Chicken farming can be fun and a lucrative venture. Chickens are very interesting to watch as they dust bathe. These birds add color to your backyard and can be kept as pets. Do you have a chicken brooder?
With a chicken brooder, raising chickens is easy and simple where many baby chicks can be raised freely without the mother hen.
Some breeds like production blue and black star are super layers while others like Minorca and Silver laced Wyandotte are good for both meat and eggs. In this article we are going to learn more about brooding and what it is for your chicken.
What are chicken brooders?
A brooder is a place where you move your chicks to after they are hatched in an incubator. Brooding is the act of providing or simply provision of artificial heat to help chicks in regulating their body temperatures.
Heat in a brooder can be obtained from electricity, gas and charcoal stoves. However, in some homemade brooders, hot water put in plastic containers and wrapped with warm clothing such as a blanket make alternative heat sources.
For those who prefer charcoal stoves you should be very keen since burning charcoal releases carbon monoxide that can suffocate the young chicks to death.
These kinds of stoves also get too hot and it becomes hard to regulate temperatures making the brooder unstable for the chicks.
A good brooder should have optimum temperatures of 28 to 30 degrees celcius. Proper hygiene and sanitation should be observed. Young chicks are delicate and sensitive..
It is important that you provide clean drinking water and feeds as what they need at that time is eat, drink and stay warm.
Adequate space and ventilation are also very vital in making sure that your chicks grow into adult chickens with zero mortality cases. Hence factors are important to rearing a healthy and productive flock.
What is natural brooding?
This is when a hen incubates her eggs, uses her body heat to supplement that of her chicks as she acts as a source of heat for the baby chicks. Silkie chickens and Cochin bantams are some best examples of chicken that are good for natural brooding.
It is the natural and easiest way of incubating chicken eggs. A broody hen has some good motherly instincts as she takes full responsibility of the young ones by providing food, shelter, security and motherly care.
How long should chicks stay in a brooder?
Chicks should remain in a brooder until they are six weeks old. At this time, most of the juvenile feathers have already developed. Some farmers prefer the chicks to remain in the brooder until they can jump out of the brooder wall themselves.
Brooder temperatures should be 28 to 30 degrees Celsius at the time the chicks are brought in from the incubator. It is important to note that brooder temperature should remain the same for the first two weeks.
After two weeks, reduce the brooder temperature 5 degrees each week to harden off the chicks and prepare them for transition to the chicken coop.
However, it is very important to note that you can extend the brooding period for your chicks in cold months and winter period.
For birds that have a slow growth rate like cochins, the brooding period may be extended by a few more weeks until the young birds are fully feathered.
You can also reduce the brooding period during warm seasons and summer season.
Can chicks go out from the chicken brooder?
Yes you can let them out of the chicken brooder if they have developed feathers and are secure because they can easily be snatched away by predators like hawks, raccoons and snakes.
Having someone herd the teenage pullets and cockerels is good since he will watch over any unwanted guest who may be spying for a free chicken meal.
Some people opt to use chicken cages to restrain the young birds while outside. Here they are unable to get out but have the opportunity to sun bask.
Tractor cages are also very ideal as the chickens get a chance to range but inside the cage. But for anyone who may want to use these cages, always be prepared to move them to new pastures after exhausting the old one.
How to tell the chicken brooder temperature?
The way your chicks behave can tell you more about the chicken brooder temperature. You may wonder how but if your chicks are fussy and scattered away from the heat source it is an indication that it is too hot for them.
However, if the chicks huddle together and stay close to the heat source it is a sign that your brooder is cold and they require additional heat.
Too much heat may dehydrate the young chicks and make them to drink more. On the other hand, cold may make them chill and die.
A thermometer is used to tell the exact brooder temperature. It is well marked to help the user read it with ease. Place it at the bottom of the heat source and read the temperature recordings.
A good chicken brooder should have optimum and ideal temperatures for the chicks. Here, they should be evenly scattered and happy.
Do your chicks have water and food?
These little crackers require food and water for healthy growth and development. Chicks require a starter feed. This kind of food contains 22% to 24% protein content.
Avoid game bird starter because it has a protein content of 28% to 30%. This kind of feed is good for turkeys as too much protein chicken leads to liver problems.
Provide feeds in multiple feeders and water in multiple waterers. Place at various points to avoid the birds from crowding in one area. ` Congestion can lead to spread diseases like coccidiosis in case of an outbreak.
People normally ask if chicks can be brooded in the coop. Yes they can. Brooding these little ones in the coop ensures that they get enough space to exercise.
In the coop you will save them from congestion and any problem that can result. Pecking one another when they are crowded is a common problem.
Brooding them in the coop will save them from transition stress. This is a problem they will have to deal with when brooded in a brooder. Here they will get a chance to learn how to use roost bars and nesting boxes as they grow.
Best DIY chicken brooder
Homemade brooders are easy to make using some locally available materials and they are cheap. The important thing is that they will provide ideal conditions for the baby chicks just as the commercial ones. Here are some of the homemade options I have for you.
- They are cheap and easy to find as they are some of the things around you.
- Cover them all round with an old unused blanket to retain warmth.
