Episode 14 – Don & Suzy talk about how to set up a brooder and heat source in anticipation of baby chicks.
Dotte Rocks Explore the Outdoors
We are raising three Dotte Rock cockerels, and Suzy took them outside for the first time over the weekend. It is always fun to watch chicks on their first outing. You can tell they are a little perplexed about the new environment but also eager to explore.
Don Has a New Meat Bird Plan [02:52]
Unfortunately, we have not had any more success in hatching eggs from our Light Sussex hens. We know it is not a problem with the incubator because there were no issues with the eggs from other hens in the same batch.
The Light Sussex were my little experiment with meat birds. We are anxious to get started with meat birds, and we don’t want to wait to figure out the situation with the Light Sussex.
At our little micro-hatchery, we typically sell out of baby chicks within a week of hatching. I am going to try holding the chicks until they are three weeks old so that I can separate the pullets from the cockerels. We will sell the pullets and keep the cockerels to raise for meat.
Also, I am going to take our Light Sussex rooster, the Colonel, out of the Light Sussex coop and replace him with our Rhode Island Red Rooster, Cluck Norris. After a few weeks, we can try to hatch their eggs again and see if it is a problem with the Colonel or something else.
Keep Your Chickens Cool [07:50]
With the intense summer heat, make sure you are keeping your waterers filled and give your chickens some cool treats to help them deal with the heat.
A Very Nice Review [08:25]
We received a very nice review on iTunes from 3toBfree:
The Best Chicken Podcast Online
Learn a lot about chickens between laughs! Don and Suzy are fun and informative. They could easily be morning talk show hosts. One thing you will hate about this podcast is that it is too short and not updated hourly. After checking out one episode I spent the next 24 hours listening to every episode on iTunes. Great Job Don and Suzy Keep em Coming! Talk as long as you want.
Thank you for the extremely kind words, 3toBfree!
Raising Chicks, Part 1 [09:44]
A brooder is where your chicks will live for about six weeks until they are ready to go outside. The brooder should be large enough to house the chicks as they grow, and should be fully enclosed to make sure they do not escape!
You can buy brooder kits online or from farm supply stores. We are not a big fan of these because your chicks will very quickly outgrown them and you will need to find a larger container for them in a few short weeks.
You can use a wooden crate, a stock tank, or a plastic storage container as a brooder. Whatever you choose, make sure you are able to put some sort of roof on the brooder.
Our favorite brooder is a small animal cage, the kind you would use for gerbils or rabbits. They come in many sizes and can be found used at garage sales or on Craigslist.
if you do buy something used, be sure to disinfect it with a bleach-water solution to destroy any microorganisms that may be left over from the last tenants.
Flooring Material [17:35]
Once you select a brooder, you will need to put down some sort of flooring material. During the first week, we use simple paper towels. Cover the entire floor and then change them every one to two days.
Never use newspaper as a flooring material! Newspaper is too slippery and will cause leg problems as your chicks develop.
After the first week, you can switch to pine shavings. Never use cedar shavings, as cedar is toxic to chickens.
Heat Source [19:30]
Baby chicks need a lot of warmth to stay alive and healthy. You will need a brooder lamp to keep them warm.
There are various options for bulbs to use in the brooder lamp. We use a regular 40 or 60 watt light bulb. If you are raising chicks in a colder climate, you may need to jump up to a higher wattage bulb.
You can also use the red heat lamp bulbs. They are more expensive than regular bulbs, but the red light is easier on the chicks.
Anytime you are using a heat source in close proximity to a flammable substance, like wood shavings, you need to be conscious of the potential for fire. Be sure to secure you brooder lamp so that there is no way it can fall into the shavings. Keep in mind that your chicks will be very active and will often bump into the light. Several people lose their homes each year when a brooder lamp gets knocked down into the pine shavings.
One way to take the fire risk out of the equation is to buy a product like the Brinsea EcoGlow.
The temperature of your brooder needs to be 95 degrees Fahrenheit for the first week, and then 5 degrees cooler each week after that. You can regulate the temperature by raising or lowering the lamp, or also by changing to a higher or lower wattage bulb.
You do not need to constantly check the temperature with a thermometer. If you watch your chicks’ behavior, they will let you know if they are too hot or too cold.
When the temperature is just right, the chicks will be generally spread around the brooder. Some may be under the lamp getting warm. Others will venture out for food and water. They may all gather under the light, but it looks pretty casual.
When your chicks are too cold, they will all be huddled together under the map, pressing together as tight as they can. You may also hear distress chirps from them.
If your chicks are too hot, they will all be plastered against the wall furthest from the brooder lamp.
Placement of the Lamp [27:52]
Don’t hang the lamp in the middle of the brooder. Rather, place it to one side of the brooder so that the chicks can regulate their temperatures by getting away from the light when they need to.