When our chicks arrived in the mail yesterday, they were in a smallish box with a heat pack to help keep them warm. Babies need some special care, and warmth is a big part of it. Still, a brooder isn't something you have to sink a lot of money into, especially since it will only be used for a few weeks until the birds develop their adult feathers. Here is a look at our brooder set up for the chicks:
For the first week of their lives, chicks like the temperature around 95 degrees. We are providing that with a standard heat lamp. Kirk bashed together the guillotine-esque stand for the light out of scrap from the workshop. It's nice and tall, so we'll be able to raise the lamp a bit each week by adjusting the chain. That way as the chicks get bigger, we'll be lowering the temperature about five degrees per week until they are ready to hang out first at room temperature and then outside in their permanent coop.
Because if you take a look, you can see that this is most definitely not their permanent location. It's in our living room, for starters. For another thing, it's a Rubbermaid tub. That's actually a pretty good container for the chicks right now — no corners for them to get stuck in, and the sides are high enough to keep them contained until they get bigger. Later we'll need to add a screen over the top when they start trying to hop the sides.
The closer look above shows the feeder and waterer that we got. These are specifically for chicks--they have small openings so the birdies can't sit in (or worse, poop in) their food, and the water tray is shallow so they can't drown in it. Those green plastic trays are the only things we had to buy — and they screw on to mason jars we already had. I guess technically we also bought the lamp and heat bulb, but those are things we will reuse for other purposes.
The bottom of the brooder is covered in a layer of pine shavings for bedding. Above that is a base of hardware cloth that Kirk cut a few inches bigger than the bottom of the container. The extra mesh was bent down the sides to hold the mesh base an inch or two above the shavings. The chicks are so light that they don't bend the mesh down, but Kirk put some wood blocks under the feeder and waterer to keep them from collapsing the wire mesh on that side. The point of the mesh is to keep the chicks out of their droppings as much as possible. To clean out the shavings, we'll lift out the mesh and dump it all in the compost pile.
And that is the brooder. It would be a shame to leave you without a picture of the chicks enjoying their home, though. Here are the chicks all napping together: