Hexahatch: the Open Source, Automatic Egg Incubator

So far, we’ve built a Hexayurt, two Hexacubes, and now we’re adding Hexahatch to our hexaform product line. Hexahatch is a 6-tube, 60 max capacity chicken egg incubator, with automatic egg turning. The construction is simple and symmetric, based on a hexagonal arrangement of the egg-holding tubes:

Frustrated with lack of adequate design from any source out there, we have produced this design, at $50 materials cost ( lower if you have various parts on hand), and we’re ready to build it to meet the needs of  the Open Chicken CSA program mentioned in the last post. The cheapest automatic incubator goes for $80 for half the egg capacity. Moreover, our design is scalable by extending the tube length, at $20 for every 60 egg addition.
The next step is building the thing, and if it works, that will be a great accomplishment for practical, open design. Please let us know if you know of any other open source automatic incubators.


  1. Geoff

    Have you considered a couple of potential issues? First would be that of eggs being rolled into groups by the single-direction movement, and potentially damaging one another or falling out the ends. Second would be access for inserting eggs, candling them after a couple of days, and for getting the chicks out at the end. Especially for candling this requires pretty direct access to each egg so it can be carried out as swiftly as possible. Unloading all the eggs in a tube to candle them, and then inserting them all back again may be a bit awkward. Still, candling isn’t an essential operation and this design certain offers advantages over others I’ve seen. Also, will there be room for chicks to be able to get past other eggs in their PVC tube to escape?

  2. Mike (planbe)

    Has this design been tested through actual use on real, live eggs? How did it work in practise?

  3. Lost Chief

    Couldnt you take a box and connect a few thin boards like a rack inside it in rows so you can fill each row with eggs and have one handle attached to the inner frame that can be moved externally from side to side every day?

    A cheap glass cover will let you see the hatching eggs. One light inside will provide heat and a hole in the bottom and top to adjust air flow. You could easily make it multiple levels.

    10 1/2″x1″x24″ strips spaced 2″ would easily fit 80 eggs.

    Just my 2 cents again hahaha

    Again you guys are doing a great job there..

  4. Marcin

    Lost Chief, the explicit design point of interest is to remove the manual turning of eggs. Trust me, this turns into a chore if you have other things to do, especially if you have multiple incubators running at the same time.

  5. Jeremy

    Geoff, yes, you raise important points that we will address. We’ll report on how it works soon.

  6. Lost Chief

    A simple electric motor on a relay would slide the inner rack from side to side twice daily on howecer you like. Sorry i didnt put that in. When you move the inner rack the eggs are rolled from touching the bottom of the box. Allot less work than the eggs in tubes when dealing with eggs that tatch and chicks jumping over and around eggs.

  7. Geoff

    I’ve got a manual turn incubator that operates on the principle Lost Chief describes, a small rod at the front is pushed in and pulled out in order to turn the eggs. It does become a chore, and can mean days of wasted energy if you forget for a day to turn them, even worse if you forget not long before the end of the incubation period 🙁 Perhaps a stepper motor could be used to automate this kind of motion?

    Other incubators rely on inclined planes, without actually rolling the eggs. All the eggs are tilted to the same angle in one hit by tilting the container holding them.

    Could this kind of effect be achieved with a circular frame for holding the eggs on a central shaft, with a curved collar underneath, one side higher than the other? Rotate the shaft at a continuous slow rate, or even at intervals, so that one side of the circular frame that is down below the horizontal plane ends up higher than the horizontal plane? Not sure if egg packing densities would be equivalent to a square/rectangular shaped device, or whether they would be different enough to be an issue.

  8. Marcin

    Lost Chief, can you specify the linear actuator or motor that could do the job of pushing the eggs back and forth? The question is how much a linear actuator costs, or if it is a rotary motor, how do you convert that to linear motion with the correct linkage. At present, the simple $10 dollar gear motor is the easiest way to do rotation, in tubes. I don’t see a simpler mechanism, and if the tubes are big enough to stick your hand in, then the chicks can be taken out as needed.

  9. Lost Chief

    I think if you make sure to round the bottom edges of the rack that slides back and forth so it slides super smooth or put it on 4 little wheels/Bearings you could use a Radio Control car steering Servo. You can get them on e-bay for about 5-20 bucks new or buy a lot of them used for dirt cheap. You may need to put 2 or 4 of them depending on how you build the hatcher but they are pretty cheap.

    The rack only needs to move 2″ so a servo should work fine. Thats the first and most easy thing that pops in my mind and that i would try.

    And with the tubes its not getting the chicks out thats the prob.. The only prob i see is the chicks trying to jump over and around the un-hatched eggs and rolling them around damaging them. And when the hatcher rolls with some chicks hatched already they will be turning with eggs and sharp egg shells.. Not a huge deal but one i would want to find a way to build out of.

  10. Lost Chief

    p.s. Ive hatched eggs in Incubators before. Small manual turn boxes with the window in the top. I actually have 10 laying hens right now. Hatched about 60 eggs this summer and hawks ate every single one when they were from 2-4 weeks old.. One time i was actually out there feeding the chicks and a hawk swooped within 5 feet of me for a chick and missed. My turken attacked the hawk like crazy while the rest of the hens took off. The hawk killed the rooster first. Ok enough with my war stories hahaha

  11. Marcin

    Can you point me to a specific link to a Radio Control car steering Servo, on Ebay or such?

  12. Lost Chief

    5 used quality brand servos tested working for $10|65:15|39:1|240:1318

    Also do you guys have hens that are laying right now? And if so how many do you have?

  13. Lost Chief

    wow thats allot of chickens haahhaah So i take it your putting this project on the back burner?

  14. Jeremy

    Sorry, I didn’t see this earlier, we have like 15 chickens and 3 roosters right now. Marcin said they used to have like 100. I want to get this built soon. Here’s the motor we’re going to use:

    The design is similar to what marcin posted. We’re going to have 4″ PVC tubes with perforated caps on them. a timer turns on the motor 3 times a day. not really any way to check on the chicks until day 29 or whenever theyre all done. is that ok? do we really need to candle or take the chicks out early? what if the eggs were in the cardboard egg tray things, would the chicks be ok trapped in there until time? we could cut the PVC open and have them fold out to check if necessary.

    Check out the page here:

  15. […] revolving tubes filled with eggs; the Hexahatch Revolution Incubator design is done and we will be building it tomorrow as part of a workshop. The […]

  16. Piers

    I think it is a great idea! I have started building one myself. However where can you buy a thermostat covering high enough temperature ranges for only $10?

  17. Lost Chief

    The only reason you need to candle them is to see the eggs that are dead. They wont hurt anything being in there. If you fill it with eggs from 4 days in a row you can just wait for 6 days after the first eggs hatch to make sure all the possible eggs are already hatched. I rolled my eggs by hand a couple winters ago and they hatched fine. Only a couple didnt but the air vent got stuck after most had already hatched.

  18. Jeremy

    We haven’t sourced a thermostat since we had one from an old incubator. It looks like an on/off button that gets pressed by a little button thing that expands relative to the temperature. The button thing is soldered onto the back of two tin can lids soldered together. It seems to work pretty well, but you have to monitor it to get it set at the right temperature first. I’m going to test it out soon.