- Use heated water in a plastic container covered with a blanket as the primary source of heat.
- Put a mat on the floor because it is slippery and make holes on the sides and on the lid to ensure it is well ventilated.
- The reason as to why I use water as the heat source is because heat lamps or charcoal stoves can cause fire on plastic.
- Also note that the plastic flooring do not drain away moisture and can easily became dumpy and messy. These are however ideal for few chicks.
- Among the things I have ever used and seen how well they work are cartons.
- Get a good one of your desired size and make openings on the side to ensure it is well ventilated.
- Use electric bulbs as the heat source by attaching them on the side using bulb holders.
- Use a regulator to control the amount of light as this equals to the amount of heat. This is important especially when using 100w bulbs.
- Make sure you cover the floor with a wooden board and put appropriate bedding.
- I advise that you use bottle waterers as any spill of can be something you don’t want to think of.
- Cut a door on each box to make a door opening and screw them together.
- You can use a mat, sand or straw as bedding.
- They are not ideal with heat lamps as they can easily catch fire. Use an infrared bulb as the heat source.
- These kinds of chicken brooders can be messy if water spills on the floor since they can hold moisture which can in turn make your brooder dumpy. Choose a no mess waterer that will allow no spillage.
- Chicks are fond of pecking and they can easily peck of some wood and swallow. You can hang a whole mango for them to peck as a treat. It will keep them busy and prevent them from pecking wood.
- It is an excellent idea if you have one extra.
- The floor is too slippery and cold due to tiles hence require a mat or a thick layer of straw or sand bedding.
- You can also put a non-slippery mat and check any leaking pipes.
- Remember to clean the bath once the baby chicks are out otherwise the filthy poop will be disgusting.
- It is the most common of all homemade brooders because they give the chicks a clear view of the outside environment due to its transparent nature.
- The transparent walls help you monitor the chick’s behavior because you can see them.
- It allows a lid cover or a mesh to be fixed to restrain the chicks from flying out.
- When not being used as a brooder, a tote box can be used to store other things.
- It requires a mat flooring since it is slippery.
- Chicks won’t stay in here for long as they grow quickly and demand a bigger space.
The list of homemade brooders may be long and the world is dynamic it keeps changing from time to time. So, there may be other homemade brooders as I have given an example of a few I have used.
What is the right brooder temperature?
I have read so many articles trying to get the optimum temperature. What I get are varying answers and not an exact figure.
Some say 95 degrees Fahrenheit and some say between 28 to 30 degrees Celsius. I tend to agree that a figure between the given ranges is correct; yes it is since they all range along the same margin.
However, the brooder temperature will be determined by the choice of heat source you make. Why do I say this? You cannot compare a charcoal stove and a bulb. The amount of heat a charcoal stove produces is either too much or less since it is not regulated.
How to feed chicks in a chicken brooder
Dip the chick’s beaks in water as soon as they arrive in the farm or when you get them from the egg incubator.
This is important as it will teach them how to locate water source and drink. Scatter some little feed on the floor for chicks to find before feeding them using chicken feeders.
Hang chicken waterers slightly above the floor to prevent contamination. It is important you note that all birds are supposed to eat and drink at the same time so provide adequate feeding and watering points.
From day one chicks are fed with a chick starter feed until when they reach 6 weeks when they are now fed on growers` feed.
Adequate clean water should be provided for the baby chicks at all time to avoid dehydration because the kind of food they eat is very dry.
Some people often add supplementary vitamins to the water but it is not important if the chicks feed well. Provide grit for the chicks with probiotics to help in digestion.
How to set up a chick brooder
The first question you need to ask yourself when setting up a brooder is where you want it be? Consider the safest, warm, secure and easily accessible place.
You need to choose a place with minimal or no distraction at all. Choose a place that is far away from curious enthusiasts like little children and farm pets like dogs and cats.
If the brooder is placed on the floor and it happens to be cold, use large pine shavings and I say large because chicks cannot easily peck and eat them.
But before the shavings you can put cardboards if you have them but if you don’t, no reason to worry as you can put a thicker layer of the pine shavings, straw or any other suitable chicken bedding.
Make sure your brooder has adequate space for the birds. Space will avoid congestion, pecking and bullying each other.
I prefer plastic chicken feeders and waterers and not metallic since they are easy to clean and do not rust. It is important you avoid heat sources too close to the plastics because they can easily catch fire.
Use red bulbs as the red colour helps conceal any scars on the birds to prevent them from pecking one another. Use dog chains to hang heat sources from the ceiling as this will help minimize fire cases.
If your baby chicks are less than a week old, hang your heat source 18 inches above the ground. Raise the heat source 5 inches every week after the third week to harden off the birds and make them adapt to normal coop temperatures.
Avoid using newspapers on the floor because they get wet and slippery. Slippery floors cause splayed legs to your tiny birds.
Hanging water bottles are the best for me as there are minimal cases of spillage and contamination but those that use chicken waterers avoid ones that are too deep as they can drown your baby chicks.
I wish you success as you start the brooding journey and thank you for paying a visit on my website. Sharing is caring.