Last 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 – Hexahatch v2.0 – was changed to a simpler, still-air design, with a flat disk as the rotor for turning the eggs. We finally have a working prototype, after replacing a faulty thermostat and after upgrading the motor to a stronger one. See the incubator in action:
Here is an explanation of the build and issues involved:You can see the initial CAD drawings at our project management site, and the key parts list on the wiki. If you would like to build Hexahatch II, we are confident that the design is sound, though it has a couple of bugs. We will build another prototype prior to product release. We need to build a more attractive, tighter box – which has no problems now in the middle of summer – but in early spring, it will probably leak too much heat – for those concerned with energy use in off-grid operation. The biggest challenge may be obtaining the 1/8″ steel disk. We cut ours with an acetylene torch. The motor chosen has ample torque, and the electronic timer works well. The only thing not shown in the video which must be fixed for proper operation is putting padding on the cross-bars. We had an egg break when moving against these bars.
Hexahatch II holds about 100 eggs and maintains them at 100-103 degrees Fahrenheit for 21 days, the time needed for them to hatch out. We’ve had the temperature steady at about 101-102 degrees, while the environment varied from 70 to 90 Fahrenheit. Hexahatch II may be used for continuous hatching, as eggs ready to hatch may be placed inside the incubator off the rotor. New eggs may be added continuously, such that one may hatch out up to 5 eggs per day on a continuous basis. All in all, the 100 egg capacity allows on to multiply as few as 5 super-laying chickens to a population of 1700 in one year.
Has the burden of the sitting chicken not been removed by the addition of this technology to Factor e Farm? While hens will continue to sit and hatch out chicks, we now expect the population of chicks at Factor e Farm to be sufficient for eating chicken in the middle of winter. To date, we never had enough chickens to eat, as numerous predators ate them before we did. That is why we now have 2 rat terriers for vermin protection, which we will report on at a later date.
Practically speaking, it may now be nearly effortless to raise, say 200 free range chickens in a season, and have them for winter food, assuming the rat terriers are doing their job in taking care of predators.