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 Redwood Incubators,

Jewels from the Past.


     I recently had the good fortune to purchase two old Redwood incubators.  A Model 424 Leahy and a Model 624 Brower (Also manufactured by Leahy).  These beautiful incubators where sitting in the red dirt mud at the back of an old run down barn.  When I first saw them I knew I had to rescue them from their most certain fate. 

     Once I got them home and knocked all the dirt, mud, bugs and spiders off them, I was amazed that they had made it this long under such terrible conditions. A few nicks, scratches and one crack on the oldest ones door and that was pretty much it .  No rot at all. 



 This is an old Brower Redwood Incubator, Model 624.  Leahy made this unit and many others.  This is a before picture. The picture below it is after a couple weeks of restoration work.  This is going to be a beautiful unit when it's fully restored. It has six trays plus a hatcher.             

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 THIS BROWER IS  FOR SALE



                                                                                                                                                              This is a before picture of a Leahy Redwood   Incubator, Model 426.  Leahy manufactured Redwood Incubators for 100 years from 1873 until they closed the factory in 1983.  These incubators were shipped around the world! 






 Here are two pictures of the same Leahy Incubator, fully restored.  This unit is still working perfectly and I didn't have to replace the micro switches, the wafers, the heating element or the fan motor.  The only thing I had to replace was the power cord and I retrofitted some galvanized items for the interior.  How many incubators today will be able to say that they have all the original parts functioning perfectly as long as this one has?

 Just in case you were wondering, the battery went dead in my digital camera and I forgot to change the date stamp!  These pictures were taken today, January 21, 2011



      Over the past three weeks I've spent untold numbers of hours cleaning and restoring these old beauties.  With every stroke of my hand sanding, painting or varnishing I can feel the appreciation coming from within the deep, dark, beautiful Redwood.  They speak to my soul.  As if I can hear them saying, "Thank You". 

     I've grown to love and appreciate the individuals that originally hand crafted the old Leahy incubators.  The company was in business for 100 years.  They made incubators that put to shame the newer "Advanced" incubators of today.  It's a shame that we, as a people, have opted for technology over craftsmanship.

     I owe the beauty of these incubators to the craftsmen of the Leahy Company and to one man who through many emails has helped me to restore them to their original splendor.   That man has my undying appreciation and respect.

     Rodney Haefs is a master at direction, patience and compassion.  He held up with gentlemanly grace under my onslaught of questions and inquiries.  Thank you so much Rod.  I will be always indebted to you.

     Contained here on this page and on the page entitled "Incubation Techniques" are words of wisdom from a very wise man!  It is a lengthy read but well worth the time it will take.  Rod has been hatching chicks and restoring Redwood incubators for years untold and it shows in his ability to explain away any problem you may have with ease and mastery.   




Out takes from numerous emails received during the month of January, 2011

All credit given to Rodney Haefs with gratitude


First, remove that piece of plywood that's on the bottom on top of the heating element.   That could cause a fire.   A lot of people make this mistake and so did the previous owner.

Secondly, have someone make you a plate out of light weight steel or Aluminum that is the same size as your trays (18 X 24).   This goes over the top of the heating element and sits on the wooden strips.   The way it's set up right now, you won't have even temps in the incubator because the air isn't going to flow right.   If you look in the back of the incubator you'll see some galvanized flashing material that's curved.   This directs the flow of the air to create an even flow of air in the incubator.  

Third, you'll have to get a water pan to put on top of the plate over the heating element.  You can either have one made no higher than 1 1/2 inches high the full width and length of your trays (18X24) or you can get a cookie sheet that's got a little higher side and use that.   The heating element heats the water so it evaporates faster causing more humidity inside the incubator if you need it.   

Replacement wafers for this unit are item #3007 from http://www.SmithPoultrySupplies.com

Fourth, did you get any egg positioners or turning rods for the trays?


Run 1/4 inch wooden dowels across the trays about 1/2 an inch up from the bottom of the tray.  Divide the tray into 3 sections and run 2 dowels across each tray.   Seal the dowels in the holes with wood glue to keep them from sliding out.  The dowels should fit snug.  When you drill the holes in the sides of the trays for the wooden dowels, make sure you drill straight so the hole doesn't get bored out larger.  The best way to incubate your eggs is laying flat.   (See incubation techniques for more on this.)  


