Friday, May 2, 2014

A CJ Style Chicken Brooder and... My Chicks Arrived!

One day old.
For anybody getting into having chickens, you're most likely to get them as chicks.  If this is the case, you'll need to keep them warm, dry and fed... especially for the first few weeks.  The place you do this depends on your environment.  But here in NW Ohio, it's too cold to go outside right now, so I built a brooder in my garage.

Size and Density

There are a lot of different opinions out there about how much space a bird needs.  In my case, I purchased 60 birds and put them into a 4'x8' area, providing 0.5333 square feet per bird (minus feeders and waterer).  So while this may be a little small after 6 weeks, my plan is to get them out into the read world as soon as possible after the 3 wk mark.

The Build

As I said, I built my brooder to 4'x8', a very convenient size.  I started out with a sheet of 3/4" extruded insulation board from the hardware store sitting on top of two pallets.  Why on top of pallets?  Well, I don't know... it seemed like a good idea to keep them up off the cold cement and now I don't have to bend over so far to change out the feeders!  Along the sides I took another sheet of the 3/4" material and cut it in half down the middle, giving me 2' walls.  A third panel is needed if you are making this new, but I happened to have some scraps left over after putting it up when the wind blew the siding off the end of my house.

The basic design
You might have noticed some duct tape on the bottom piece... well the wind got hold of it when I was loading it and snapped it in half, right in the hardware store parking lot... BE CAREFUL if you plan on using this stuff!  It's not the strongest in the world.

Moving along... I attached the walls of the brooder to the bottom piece with nails.  This may seem like over-kill, but I couldn't think of an easier way to do it!  One thing you'll want to before you drive those nails through, however, is drill a tiny hole through the foam board.  There is a plastic coating on both sides that is difficult to puncture and the holes make it much easier to put this together.  Alternatively, you could get an ice pick and try that.  One note, you probably don't need a hammer for this, but it might be nice for the last 1/4".

Drilling the pilot holes for the nails

Driving the nails.

UPDATE: If you are going to do this, use deck screws!  The birds will push against it, the $#!* will pile up and the walls will be pushed out... left long enough, the walls can fall down... and that would be bad.

One all four sides were up, I put a plastic liner inside.  I figure this will make cleanup much easier!  I held it in place at first with duct tape till I got it where I wanted it and then stapled it into place.

Installing the plastic liner.

With the plastic liner in place, I added a bale (?) of pine shavings, some insulation to go over one end and two heat lamps in the middle.  This should provide lots of warmth in the middle if they are cold, plenty of areas that are not so warm, and lots of space in between.  This provides the chick's lots of room to find that just right spot for the amount of warmth they need.

Heat lamps, feeders and shavings... almost ready!

 The last thing I added in was a waterer.  You'll be able to read up more on that in my next post on Avianaquamiser Chicken Nipples. 

So how do they like it?

New arrivals

Well the chicks got here yesterday and it looked a little cold for them.  I was amazed at how active they were once they warmed up, but it took a few minutes. 

This is how my chicks arrived in the mail.

One thing that I did as I got the chicks out of the packaging was to hold their beaks up against the chicken nipples until they got some water out and drank it.  It is a common practice to dip their beaks in water so they know where it is, but I was a little worried they might not catch on with the nipples.  Well, so far they seem to have the hang of it... although there are still a few pecking at the water on the 2x6 underneath it.  (This is to absorb water, as opposed to it soaking the pine shavings.)

Chicks drinking from my chicken nipple waterer.

There was one disappointment as I un-packaged my birds... one of them didn't make it.  They had been hatched the day before at 5am and I picked them up the next day from the post office... I've been told it happens, but it's kinda sad.  Hopefully all of them will still be cheeping when I get home from work today!

Okay, well that's pretty much two topics in one... if you guys know of a better way, please let me know!

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