A Cozy Chick Brooder . . . and Chicks!

So I’ve been meaning to do a post about our ridiculously awesome chick brooder, but we had a bit of weather this week and it kept me from going out and taking pictures.  The brooder was quite a project because we wanted to be able to keep it outside, rather than having those little poop machines stinking up the house.  Being that it’s winter, that meant it needed to be weather-proof and, most importantly, well insulated.  But that clever fella, he figured out how to build it strong and warm and pretty darn efficient, and on a tight budget to boot.

I had planned to get the brooder post up this afternoon, and then be able to post pictures of the chicks all moved in tomorrow after they arrived.  Well, this morning was a whirlwind – I was on my way out the door to go to work when I got a call from the post office: the chicks came a day early! So here are some brooder-building pictures (not as many as there should have been, sorry) and some little puffball pictures to finish it off.

We spent about $8 on 2x2" sticks to make the frame, and $2 on screws. The plywood is recycled from another project.

We spent about $8 on 2×2″ sticks to make the frame, and $6 on screws and hinges and such. The plywood is recycled from another project.

We ended up settling on a 4x4x2 1/2' size, which will be plenty big enough for 25 chicks, but probably not big enough if we ever want to raise more than that.

We ended up settling on a 4x4x2 1/2′ size, because it fit well with the materials we had.  It will be plenty big enough for 25 chicks, but probably not big enough if we ever want to raise many more than that.

Here's the finished box. What I failed to show you was the part where we insulated it with batting from some old, flat pillows and added interior walls, and then caulked all the joints!

Here’s the finished box. What I failed to show you was the part where we insulated it with batting from some old, flat pillows and added interior walls, and then caulked all the joints to keep the drafts out!

The fancy orange bucket in the previous picture is just a rain cover for the heat lamp, which is attached to the roof of the brooder. Also, the fancy duct tape across the top is just to have the metal hinges of the door to keep rain out.

The fancy orange bucket in the previous picture is just a rain cover for the heat lamp, which is attached to the roof and shines through a hole cut into the top. Also, the fancy duct tape across the top is just to cover the metal hinges of the door and to keep rain out.

None of the feed store folks knew what we were talking about, but we finally found this neat thing at Home Depot - it's a thermostatic switch that turns the heat lamp off and on according to the temperature in the brooder. Only $20!

None of the feed store folks knew what we were talking about, but we finally found this neat thing at Home Depot – it’s a thermostatic switch that turns the heat lamp off and on according to the temperature in the brooder. Only $20!

And here they are! 26 day old Freedom Ranger chicks. So far they are all alive although there's one I'm a little worried about. Good thing the hatchery sent us an extra.

And here they are! 26 day old Freedom Ranger chicks. So far they are all alive although there’s one I’m a little worried about. Good thing the hatchery sent us an extra. It is pretty darn chilly today, but they are all warm and cozy in their box.

7 thoughts on “A Cozy Chick Brooder . . . and Chicks!

  1. where did you say they were shipped from? That is awesome none of them died on the way there. we had ours under a heat lamp in the spare room off our kitchen. that was fine for about 3 days, then it was time to put them in the brooder house. Are these laying hens or are you going to eat them?

    • I ended up getting them from the Freedom Ranger Hatchery in PA, so they traveled a loooong way. But the folks there were very nice, and the price was right. Not only that, these chicks seem healthier and more active than some Cornish X chicks from another hatchery that arrived at the same time (long story, there was a package mixup at the PO and I ended up bringing home my mine and someone else’s too, but it’s all sorted now). These aren’t layers, they’ll be dinner in about 10 weeks!

  2. Adorable. Have you dispatched any chickens yet? I think I’m going to find it hard when it comes round to the killing…but with ours it’s not something I have to think about for few years :)

    • Well, we’re kind of taking the easy way out. I plan to sell about half of them, which is illegal unless they are processed at a USDA facility. There happens to be such a facility about an hour from my house, so we’re just going to take all of them there. I think it’s important to be able to do the deed yourself, but frankly I don’t have the money or the will to equip myself properly to slaughter that many chickens at once.

  3. i’m interested in how you kept fresh air in the box? with the heat and waste enclosed, i’d be concerned about their breathing. did you have a damper type system, like screen when you opened the top?

    very nicely done though – we might want to do that so we can get chicks earlier in the spring. we currently have 75 chicks in an old chicken house outside. at 3 weeks old, we keep a heat lamp for cool nights and a fan (for those 90+ days we’ve been experiencing) set on low blowing at the ceiling.

    • We kept a close eye on them and changed the litter often and kept the top open about 3 inches (locked in place with a bungee cord), but ventilation is definitely a concern going forward. We’re going to add some screened over vents before we get the next batch of birds.

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