You will need to get one made up for every two trays.    When you turn eggs you pull the egg turner out of one tray and push it into the next tray. You'll need 2 pieces of stiff wire 1" longer than the tray.  These will make the handles that you pull.   Bend one end of the wire to a 90 degree angle or an ?L? shape.   Then you'll need a piece of metal 1 1/4" wide and just wide enough to almost touch across to both sides of the tray.  These need to be welded onto the ends of the wire opposite of where you bent it to make the L shaped handles.    It has to be thin enough to slip into the end of the tray also.  This will make your turning rod.  The turners slip under the eggs and roll the eggs about 180 degrees each time where automatic turners only rotate them back and forth 90 degrees.   The best way to incubate your eggs is laying flat.   (See incubation techniques for more on this.)  


 Leahy made them and half a dozen others for different companies.

This one has the water pan on top that sit's on those two strips of wood directly in front of the metal flange that is angled under the fan motor.   Here again that area on top has to be filled in for correct air movement.   Either have another sheet of metal cut to lay on top or have a water pan made to fit snuggly from the front all the way back to the metal flange.   The water pan on the Brower shouldn't be any longer than the trays.   It has to be out of the way so air can flow up and not be restricted.   If it sits to close to the micro switches it will throw them off.    

Next what I recommend to do is remove the entire micro switch's from the inside of the front of the incubator.   You can't get parts for these anymore.   Then go to http://www.SmithPoultrySupplies.com and order a pair of complete micro switches with wafer, bracket and adjustment screws (item # 3122, approximately $22.00 each).  Mount them in the same area that the old ones were.  Everything will come out in one piece.  Several screws hold it in place. 

In the back where the motor and heating element is I want you to order a GQF heating element from http://www.SmithPoultrySupplies.com (item # 3014, approximately $8.00 each).    When you get it, stretch it out and hook the ends up to the same posts the original element is hooked to and then stretch the wire and hang it on the outside of the white insulators that are holding the heating element that's in it now.   This increases your heat supply and makes this incubator work better.  

With this incubator to turn the eggs you have to pull the metal tab that's in front of the tray out to turn them once and push it in to turn it the next time. 

When you pull the old switches and alarms out of the Brower, all you'll have left is the fuse box with the socket for the 7 1/2 watt bulb and the 20 amp fuse.   Cut the wires off right at the micro switches so it leaves you all the wire that's there to hook up the new switches.   When you wire the new switches in they have to be wired so if one fails the other backs it up so the eggs don't get cooked.   What I always do is the hole from the original adjustment screw is used for the primary micro switch and then I move over to the right just far enough that I can fit the next bracket with the wafer and micro switch in it without interfering with the first one.    Then set the second one for a temp about 1 1/2 degrees higher than the first one which is set so it goes off as it hit's 100 degrees.   This way it will keep a constant average of about 99.5.   The fuse box takes an old fashion 20 fuse.    Could never figure out why the newer incubators don't have a fuse to protect them.  After you get the new micro switches mounted you have to connect the bottom 2 wires of the switch's together and the remaining two wires get hooked up to the wires coming out of the fuse box.

 The motor and fan blade offered by Smith Poultry will not work with this unit.   They're only for the smaller GQF cabinet incubators.    They don't have enough capacity to move the needed amount of air.    Use the Dayton Motor number (3M553), you can order one directly from   http://www.grainger.com 

.   You won't need a fan blade.   Also the motors have to be running in the right direction.   I bought several incubators over the years that I was told wouldn't hatch anything and all it was, was the fan was running the wrong direction and was moving the air backwards.   The fan has to blow the air towards the back of the cabinet.   You could also just check the number on the fan that's in the Leahy incubator and go from there.    All the fan blades just slip onto the motor shaft and are either locked tight with an allen set screw or slotted set screw.  


  Here is the part number for the strip heaters.    2XEG1   order 2, they're 500 watts each.    Call Grainger at Stockton CA.    Their phone number is  209-466-2036.    To put them in just take the cover off of the heating element box.  You pull the screw out and it slides off.   I use a small vise grip to grab ahold and pull with.   Then pull all of the insulators and wire out of the basket they're in.   Once you have the basket cleaned out, lay the strip heaters in the basket one on each side.   Then just wire them in.   Real simple.   




