Modifying a Chicken Egg Incubator to Proof Bread

Bread Proofer

In my blog I recently spoke of using a chicken egg incubator as an alternate to the Brod and Taylor Folding Bread Proofer. My logic behind using a chicken incubator, was the cost to purchase was far less than the $400 price tag of the Brod and Taylor.

The chicken incubator however needed modifications before being used. The end result is now a near perfect device, which suits my needs.

The following summarises the changes I made to a 112 Egg Chicken Incubator, which consists of both a bottom section, and a removable second level. Although I purchased a 112 Egg Chicken Incubator, a smaller 96 egg unit would have sufficed, as it was the height of the unit which was essential.

Incubator Egg Trays/Rotator

The trays which are used to hold the eggs in place, and rotate them throughout incubation, are unnecessary for bread proofing. I removed these and set aside to re-sell, the countdown timer on the incubator would normally rotate the eggs once 2 hours had passed, however without the trays wired up, the countdown restarts again once reaching the two hour point.

Trays

Incubator Fan

The incubator has a fan in the lid, as well as a second fan in the centre of the removable second level. I removed this second fan, as I found the cabling got in my way, when placing items inside. As there was more airflow when proofing vs two trays of eggs, the air flowed easier and made the second fan less necessary.

Fan

I set the fan aside to re-sell but kept the metal bar it was attached to. The fan bar was re-purposed by attaching it to a cake cooling rack. I now insert this if I need a second layer within the unit for things such as bread rolls. The bottom tray will hold 18 rolls, the second tray will hold the last 6 rolls. This leaves  plenty of room for a second bowl of dough to proof at the same time.

Fan Bar

Humidity

Ideally bread needs to be kept in an environment of between 60% – 80% humidity. When using only the single bottom tray, the incubator managed the humidity fine. Rather than use the inbuilt channels in the Incubator,  I chose to top up a heat proof jug with boiling water. I did this to save time on clean up at the end.

Once a second tray was used however; the incubator struggled to keep the humidity above 60% for the two hour period I needed it for.

Preferably, I wanted to be able to set and forget the incubator, not having to top up water at any point. Because monitoring the humidity on the unit and topping  up the water is a pain, I purchased a cheap car humidifier for less than $10 on ebay.  Adding this to the set-up has meant the humidity has always sat at roughly 80%, and I now no longer need to monitor the humidity or top up the water.

Humidifier

As the Humidifier operates on a 5 volt USB only, it plugs into the same power supply which the incubator plugs into, keeping it cheap to operate and the entire setup easy.

Power Supply

Configuration, Alarms and Testing

Instructions for the Incubator,  provide details on how to modify the configurations as well as the alarms, it also suggests testing the temperature to confirm the accuracy of the incubator.

Alarms

Alarms on the device are really annoying, usually going off at the most inconvenient time. Set to warn a user when the temperature and humidity drop below, or go above a certain level. Alarms can be modified to suit the needs of the user, but frustratingly not switched off altogether.

Updating the alarms so that they will chime at only the most impossible times, reduces the likeliness of having to hear them. For example a temperature Low/High Range of .01 to 99 degrees means that the user never has to hear them unless something is dramatically wrong.

Countdown

By default the countdown starts at 2 hours and restarts once it reaches 0. I left the countdown at this, as it’s the time range I normally stick to for preparing and baking bread. It helps me to remember how long the dough has been proofing for. If I were to frequently use the Incubator for yoghurts, I would change the countdown to be for 8 hours instead.

Temperature and Humidity Test

The owners manual recommends testing the temperature of the unit against an independent gauge. As I already owned a temperature gauge, I was able to test the unit to ensure it’s readings were close to what was the true temperature and humidity. I was surprised to discover that it was already very accurate, and adjusting the device was not necessary.

After doing my own Temperature and Humidity tests and learning that the readings were very close to accurate, I would suggest not bothering to test if the user doesn’t already own a second temperature gauge.

Summary of Bread Proofer Since Modifications

Overall I’m over the moon with this purchase, the end result has been bread which seems to proof a lot quicker, freeing up my time. Adding the cheap humidifier has also meant the unit is now more set and forget, requiring less monitoring.

The size of the device is a bit off-putting, and the sound of the fan isn’t loud, but is certainly not quiet either. But if all of these issues are not a concern for a user, I would definitely recommend modifying an incubator instead of investing in the Brod and Taylor Folding Proofer to save a few hundred dollars.

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