The New Kids in Town: DIY a Safe, Economical, Hygienic Chick Brooder Box

Goodness. I feel SO behind in everything....its incredible how dreadfully foggy and slow one's brain can be after a head injury. I've been attempting to work on the Poultry Nutrition Summaries Series....to little avail. I'm stringing together the summaries I made on the agricultural and veterinary articles I poured over and researched months ago, which I then used to formulate my own feed. Right now, instead, it's incredibly frustrating to feel like I'm running in a swimming pool; I know how fast I can run on land, but when I try to motor along it's like my head is filled with fuzz - thoughts come so much slower, and quickly result in fatigue. This certainly gives me a lot of empathy for patients suffering concussions themselves and the changes to one's lifestyle and independence as a fallout from that! Anywhoo, on to today's topic, which is a pretty darned cute one if I say so myself...

There's some new kids in town:

2 Jill Rees Cream Legbars and Black Copper Marans from very dark-egg-laying lines, all three from Grade Eh Farms

2 Jill Rees Cream Legbars and Black Copper Marans from very dark-egg-laying lines, all three from Grade Eh Farms

Their cuteness pretty much knows no bounds, particularly at this stage:

I thought, given that chick season is in full swing, and with all the Avian Flu scares, biosecurity risks, etc., a DIY Brooder How-To was in order to maximize hygiene, chick health, your, your family and friend's and general population's health, while still being economical, low-maintenance and possible for the thrifty urban homesteader. I have immunocompromised individuals in my family, so keeping things clean, along with handwashing procedures and the rest, is a must for me. In the very least, I hope you can learn something from what I've found to be helpful :)

So fellow urban microfarmers, I welcome you to....*drumroll pleassseee*.... the Chick Den! An easy to clean and disinfect, cost-effective, roomy first home for chicks, while being compact for your small space (expandable for larger operations), which means more time for fun with your new little ones.

So lets go into detail about this brooder box. Here's a bigger picture:

IMG_3845.JPG

So what will you need for this project?

Tools:

  • ruler
  • Sharpie
  • safety glasses/goggles
  • working gloves that allow you dexterity while still providing safety
  • drill (our favorite is the Dewalt 20V Li-ion with Impact Driver for our projects)
  • drill bit set that includes pilot point drill bits (see here for one similar to what we use)
  • Dremel with cutting attachments (the one I use is here) OR you could use an exactoknife (be careful as its easy to cut yourself)
  • wire cutters/canning shears
  • glue gun (preferred, I got mine at the Dollar Store) or krazy glue
  • glue gun sticks

Supplies:

  • Brinsea EcoGlow 20 Chick Brooder (here): I LOVE mine! Like most worthwhile things, you spend a bit more money up front, and save money in the long run on your electric bill. It is also SO much safer than the traditional fire-hazard brooding lamp for your home, barn and chicks!
  • Purell or other 70% alcohol based hand sanitizer ( check! some at 60-62% and kill fewer germs...)or other hand sanitizer
  • 1 plastic bin with lid (rule of thumb for space required: 6 square inches/chick, according to Storey's Guide to Raising Chickens, one of my favorite books!) Mine have 144 square inches/chick in this brooder box, which is about 18" x 24"
  • 1/2" or 1/4" hardware cloth (I used ~22" x 16", with a cut out for the water bottle)
  • nuts, bolts, washers (make sure they fit before you leave the hardware store!)
  • 3 screw in mug hooks (as here), one for the wild bird feeder and two for the waterer
  • rabbit/guinea pig/small animal water bottle, cap with ball waterer removed
  • 4 caps from 2L soda bottles (1 to drill a hole in and then screw in the nipple waterer, 3 to cover the sharp edges of the hooks used to hang the waterer and feeder
  • nipple waterer (as here) to keep water off the ground and poop-free
  • Gro2Max probiotic poultry water powder
  • PoulVite vitamin water powder
  • glass/metal/plastic dish to catch water drips under the waterer
  • pine or aspen shavings
  • chick feed - right now I'm using MannaPro Organic Chick Starter (note: this does contain soy)
  • chick grit - right now I'm using MannaPro Chick Grit for the chicks 2 weeks+ of age
  • wild bird feeder to keep feed off the ground and poop-free
  • thermometer-hygrometer with extra wireless thermometer (my favourite for chickdom to full hen here) - I then also use this inside the roost in the winter to monitor the temperature and make sure the hens are not too cold
  • extension cord with surge protector for fire safety
  • LED "cool light" photosensing nightlight put near the brooder to attract the chicks to the brooder in low light conditions. I like that it won't melt anything.
  • *optional:* compact mirror or other shiny, chick-safe & indestructable object on a string to give the chicks an extra thing to peck at
  • *optional:* chick brooder clamp light with ceramic holder, 25W or other low-wattage bulb

This is how I use these tools and supplies to set my chick den up on the inside:

Here's another top view - cant.get.over.the.cuteness.....

Both the feeder and waterer (seen below) are off the ground, but still at a reachable height for the chicks. The bottle caps are glue gunned onto the outside of the plastic bin, covering the sharp "screw" end of the 3 cup hooks used to hand the feeder and waterer to protect little visiting hands, as well as my own. Purell at the door and at the brooder make sure that it is convenient for people to sanitize their hands without having to think of it.

And now for the side view:

I hope that helps you with your new chick setup! If you're an old chick-raising-pro, I hope that you found something helpful and new in how I set up my chick brooding pen!

Happy Urban Homesteading!