How to Convert a Refrigerator to an Incubator

An incubator is a useful tool if you wish to hatch eggs at home. You can use an incubator to help hatch poultry eggs, such as chickens or turkey. You may want to hatch commercially available quail eggs to start your own local covey of birds. Reptile enthusiasts also use incubators to hatch snakes and lizards. Some incubators can be rather expensive, especially larger models. If you are on a tight budget, a solution is to make your own incubator out of an old refrigerator. The project is not terribly difficult. The most challenging task is that of wiring a thermostat into the incubator.

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An old refrigerator makes for an inexpensive incubator.

Step 1

Remove freon from the refrigeration lines on the back of the refrigerator. You may need to call a professional heating and cooling specialist to do this. It is illegal to release freon into the air; it must be transferred to a holding tank and disposed of properly.

Step 2

Turn the refrigerator on its side. Use your wrenches, screwdrivers, and pliers to remove the motor unit, coils, tubing and all of the mechanical parts on the bottom of the unit. This will cut down on the weight and allow you to move it much more easily.

Step 3

Set the refrigerator upright. Open the door and remove the bottom shelf. Set a small heater on the bottom of the refrigerator. Mark the spot where the electrical cord will pass through the back of the refrigerator.

Step 4

Drill a hole at the spot you marked. Make sure the hole goes through the back wall of the refrigerator.

Step 5

Thread the heater cord through the hole. Tape the cord to the back wall of the refrigerator. If the heater cord is too short to reach an outlet, attach it to an extension cord. Plug the heater into an electrical socket.

Step 6

Place a thermometer on both the middle and top racks in the refrigerator.

Step 7

Turn the heater on the lowest setting possible and shut the refrigerator door. Allow the heater to run for several hours.

Step 8

Open the door and check the readings on both of the thermometers. The temperature on the top shelf will probably be slightly lower than that of the middle shelf. If the temperatures are too low, turn the heater up slightly, and allow it to run for a couple of more hours. Check the temperatures again. Once the temperatures are where you want them, use that setting on the heater.

Step 9

Attach a thermostat to the heater if you desire. This is not necessary, but it will help you regulate the temperature in the unit without opening the door to check it. Attach the thermostats to the heater power plug, and then use an extension cord to plug into a power outlet. Attach the sensor to the side wall of the refrigerator with electrical tape. A thermostat will also shut off your heater automatically so it does not run all of the time. The thermostat will cut the power to the heater once the desired temperature is reached.