Moving the chicks to the outside brooder

Small brooderDue to our extended
and a cold
spell during the subsequent days, our oldest chicks spent the first
week of their life in a rubbermaid storage bin.  By day four, the
makeshift indoor brooder was starting to stink, even though I kept
tossing new leaves on the bottom.  It was simply way too small for
18 rambunctious chicks.  But some chicks were only four days old
— way to young to brave the elements.

Insulating an outdoor chick brooder

So I set Mark to work on
insulating the
so it could
handle chicks during a chilly spring.  He screwed sheets of
styrofoam insulation under the floor, then edged the foam with some
scrap tin so the chicks wouldn’t eat the insulation once they were
running around outside.

Chick hover

Nights were still
getting down into the high 20s and neither of us felt comfortable with
putting the chicks in the brooder despite the floor insulation, so Mark
decided to add an
chick hover

He took another rubbermaid container, added some
the bottom, cut out a door near the top, and turned it upside down to
hold heat around the
Ecoglow brooder

Chick brooderThe sun must have seen all of
our hard work, because the weather shifted just as Mark finished
revamping the chick coop.  Highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s
pretty much negated Mark’s efforts, but the insulation still made me
feel better when I put the chicks out in their new coop for the first

We did run into problems
(of course).  First, it took the chicks an entire day of huddling
in the corner to acclimate to the observation window in their
brooder.  They also didn’t want to go under the hover (perhaps
because the brooder was accidentally unplugged and the
Chicks perchingchicks found it cold), so we
ended up taking out the tupperware container and herding chicks
underneath the brooder at dusk during their first day outside.

And then, like the
awesome little chicks they are, they bounced back.  Day two in the
outdoor coop found chicks running and jumping for joy, testing their
wings on the baby perch, bounding over the brooder, and pecking
thirstily at the waterer.  I started giving them large handfuls of
worms and greenery (mostly chickweed, bluegrass, and clover), and they
chowed down nearly as fast as I could supply the produce.

Adjustable chick watererNow the only problem was the
brooder getting
too hot.  Mark turned the
coop around so the observation window faced east, which helped block
late morning and afternoon sun, and I started slipping the lid halfway
off during hot days to let hot air vent out.  We may have to put
the brooder in the shade for our second batch of chicks, but we’ll
cross that bridge when we come to it.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering
how fast our little scamps will outgrow their new digs.  Perhaps
when they’re two weeks old, they’ll be big enough to understand
trotting up and down the ramp to explore pasture?

Our chicken waterer keeps bedding dry and chicks
well hydrated from day 1.

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