HexaHatch Review

It’s been a while since we reported on the Hexahatch project. Here are the results of the first test. We started collecting eggs in an insulated chest in Marcin’s room the week before April 25th, when we put 48 eggs in the incubator, and then put in 6 fresh eggs the next day. Over the next 18 days we made sure to keep the eggs turned and to check the temperature. We didn’t have a good way to candle the eggs so we just waited for the results. After 18 days we stopped rotating the eggs for the next 3 days to let the chicks hatch. 4 days later I found a hatched chick walking around the incubator. It looked like he had hatched in the tube right behind the left light bulb.


We waited a few more days but no more chicks hatched. It seems that the one that hatched was from the batch of 10 fresh eggs that were placed in the incubator right after being picked up. The other ones must have gotten too cold or too hot in the insulated chest and thus failed to develop. There also could have been a lack of fresh air in the incubator.

The next phase will be to troubleshoot the first prototype in several areas:

*Have a good way to candle the eggs so we can know if they are developing properly or not.

*Switch to one  incandescent light bulb instead of two florescent bulbs to simplify the design and since the left light socket kept damaging the bulbs in it.

*Drill an air hole in the side.

*Make a view port for the thermometer so the door doesn’t have to be opened to check the temperature.

*Install a new threaded rod, since our first one got bent in the testing process.

*Install the automatic timer and motor.

*Firmly fix the threaded rod with washers and nuts so it can’t shift around on the coupler and motor.

*Use only fresh eggs until we have a good place with a stable controlled temperature to store eggs.

*Hatch out another batch of eggs.

The one chick that hatched seemed to do fine for a few days, but then he fell into the water dish and get wet and cold. Once he dried out he seemed ok again, but he kept falling into the water every other day. I put him in with the other chicks we got from a friend and he seemed to do ok.


A few days later he got his head stuck in the cage and seemed weaker. The next day Marcin found him dead in the cage and put him in the compost. There were a few cool nights so we think that he may have died from getting too cold. The next chicks will need to be kept warmer. Chicks need to be kept at about 90 F the first week, and can survive at about 10 F lower each following week.

The second prototype design will need to be made out of different materials, as the styrofoam insulation on prototype 1 got scratched up very easily and is not ‘lifetime design.’ We’re looking into using some kind of insulation board with metal flashing on both sides.

In other chicken news several of the chickens have hatched a few chicks in the nesting boxes in the goat pen. The nesting boxes are pretty high though and the hatched chicks fell out and the chickens went to take care of them on the ground. Two of the brooding chickens had thought that the chicks were theirs so they all jumped down, leaving the rest of the eggs to cool off and not hatch. Guy tried building a ramp up to the nesting boxes but the chicks didn’t go back up.


  1. Sepp

    One consideration on hatching chicks.

    I have heard from someone into agriculture that chicks hatched in an incubator lose the drive – as adult chickens – to hatch eggs by themselves. In other words, once you have all incubator-hatched chicks, there is some trouble going back to the “natural” method of letting a chicken do the work of hatching. They simply don’t know any more how to do it.

    I know this doesn’t help improve the hatching machine, but it’s a piece of information to be considered.

    One point about the incubator itself: I would find a design where the eggs can lay still, or at least do not get turned around all the time. If I was a chick developing in an egg I sure wouldn’t like to be turned upside down round and round….

  2. Rasmus

    >or at least do not get turned around all the time

    That was exactly what I was thinking when I first saw this design. The 360degrees turn is something I have not seen before with an incubator design.

  3. micha

    found some additional tips on humidity and temperature:

    During the normal brood up to 17. day the temperature with chickens should be 37,8. In the last days a temperature of 37,5°C is sufficient, since the chickling develops a high intrinsic temperature in its hatching phase. The air humidity should be approx. 55% relative humidity (r.h.) during the breeding phase to. During the last days one adjusts the air humidity on approx. 75%r.F. This can be controlled with a commercial hygrometer, but it is to be noted that one should not unconditionally trust this hygrometer. In order to avoid inaccuracies, a small test can determine possible deviations of the hygrometer. Put it into a damp cloth for approx. 30 min (e.g. chamois). After this time the hygrometer should indicate approx. to 98% relative humidity. If this is not the case, and the hygrometer offers an adjustment possibility (usually one finds a small hole for a screwdriver at that back)- simply adjust to 98% r.h. now.If it does not offer note the deviation to 98% r.h. to calculate the correct value. One does not need cooling phases as e.g. with the duck brood with the chicken brood. However one must always pay attention to sufficient fresh air. Either the air supply can be regulated over airosettes, or one must open the incubator regularly. As for the turning, conventional motorized breeders turn the eggs approx. 8 times a day.

    good hatch!

  4. Brent

    The people over at windward have been doing much the same thing hatching chicks, they also explain how they made a simple candling gizmo. I reccomend reading their posts on it!

    ps. I’ve no involvement with windward, I’m just an avid reader.

  5. Jeremy

    Thanks for the info! The article had some helpful pictures, I think we’ll try adding a sponge to increase the surface area for evaporation in the incubator.

  6. Matt

    Why are compact florescent bulbs are used in the incubator? Are the bulbs in the incubator used to warm the eggs? If so, wouldn’t an incandescent bulb be more effective?

  7. Jeremy

    Matt: Yes.

  8. Inga

    … maybe a stupid question: were the eggs fertilized?

  9. Jeremy

    Most of them should have been. The roosters were very ‘active’ at the time. Also most of the eggs the chickens were sitting on had developed, but we only hatched 3.

  10. micha

    can you describe the undeveloped eggs?
    (there is a german website with some problem diagnoses based on the looks of egg and or embryo..)
    where did you get the 48 eggs from?
    go to “Brutfehler”

  11. Jeremy

    They seemed pretty much like there just wasn’t any development, like the white and yolk in some, or just all yellow like the yolk in others. I think the post at the top says where all the eggs were from.

    Take care,


  12. Maria Howard

    Incandescent light bulbs will soon be phased out because they waste a lot of energy.’`.

  13. Darren (Green Change)

    @Maria: The ‘wasted’ energy from incandescent bulbs is the heat they generate. Heat is what you want in an incubator, not light. So incandescents are good for this job.

    CFLs are more efficient at producing light (which is normally what you want), but less efficient at producing heat (what we want in this case).

    You can get special-purpose heat lamps (used for raising reptiles) that would probably be even better, but are much more expensive.

  14. […] year, we have begun work on the automatic, open source chicken incubator – Hexahatch. It did not work well, primarily because the big rotor was too heavy. This year’s design […]

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