Brothers M. Mondays in May 2022 – Brooder Series Week 5

Brothers M. Monday is our way of sharing our excitement  about our chickens.

Folding1We still needed more brooder area, but I really didn’t want to dedicate more area to just brooders so I came up with the idea of fold up brooders that hang on the wall.

Folding2I made two 2’x4′  hinged brooder boxes. The bottom is hinged to the wall so it folds down, the two sides fold into the floor, and the front is hinged to Fold under the bottom.  The lid had hinge pins so you could take it off and hang it on the folded down brooder or store it someplace else.

folding3To support the front of the folding brooder, I hung chains from the rafters with S hooks on either end to unhook from the brooder and remove from the rafter to store the chains away.

I liked the boxes, but because of their size, they didn’t hold many chicks after I added the feeder and waterer, about 15, 20 max.  Also, I only folded them down when I had to have the space and they stayed up most of the time.

4x4So, I decided to take them out and make a 4×4 in the back corner.  A family member made a similar brooder to this one and gave me the idea.  The idea is that it’s 4’x4’x1′ so you can make it out of one 4×8 sheet.  I made mine a bit taller and added a strip of wire mesh, this was to give me a little more height for waterers and feeders, and I thought I might make more and stack them for transporting the full grown grown chickens, the latter never really panned out.

Even though this makes getting to the back corners of the two brooders in the back of the lean-to, I really prefer this brooder over the 2 hanging brooders.  It worked well this year.

Brothers M. Mondays in May 2022 – Brooder Series Week 4

Brothers M. Mondays is our way of sharing our excitement  about our chickens.

I decided we should have a dedicated brooder area so I cleared out my 8’x16′ lean-to and enclosed it. I lined one long wall with 2 3’x8′ brooder boxes.  The back is 3′ high and the front is 2′ high.  I chose 3′ wide to make it easy to reach the birds in the back; likewise, that’s why the front is shorter.  The back is higher so I can fit a 3gal waterer under the lid.  Additionally, I started out needing clearance for the lights which hung from the lid.

The lid is 2×2 frames with 1/4 hardware cloth, hinged in the back so it lifts up.  I use safety hooks to fasten it down so raccoons cannot unhook it.  I put additional eyehooks in the roof rafters so we can use the safety hooks to hold the lid up.

I switched the lights to sit on top the lid vs hanging because the chickens kept knocking the lights and they would fail; we lost several birds one night because of that.  So instead I sat the lights on top the lid, and attached the shroud to with pieces of wire.   I had to cut a hole in the lid to allow the lamp to protrude through since it sticks out further than the shroud.  This also comes in handy when I need to change a bulb.

Used pickle barrels line the opposing wall and make a safe place to store the feed. These brooders will hold 100 chicks each.

Brothers M. Mondays in May 2022 – Brooder Series Week 3

Brothers M. Mondays(on Tuesday this week) is our way of sharing our excitement  about our chickens.

Trailer1

We have a 3 1/2′ x 7′ wooden trailer, which became our next brooder.  I added a lid to it so we could use it to take the chickens to our processor.  It doubled as a pretty good brooder.  My biggest concern was that predators would breath through the lid, it’s made out of a 1×3 frame and 1/4 inch hardware cloth.  It’s pretty sturdy for travel when it’s locked down, but not really meant to keep something from chewing and pulling at the corners.

Trailer2Turns out I should have been more concerned about how secure the heat lamps were attached via the squeeze handle.  One fell off and burned a hole in the floor of the trailer.  Fortunately the conditions were right and it only smoldered a hold the size of a basketball instead of starting a fire.  Unfortunately I cannot find my picture of the hold.  After that I fastened the lights securely to the lid, which looked pretty ominous from outside the tent.

trailer3The down side of the trailer was running off an extension cord, how deep the trailer was for reaching onto it, and we outgrew it once we started raising more than 100 birds at a time.

Since I was worried about predators, I setup a trail-cam during one run.  Here’s a bonus video I made out of it, hope it makes up for the delayed post.

Brothers M. Mondays in May 2022 – Brooder Series Week 2

Brothers M. Mondays is our way of sharing our excitement  about our chickens.

Crate1Our very first brooder box was thrown together with a lamp and a plastic tote for 20 guinea fowl we bought.  But for the meat chickens, I needed something better and bigger.  I converted a pallet crate into a brooder.  I enclosed the crate on the outside with 2×4 wire fence to keep predators from breaking in.   I used some scrap composite wood flooring for the floor, I was a little short so there were a couple places I filled in with scrap wood. The crate didn’t have a top or lid, so I used a regular pallet with 2×4 fence attached for the top.  It wasn’t attached, but was heavy enough critters couldn’t move it.

Crate2I lined the inside with pink 1/2″ foam board insulation.  On the sides I attached some scrap Formica sheets to protect the foam board from being pecked and eaten, it didn’t protect all the way to the top, but that was only a problem when I temporarily hosed a grown bird in the brooder.  I had a piece of foam board that covered almost the complete top, then I sat the pallet top/lid on to of that.

Crate3An attached light to the side and a waterer and feeder and it was ready for chickens.  This worked pretty good.  But we quickly outgrew it, I think the max was about 30-35 birds.

Brothers M. Mondays in May 2022 – Brooder Series Week 1

Brothers M. Mondays is our way of sharing our excitement  about our chickens.

I’ve recently received a couple questions about starting chicks, so this year for Brother M. Monday’s in May I’m doing a Brooder series

One of these things

Starting out, here’s some general brooder basics I use:

  • Length – In general, the chicks can leave the brooder as soon as they are feathered out.  Anecdotal wisdom is that the sooner the chicks eat pasture grass, the sooner they build immunities.

Starting in early spring, mine usually go out near the end of 3 weeks.  After that they start crowding the brooder.  When raising them in the summer, I like to get them out around the end of the 2nd week, assuming we’re having warm weather, during a cold spell, I’d still wait another week.

  • Heat – I subscribe to a “normalizing” heat method using heat lamps.  This means I supply the heat and rely on the chicks to self-regulate their temperature by moving closer if they’re cold and further away if they are hot.  This method means you have to be observant to what the chickens are doing.

In the spring I use 250w bulbs and switch to 120w in the summer.  When the temperature drops low enough that the chickens are crowding the light, I use foam insulation and some blankets to cover the tops of the brooder, leaving appropriate space around the lights to prevent fire and allow air flow.

  • Bedding – I use the deep bedding method of bedding the chicks.  This means I layer in bedding as it gets soiled.  This method results in several inches of bedding, which gets sent to the compost pile when the chicks are done.

I use medium wood chips for bedding, don’t use cedar.  Fine chips will work, but you use a lot more in this method and there’s more dust which isn’t great for the chickens.

  • Water – I started out with plastic 1gal waterers, then switch to metal 3 gallon, well actually I started out with a couple quart waterers, but we outgrew them really quick.  I used the one gallon waterers because I initially sectioned off my big brooder into 4 sections and the 1gal worked well in that space.  I removed the dividers so I had 2 larger 3×8 brooders and switched to using the same 3gal metal waterers I use in the chicken tractor.

In the future I plan to switch to a nipple water system.

  • Feed – I started out with chick feeder troughs and quart feeders, but they didn’t hold enough food and were too cumbersome to keep up with.   I switched to using the same 7lb feeders that I hang in the chicken tractors, just sitting on the bedding.  I also set them on a piece of scrap deck board to help prevent wood chips from getting into them.
  • Space/segregation – I’ll mention the capacity of each brooder as I post them.  Initially I subscribed to more separation, 50 per brooder, but today feel that 100 per brooder works well.  The reason for separation is to prevent crowding, as chicks will trample each other.  However, my problem with separation is the lack of redundancy and the loss of brooder space for the equipment.

In my personal experience, with the brooder divided, I could only have one heat lamp per brooder.  When a bulb failed one night, I lost almost a dozen chicks due to cold and crowding for warmth.  After removing the divider,  there are two lamps offering redundancy in a failure, I experience a similar failure, but only lost a couple chickens due to the redundant light.  FYI, I think I got a bad batch of bulbs that year as I had several new bulbs fail.

Plus, using the one 3 Gallon waterer in the center instead of the two 1gal waterers gives the chicks more room.  It’s not necessarily about the actual space the waterer takes up, but the placement in the center.  In the divided brooder, the waterer always ended up near a corner which uses up more space.

I hope some of this info on how I do things is useful.  Stay tuned for the rest of the posts on the various brooders I’ve tried.

And we’re off

It’s gearing up to be the coldest week/weekend of the month, so you know that that means. The chicks have arrived. But don’t worry, they’ll be safe and warm in the brooders. BTW, if you’re interested in brooders, this year’s Brothers M. Monday’s in May will be a series on the evolution of our brooders.

Looking forward to seeing everyone when we deliver chicken this year. Huge THANK YOU to everyone who ordered. I wasn’t sure if going to a CSA only model would be feasible, but we completely sold out this year. Thanks again.

Brothers M. Mondays in May 2021 – Week 5 – One of These Things

Brothers M. Mondays is our way of showing you how excited we are for the first Seymour Farmers Market.

It was awesome to see all the smiling faces Saturday at the marker.   A bit cold, but awesome.

One of these thingsSince the last Monday in May is a bit of a sneak and just snuck in on the last day, I thought a I’d post this picture.  One of these chickens is a sneak, it’s not like the others.  Due to a shipping issue we received a few layers this year with our regular Brothers order. Can you find the layer in this picture?

Brothers M. Mondays in May 2021 – Week 4 New Kid

Brothers M. Mondays is our way of showing you how excited we are for the first Seymour Farmers Market

And once again, a montage of the kids caring for the chickens.  This year features the newest addition.  Enjoy.

Music provided by Wintergatan – https://wintergatan.net/collections/download

Brothers M. Mondays in May 2021 – Week 3 Davy Jones’ Locker / Winter Chicken Tractor Rooting

Brothers M. Mondays is our way of showing you how excited we are for the first Seymour Farmers Market

Having an apron of wire mesh around the chicken tractor is a must to keep the chickens safe.  However, when not in use, the chicken tractors can get rooted to the ground with grass grows through the apron.

Part of the Mother Earth ShipWe stored them in the fall on top of concrete blocks.  It keeps the wood from sitting on the wet ground all winter long and helps keep the grass from growing through the apron.  But this spring the grass got away from us before we got the tractors moved and it was rooted. Being on concrete blocks, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  Using the weed eater, I cleared the grass from the top of the apron, and it pulled free pretty easy.

Seeing the chicken tractors like this made me think of the crew on Davy Jones’ ship in my favorite Pirates of the Caribbean movie and how they became part of the ship.  With pirates on my mind, the chicken tractor looked like a ship busting through waves as I pulled it across the field.

Check out the video and see for yourself.

Music provided by Wintergatan – https://wintergatan.net/collections/download

Brothers M. Mondays in May 2021 – Week 2 Back to Snow

Brothers M. Mondays is our way of showing you how excited we are for the first Seymour Farmers Market

Cold is always a risk raising chickens on pasture especially freezing temperature, such as what happened on 4/21.  We start our birds as late in the season as we can while still having chicken available for the first Seymour Farmers Market.  Fortunately when this cold and snow came this year, the chickens were still snug in their brooders with the heat lamps.

However, the cherry trees didn’t have that luxury and they are one of Olivia’s favorite trees.  I’m not sure if it was the right thing do to, but I sent her out to get the snow off the trees to help protect the blossoms.  Not only was it fun to watch, but we have plenty of cherries growing, so I think it helped.

Enjoy the video.  Music provided by Wintergatan – https://wintergatan.net/collections/download