Starting chicks a little too early

Chicks basking in the sun

Some years, having
chicks pop out of their shells in the middle of March is perfect. 
Other years, like 2013, it’s pushing the envelope, especially if you
want to
them out of the house by the time they’re a week old

I wrote earlier about
haven’t been able to get our first set of broilers out on pasture much
, but I’ve had to
baby them in other ways as well.  The most notable method is to
double the number of
I’ve made
available to our miniature flock.

Double Brinsea brooders

The brooder you can
barely see in the back of the photo above has the legs as low as
possible, which means that when all of our two-week-old chicks snuggled
underneath, they raised the brooder up slightly but got full benefit of
its warmth.  Adding a second brooder in front, one notch higher,
forms a sort of porch that allows chicks who get pushed out to still
enjoy warmth.  The combo carried our chicks through a 15 degree
Fahrenheit night when they were only eleven to thirteen days old. 
(Isn’t it astonishing how the brooder’s
change as the
chicks age?)

Chicks napping under brooder

If I hadn’t had another
brooder on hand, I probably would have just bitten the bullet and
brought our mini-flock back inside for the cold night.  But we’d
had trouble with the power brick on our older brooder, had sent it in
for a (free) repair, and then purchased a second unit when it looked
like we wouldn’t get our first brooder back by hatch time.  Since
we had two brooders on hand, I figured we should use them. 
Granted, running two brooders doubles our
, but
still leaves us at only about 80% of what you’d use with a heat lamp.

Red Star chicks

And our chicks seem to
be weathering the cold temperatures just fine with the double brooders,
limited pasture time, and vents all the way closed.  They sure do
enjoy basking in the sun when it comes out, though.

At 2.5 weeks old, our pre-made
lasts for
about two days with 17 chicks, keeping the birds well-hydrated and
keeping the bedding dry.

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