Brooder Basics

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If you Google “chicken brooder” you’re going to come up with 100’s of different and creative methods of creating a brooder for your chicks. I’ve seen dressers, plastic storage tubs, cardboard boxes, baby gates, you name it. As long as it’s safe and effective, you can use just about anything for a chick brooder.

We were all set to use plastic tubs when we walked past a kiddie pool display at Rural King. I thought, ‘that’d be an easy and cheap brooder.’ And now here we are. We grabbed kiddie pools, some chicken netting, two bags of shavings, starter crumbles, chick grit, and went on our way.

Set up was super easy – just put the chicken netting around the perimeter of your kiddie pool. Simple, right?  I snagged a few branches from some saplings we pulled up at the land and stuck them through the fencing holes to use as perches.  We ended up zip tying them to make them stronger, but the chicks seem to enjoy perching on them throughout the day.

We had originally purchased a heat light/lamp combo from Tractor Supply the week before, but as we were setting everything up I just couldn’t get past the nagging feeling that it was too dangerous. I had already looked up heat plates, and even though they were more expensive, I felt like the price was worth the peace of mind. They ranged in price so I went with the 12/12″ Brooder Hen which says it will hold up to 20 chicks. Twenty? Eh. Seems a bit cramped to me. But it was definitely big enough for what I needed, had good reviews, and was in the middle price range of all the different options. So far I really like it. It doesn’t get extremely hot. I can touch the underside of the plate with my hand and not come away burned. The legs are easy enough to adjust and put together. Legs snapping was a concern I saw mentioned in reviews but so far mine has held up just fine. I wiggle it down into the shavings a bit and it doesn’t wobble or feel flimsy.

We had purchased your typical chick feeder and water dispenser from TSC when we got the lamp. I figured I’d have plenty of time to look into cleaner and more customized options to put in the coop. For the brooder I was really just going for cheap and efficient. I’ve probably read it a thousand times but it bears repeating… these little floofs are messy! I have to empty the water dispenser at least three times a day. I may put a little board or something underneath as they grow to help keep the shavings out, but prepare yourself.

One of the best and biggest reasons we are so excited about homesteading is being able to control what we put into our bodies. Our chicks will only eat organic and non-GMO feeds. When it’s time, they’ll have a large outdoor run and they’ll free range when we head out to work on the property. Once we live there, they can free range everyday. For now, I started them on Manna Pro Organic, non-GMO chick starter crumbles and Manna Pro Chick Grit with ProBiotics. The feed contains 19% protein. I noticed the chicks going for the grit more than the food the first few days and removed it. After I started giving them a few table scrap treats I added the grit back into the brooder. Half the time they eat it. Half the time they use it for a dust bath. Whatever works, man! They do seem to really love the food, however. My bag is 5 lbs and over half gone! PORKERS!

I added Sav-A-Chick ProBiotic and Electrolytes to a gallon jug of water. After about a week, they’re nearly through it all. After that point I’ll add a bit of Apple Cider Vinegar to a gallon jug of water once a week.

I’ve given the ladies a few treats during their first week of life! Watermelon is a big hit. Meal worms were HUGE favorite. It’s hilarious to watch them run around and with these worms. I can’t wait to get them outside. We tried a few cuts of sweet pepper, but no one seemed very excited about that. Picky! Once we get the ladies outside I’m going to use meal worms for training them to go into the coop when called.

We tried to take the ladies outside on day 3 when it was nice and hot using a baby coral but the girls kept dashing into the holes in the gates at full speed and getting stuck! That lasted a hot second before we brought them back in! Our plan is to make an easy PVC and chicken netting outdoor little play area.

I’m happy to say that the girls aren’t stinky! Messy, but not stinky! I did a full clean out of their shavings at the end of the first week. So far we’ve still got a huge amount of shavings from the first bag we opened, so it’s nice to know they last awhile at this stage. My one complaint, which I ignored in some of the reviews, is that the chicks like to jump on the heat plate and poop. I didn’t think it would be a big deal, but man, that stuff hardens up like concrete! I did see a recommendation to put press and seal down, allowing you to just remove and replace. There’s also a small dome like thinga-muh-hoozit (that’s the professional term) that you can put on the top so they can’t jump on it at all. I’d rather not have to clean the top of the plate at all, but I do like that they have a “toy” of sorts to hop onto. I’ll let you know if I get it and how it works out. For now, I’ll use press and seal since I’ve already got it.

Until Next time!

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