Well, here we are again with another “DIY”.  I have had so much positive feedback from the “Snake Rack”, “Rat Rack” and “Co2 Chamber” that I’ve decided to add an “Incubator DIY”. Years ago, when I realized I was interested in breeding ball pythons, I realized that I had to either purchase or make an incubator in which to “cook” my eggs.  After scouring the internet and picking the brains of other breeders at the time, I decided (once again) that the best incubator that I could find for my needs and my space would be the one that I made myself. I got to work and created a wonderful melamine incubator that was four feet wide, two feet tall and two feet deep.  The floor was suspended for air circulation, it had sliding glass doors, Flexwatt heat tape, a fan for circulation and a Helix to run the whole thing.  It held 16 clutches and worked well for the time I had it.  Eventually, the wear and tear on the unit warranted a new build.  I began collecting information and ideas on how to make an even better unit; one that would fit my space, grow with me and my clutches and most of all, was dependable and efficient. In this “How-To” I will take you through the build.  I welcome you to use any of the following information you may find useful in building an incubator of your own, but know that this is a build that best suited my needs and may not fit your own purpose.  I’ll start by going through a list of all the stuff you’ll need to get to build your own incubator, starting with the “Big Stuff”: Incubator: There are a variety of items that can be used for your “do-it-yourself” incubator; a homemade melamine build, a full- sized fridge, a Styrofoam cooler, a mini-fridge, a wine cooler, a rigid cooler or any of the many pre-manufactured incubators available from online suppliers. For my purpose, I opted to use the Danby “Designer” (model DWC044BCP) 40 bottle, 4.4 cu. ft. wine cooler, purchased at Sears.ca for $229.99.  For its size, glass front door and its ability to be modular as well as its perfect dimensions for the egg boxes I would use inside.  When the shelving is removed, it holds eight shoebox Rubbermaid #2218 (11”x7”x4.25”) for a total of 16 clutches.  I have four of these fridges that run inline with each other and stack two high; perfect for my space.  The unit also boasts an interior dome light and digital temperature readout to work alongside my thermostat.  The insulated glass doors add the additional convenience of not having to open the door to view the eggs. Back-up Power Supply: Again, there exist a whole bunch of power supply options available at many different retailers.  From 150W UPS computer backups to 15,000W gas generators.  You’ll want something that can run your incubator in the event of a power failure.  I decided on a mid-range unit; the 400W Noma back-up power system (Canadian Tire for $149.99).  With four power outlets, its compact size, and it’s capabilities of running my incubator for power outages of up to 16 hours, it’s the perfect unit for my needs.  Thermostat: In order to maintain the steady temperatures (88-90 degrees) needed for incubating ball python eggs as well as being in use for over 7 months of the year, it is absolutely essential that you pick up a quality thermostat, DO NOT skimp on this one.  Loads of units out there, many different brand names.  Do some research and see which one suits your needs best.  When I first decided to build these new incubators, I did come to realize that a proportional thermostat (ones that only give a percentage of full power to maintain temps) will not work with a power back-up unit, so you will have to use a thermostat that has an on/off function (one that achieves the desired temperature by full power, and then turns the unit off until the temperature drops).  A thermostat with an on/off function is necessary if you decide to use it in conjunction with a power back-up unit. I opted to use the Herpstat thermostats since I have had nothing but great experiences with them running my racks.  These units have both a proportional setting as well as an on/off setting and are accurate to within +/- 0.10 of a degree.  These units can be found directly through their manufacturer at spyderrobotics.com or online retailers that also carry the line.  The units range in price from $109 to $319.  Heat:  In order to provide the heat necessary to incubate you eggs at an even temperature of 88-90 degrees, you will need a heat source for your incubator.  You can use heat mats, UTH’s, heat rope or Flexwatt heat tape.  Due to its ease of use, flexibility, low cost, and low energy consumption, I decided to use Flexwatt heat tape.  This product comes in a variety of sizes: 3” wide at 10  watts/linear foot 4” wide at 8 watts/linear foot 11” wide at 20 watts/linear foot 17” wide at 20 watts/linear foot Regardless of what product you use to heat your incubator, it is generally agreed upon by the “powers that be” that you will require between 10-15 watts of heat/cu. ft. of space for optimal efficiency.  For the size of my incubator, (4.4 cu. ft.) I needed 45-65 watts of heat.  I used 3 panels (36”) of 11” heat tape for a total of 60 watts of heat.   You may have to choose an alternate length and/or size of heat tape to fit your space. Fan: Hot air is lighter than cold air, so in any contained space that is heated, the air will be hotter at the top than at the bottom.  This effect, called thermal layering, can cause temperature fluctuations of as much as ten degrees in some incubators.   This is not desirable in a space where you require constant, steady temps for a prolonged period.  The solution is a fan placed at the top of the incubator, blowing the warmer air down and regulating the temperatures within the entire space, thereby eliminating thermal layering. Fans are grouped by CFM (cu.ft. / minute) which refers to the amount of air a fan can move in one minute.  I have found that a lower CFM fan works best for moving enough air to eliminate heat gradients, but not so much that your incubator becomes a wind tunnel.  I use a 20 CFM, A/C, steel housed casing with ball bearing movement.  They also only require 7W of power at full capacity, in keeping with the high efficiency of the overall build.  I pick up my fans for $23 at  canada.newark.com.  I have found that the cheaper the materials used in a fan (plastic) the more apt they are to burn out or break which in turn could be disastrous for your eggs.  Spend the extra money on a good fan. updated Feb 1, 2011