To calibrate the Leahy I set the outside one first, that would be the one on the right side.   Set that at 101.5.  Then set the other one at 99.5 or what I do is set it so it kicks out as it hit's 100 degrees.  That way it will average close to 99.5.

 You have to turn the adjustment screw out.  Turning it in will push the wafer down against the micro switch button and shut the heat off.   For more heat you turn the adjustment rods counter clockwise and to lower the heat you turn them clockwise.  You set the temp for your highest temp first.  That would be the micro switch on the right.   This will be the back up to the other micro switch.    If your first one goes bad you'll notice that your temps will go up to the temp you set the right hand micro switch set at.  Then you start adjusting the left micro switch to what you want for your operating temp.  Each micro switch works independent of the other.  You don't try to set each micro switch so they work together. The right micro switch is just the fail safe or backup to the first one.   

If you are having difficulty getting your wafers to calibrate, your micro switches might be sticking.  Take WD 40 or something similar and spray it on the button on the micro switch.   Sometimes a blue/green corrosion builds up on the switches and they'll stick.  The easiest way to check out a wafer is to pull it and shake it.   They're filled with ether and if they crack it leaks out a little and they eventually don't work at all.  Replacement wafers are available at http://www.SmithPoultrySupplies.com  (Item # 3007).  If your wafer overheats on you and it isn?t cracked, then I think it's in the micro switch buttons.    


All eggs in nature are incubated flat.   You'll never see a hen set them on the small end and turn them.   By laying them flat and rolling them 180 degrees each time you?re making everything inside the egg shift completely.   This complete shift is called ?Making the Embryo Exercise?.   This will give you a stronger chick when it comes time to hatch.

 The only time I'll incubate eggs in the upright position is when I get eggs shipped in.  Then I incubate them in the upright position for 7 to 10 days without turning them at all and then turn them for the remainder of the 18 day period.  This stabilizes the air cell and gives the embryo a better chance to start growing and get strong.  You should let them rest at least 12 hours prior to incubation when you use this system.  When shipped eggs that have air cell damage, it's best to have them incubate in the upright position the entire time of incubation just tipping back and forth after the first 7 to 10 days.   I've taken eggs that have the air cells damaged so bad that they'll shift all the way down the side of the egg and I've gotten a good percentage of them to hatch doing it this way.  This is my idea from getting hatching eggs shipped in over the years and then nothing hatching because of air cell damage.  I just studied the eggs and opened tons of them that didn't hatch and came to the conclusion that to get them to hatch you first had to get the embryo growing building up strength.  That was always the biggest battle.  That's what blood rings are in shipped eggs.   The embryo starts and then dies because it can't attach itself properly in the egg.  Run both of these incubator with the air vents wide open.   This will keep the air healthier in the incubator and keep the humidity lower.   Only go by the size of the air cell in the egg to gauge the humidity in your incubator.  Some eggs dry down easier than others.   Marans eggs will dry down slower than Leghorn eggs.   This has something to do with the egg shell.   But if you go by standard operating directions and run your incubators according to the incubator directions you'll have poor hatches.   You have to shoot for getting the air cell size to grow up to 1/3 of the egg by the time the chicks are supposed to hatch.   The smaller the air cell the wetter the chicks will be.   Small air cells will lead to a lot of chicks pipping and then drowning in the eggs.

As far as the humidity goes like I said, just watch the air cells.  They're what will determine if the eggs are incubating right.  Sticky chicks are caused by way to much moisture in the egg.    What you have to think about is all the white of the egg has to be gone when that chick is ready to pip out.  Then what happens ,if it is still there, is as soon as air gets into the egg when they pip through, the white of the egg acts like glue and as they're pipping it's drying and eventually it plugs their nostrils up and they smother.   I have all my vents wide open and I don't add any water until the eggs are pipping.   I set my Redwoods up so when I start them I fill the water pans full of the hottest water that comes out of the faucet.  Then let them run for a couple of hours to seal up the wood.   Then set your temps.  Once the Redwoods are sealed then the moisture evaporating out of the eggs seems to be enough until they start pipping.   Then, when the eggs start pipping, fill the water pans with straight hot water again.    I do this even with my waterfowl eggs.   They hatch so much better this way.


I've always lived my life with the motto that "The way you treat people will come back to you double".     I've made a lot of friends this way.                   

 Rodney Haefs


Wiring Diagram: