Many times people will ask about incubators, what we use, should they build vs buy, materials, etc, etc. There are many blogs and information on the net already about incubators, but here is what we have used and use. I have always been a DIY guy simply because I prefer to build my own vs buy, I like to save where I can, and an incubator is nothing more than an insulated box to maintain a set temperature based on heat, controlled by a thermostat and of course humidity which is maintained inside the egg boxes themselves. Not much to it really!
When we started working with Pythons and found ourselves dealing with eggs and incubation, we used what we had available to us in the form of igloo coolers. Started with a small one tub/clutch cooler we had in the garage, than as needed moved up to a larger 4/12qt tub/clutch $50.00 at WalMart 120qt cooler, and eventually with time and need found a Coke beverage display cooler through Craig’s list for $100 that can handle appx 24/12qt tubs/clutch. Keep in mind that incubation periods are usually 60 days. So at 4/tubs you can incubate roughly 2 clutches a month, because by the time lets say the first 1-2 clutches drop say in March, then say the next 1-2 clutches drop in April, the first clutches will be coming out of the incubator in May, making room for more clutches. On my current incubator I can process appx 80-100 clutches a year. On a 120qt igloo cooler you could process appx 16-20 clutches a year, of course these numbers vary +/- depending on clutch size, etc, etc.
Here is my igloo cooler, cost was $50 for the 120qt cooler at Walmart, $6 in 11″ Flexwatt, $8.00 for a PC fan from Radio Shack, $10.00 for egg-crate from Home Depot, $1.00 electrical cord for a total of $74 for the incubator. Then add $1.00-$2.50 per tub, plus your incubation medium, which we’ll get into later. Then of course add your Tstat, please opt for a good quality tstat! This is not an area to skimp $$$ on whether in racks or incubator! Spending whether $75-$125 on a good tstat is well worth it and the peace of mind! Using no tstat, or ridding light dimmers, or cheap tstats that fluctuate wildly are a fire hazard at worst and at best can cost you the loss of animals or clutches which could be worth $100′s or $1000′s or even $10′s of $1000′s! I prefer to use Helix brand Tstats, and only use Helix Tstats, best $125 I could spend!
Here are some pics of the igloo cooler set up:
Add Flexwatt to the bottom and water bottles to assist with heat retention. This helps maintain a steady temperature and help temps bounce back quicker as you open and close the incubator.
Add your egg-crate with the PC fan. Which honestly you really don’t need a fan in this sized cooler or smaller as the variation I have found from top to bottoms in that of 1 degree. But, your choice to add it or not.
Add egg tubs and hook up t-stat and you’re all set.
Nice and steady!
Worked perfect every time!
Here is the current incubator we’re using. Again, all you are looking at is an insulated box and heat. Beverage cooler $100 (but you can find them for FREE at times), $12 of 11″ flexwatt to the sides, $2.00 for 2 electrical cords, and a tstat.
Nice and steady!
As for incubation medium, some breeders use vermiculite or perlite found in any garden center. Some people use hatchrite (don’t waste your money at $8-$12/small bag/per clutch), some use nothing at all. Again, all incubation is overall is a steady temperature and humidity. Not much else to it. With Ball pythons keep it at 88-89F for 55-60 days and high humidity without getting the eggs wet and that’s that.
I prefer to use a no-substrate method, meaning my eggs do not sit in any medium. They sit on top of egg-crate above whether you simply use water or perlite. I prefer to use about 1″ of perlite to 3/4″ of water, then lay the egg-crate on top of the perlite and lay the eggs on top of the egg-crate. This is a dummy proof way to incubate and you never have to worry if anything is too wet or too dry at any point. I open the tubs to allow for fresh air exchange twice a week and then as it gets to the last 1-2wks of incubation I allow for fresh air exchange every other day.
Here you can see I used no medium at all other than water and raised the egg-crate and eggs above the water. I prefer now to mix in perlite just to avoid sloshing of water.
Here are a few using perlite/water: