Let’s Talk About that Brooder…

Yesterday you saw the brooder that we used for our first chicks, and for many others that have come along since then.

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As I mentioned we made it out of a twenty gallon glass aquarium that we’ve used over the years as a temporary home for creatures that need care. Many wounded birds and stray frogs have spent a few hours in that aquarium. To set it up we simply cleaned it thoroughly, put a shop light with a  60 watt bulb on top of the wire screened lid and filled the bottom with wood chips. The wood gives the chicks something to scratch at, sleep on and absorbs poop which helps with the almost daily cleaning that needs to be done.

We like to use the tall red and white water distributors and round feeders that you see above.  You can buy these at your local feed store or on-line. We find that the specially designed feeders are worth the investment because they stand up to all of the pushing, pulling and scampering that baby chicks do.

The warm light along with towels draped over the sides at night when the heat is down maintain an inside temperature is 95 degrees for the first week, then 5 degrees lower for each week after.  I should mention that our chicks stay in the glass brooder for just a few weeks before they get too big and we move them to a larger metal cage that’s also cloaked with towels to keep heat in. We gradually remove the towels and light over the cage as they outgrow them as well. We also lower the lightbulb from 60 to 40 watts as they get  bigger in the aquarium, then back up to 60 again when we move them to the much airier cage.

The “aquarium as brooder” idea isn’t really the typical route that most people take, but it’s worked very well for us. It’s easy to move as needed and it gives us a great view of our new flock in action. You can find lots of other brooder systems by googling “brooder”, or checking Pinterest. People are really creative and I’ve seen brooders made from kiddie pools, plastic bins, even a portacrib! Really, if the chicks are safe and the temperature, food and cleanliness level are correct they’ll be fine.

We’ve been fortunate to have never lost a chick in our aquarium brooder, which leads me to sad news; our beloved aquarium “bit the bullet” as Michael would say and had to be thrown out last fall. Now we’re searching for a new one, or a good idea for our next brooder. Stay tuned… it’s coming soon!

Questions, questions… I know you have them! Leave them for me and I’ll answer them as best I can. Maybe some of my chicken raising friends who are following will step forward to give their input too… come on, I know your nearby!

Enjoy everything!

Michele

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16 Comments

    1. No, it’s not as long as you change out the wood chips every few days. I was actually going to put an apology in the post about the pictures. They were taken long before my blogging days and I think their horrible. Better ones will be coming when we get new chicks in the next few weeks.

  1. do you have a thermometer in the brooder? Just wondering how you know what the temp. is. My meat chicks will arrive the first of April! I am going to use a livestock feeder for my brooder since I will have 25.

    1. We have used a thermometer at times just to be sure but not for any length of time. I didn’t have a pic of it. I should have mentioned that we mostly watch the chicks behavior to read if the temp is good… if their huddled and not moving around a lot their cold. We don’t ever have enough at once to need a big feeder but we do use the long thin ones when they get a little bigger. Hope to get a peek at your chicks in a few weeks!

    1. they really do for a little while, they would be protected by their mother’s warmth if they were with her. That said, I think sometimes we over think it… their very resilient!

  2. On the subject of unusual brooders but things that work – we used a John Deere lawn sweeper. It had the wood chips in the bottom. heat lamp, and screen over the top with clips to keep the chicks inside. We used the same waterers/feeders you have. 🙂

    1. Hi Liz! We get most of ours at Agway in Danvers. They have everything you need and a nice selection of healthy chicks. Below is a link to their website. Ashley is one of the owners (or the owner’s daughter?) and she manages the chicken aspect of the business. If you page down you’ll see the breeds list and delivery schedule. The end of March is a very good time because it will be warm enough for them to be outside during the day when they get bigger toward the beginning of May. We’re hoping to get five or six in the next week or so. http://www.ashleyschickens.com/danversagwayschicks.htm

      1. Thanks Michele! I’m sure I (or Morgan) will be bugging you with questions as we go. I’m loving this blog!! Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

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