Based on my research about outdoor
chick brooders, Mark
and I cobbled together a quick and dirty structure in two hours using
nearly all found materials.
of the screws were even reused since they came from a chicken
tractor Mark had recently taken apart.)
I knew that I wanted the
brooder to sit up above the ground because I learned the hard way last
year that chicks can’t
handle the bit of rain that splashes up into a tractor during
So I hunted around until I found a wooden rectangle that Mark had
removed from the base of a bookcase.
Two pieces of scrap
plywood made a good floor just high enough off the ground to keep the
chicks dry, but low enough that they wouldn’t have to brave much of a
ramp to get to and from pasture.
I wanted to reuse an old
dryer door, which had already served for five years as the egg access
hatch for a chicken tractor. So Mark added some scraps of two by
four under the floor to give his screws depth to bit into. It
wasn’t all that tough to drill holes through the bottom of the dryer
door and screw the piece of metal in place.
Next, he framed up the
back wall with more scrap two by fours. (By the way, you can see
that we’re locating the brooder beside the peach tree right outside our
kitchen window. This area gets a lot of our attention every day,
so I figure chicks will be safest there of any outdoor location.
Plus, they can nibble on oriental
fruit moths as they
hatch out this spring, perhaps protecting the peach tree from insect
We stole my
brother’s idea and
used half of a cargo carrier for the roof. Here, Mark’s testing
it to make sure it fits on the framing before adding in the walls.
Mark pounded a one by
one into the side of the dryer door to make an attachment point for
more scrap plywood. Then he used some found plexiglass for the
other wall to let the sun shine in (and so that I can sit and watch the
chicks without disturbing them). Finally, we added the cargo
carrier on and attached it with bungee cords.
The jury’s still out on
how well this outside brooder will work. I’ve had a thermometer
inside for a week, and the temperature swings have been extreme.
The lows seem to drop down about five or ten degrees below the outside
temperatures at night and sunny days have raised the internal
temperature up to 100.
I think we can mitigate
the heat pretty easily, either by turning the brooder around so the
window doesn’t face south, or by simply adding a shade cloth on hot
days. I’m not sure about the cold, but worries there might not be
relevant by the time the chicks hatch and have spent a few groggy days
inside the house. I’ll keep you posted about how well the brooder
works (or doesn’t) once we have test chicks to put inside.
and prevent diseases like coccidiosis.