Why do we need another chicken blog or forum?

Many chicken forums are moderated to sell commercial feed, chemicals and ideology.
I prefer to find my own balance between nature, welfare and cost in raising happy chickens.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cold brooding chicks...

With power growing more and more expensive (and punishing on the planet), I've been working at reducing the light bill when rearing chicks.

Unfortunately I haven't had broody hens for ages, as I've been keeping layers (which don't sit). A shortage of space also made it hard for me to set up a different run to house sitters like silkies or bantams.

So my solution was to use a lower wattage infra red globe (40 W), and to only use it during the day while chicks are up to a week of age, then gradually reduce the use.

Yes, I did say 'during the day'. At night, I let the chicks manufacture and keep their own body heat.

The secret is a cold brooder: a cosy but ventilated chick 'igloo' that keeps them toasty warm as long as chick numbers are sufficiently high — around 15 chicks are required to create enough heat.

For the first 2 days, the chicks are reared in a tub with a 60 W lamp. Then they are put into the cold brooder and gradually weaned off light/heat altogether, over the following 2-3 weeks.

By 2 weeks of age my chicks get a couple of hours' heat per day. By 3 weeks, they come and go from the 'igloo' when need be, and they need no extra heat at all.

I'll show how to make a cold brooder in detail with another post, but for now, in the picture to the right at the top, here is the full unit. The lamp sitting at the back is not switched on. The rear of the brooder below the lamp is the 'igloo' part, and is basically a wooden frame stuffed with hay, with a wire 'igloo' inside in which the chicks huddle. The front section nearest the camera is the run, where feed and water sit.


Anonymous said...

The cold brooder looks great. What size do you make the igloo though. What dimensions would be needed for 15-20 chicks at the start?

Erica Bandanna said...

I hope the recent post answers the questions properly... Meanwhile thanks for the comment!