.

Buy the T-stat and build one in a heavy styrofoam cooler--the 3-4 inch thick ones they use to ship frozen stuff. You could rig one with a 12v heat coil fairly easily.

You also could take advantage of latent heat somehow--place it on the warm slab with good sun exposure or in the exhaust stream of the fridge, etc.


"You must be the change you want to see in the world." "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi
"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --Francis of Assisi. "Family farms work when the whole family works the farm." -- Adam Klaus
 
 
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