Oh, my god, I hate my brooder.
There, I’ve said it. Honey, things just aren’t working between us. It’s not that you’re a bad brooder. It’s not you; it’s me. No, wait…it’s you. You suck.
Have I mentioned that I hate my brooder?!
I don’t even know what I was thinking, in retrospect. Yes, I used a dog crate last year, but a) it was lined with a large cardboard box, and b) I was brooding indoors.
How do I hate my brooder? Let me count the ways: I hate it to the length and breadth that my soul can…okay, not that much.
First of all, brooding outdoors is a completely different kettle of fish, even though it be inside the coop which is inside the barn. The variabilities of temperature and wind have been tremendous, even in the first three days. The Brinsea provides the body heat of a broody, yes, but only within reason, which is to say, provided the brooder temperature doesn’t drop below 50F.
This morning, I asked The Man to open up the outer coop door when he let the chickens out of the run, as our coop has almost no natural light, and the little biddies wouldn’t know to wake up to start eating and drinking. (Remember, no red heat lamp.) Fifteen minutes later, I went to check on them to discover a savage, cold, damp, Glaswegian tempest flooding the coop, and, thanks to the fleece walls, the brooder. The temp in the brooder was 57F.
Red alert! I closed the outer coop door, then turned on the overhead lighting in the coop, so the babies could see to eat and drink. They had been asleep all night, unlike chicks raised under a red heat lamp, and would be very hungry. I even latched the outer door down at the bottom corners, the wind was so rough.
Even at that, the wind in the coop was considerable, so I lowered the pop door, and waited. Still 57F. The chicks were peeping loudly in distress.
Long story short, I found a small heat lamp I had used with a blue bulb to germinate tomato plants, and screwed in a 100w white light bulb, suspending it inside the brooder. The temperature quickly rose, especially when I covered the top of the brooder with fleece. It’s now at 90F directly under the lamp, and the chicks are very happily feeding and investigating the square of sod I placed in a corner for their edification.
Second, with no cardboard box lining the crate, predators can’t get in, true, but the fluffy butts and get out. Yes, they can walk right through the bars of the crate. Fortunately, they haven’t (yet!) figured out that they can do so even when the fleece covers the exterior of the crate; they only attempt it when I have the fleece opened.
This could be very, very bad. A peeper out of the crate would be vulnerable to so many forms of death, they are beyond counting. I am counting on their short-sightedness, and their remarkable speed of growth.
The crate is also hard to access to clean, and just generally pissing me off. The whole thing was rather poorly and lazily conceived. I can do better.
And, I will. I have poults coming in the next few weeks, and I’d like to do better before they arrive. One advantage to losing my first group of poults is that these will arrive after the chicks. The chicks will be 2-3 weeks old when the poults arrive, which is to say, about the same size as the poults. Setting aside the blackhead argument for the moment: could I brood them together?
I’ve heard many turkey owners say that poults are harder to start than chicks. They are less likely to grasp feeding and drinking immediately, and more likely to fail to thrive due to lack of nourishment, if not watched very closely. One of the common recommendations for this concern is to put a chick or two in with the poults, so they can learn from their brighter cousins. So…can’t we all just get along?!
I’d love to hear from you turkey and turkey/chicken people on that.
Let’s pretend for a moment that it’s not a disastrously bad idea. I certainly have heard of it being done. What if, in lieu of my current disaster of a brooder, I went to something like this?
The top screen is removable for lowering of a heat lamp, if necessary, but can be left on when the babies get to be flyers. The bottom panel is removable and washable. It folds down into a large portfolio case. Lots of ventilation, but would be wrapped with cloth if it was too much. I don’t need to worry about serious predators in the coop, and it’s more than sturdy enough to keep out the hens, or even a cat.
So…weigh in poultry peeps: is this a good solution, or would I be out of the frying pan into the fire?