I hate my brooder. I hate my brooder. I hate my brooder.

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?


14 thoughts on “I hate my brooder. I hate my brooder. I hate my brooder.

  1. 57 – poor babies! Could you put the fleece on the inside of the bars? Then even if they pushed on it, they couldn’t escape. Use some clothespins to anchor it.

    That pet playpen looks like it would work out well though. If you have to use the heat lamp after they’ve discovered they can fly, it might be challenging. I think mine didn’t figure out how to fly over the 8″ sides of my brooder before they were down to needing 75 degrees or so. In a few weeks it should also be warmer, so maybe you can stop using the heat lamp.

    I would move them inside the house to avoid having to solve those problems, but I currently have a hen recovering from surgery in my yoga room, so YMMV. ;-)

    • Don’t feel too bad for them; it’s going to be 90 all night, and then there’s the Brinsea. Honestly, Pat, I have NO idea what I was thinking.

      Even with all these challenges, I’ll never brood in the house again. Having Buffy in the lodge recuperating for three weeks was one thing, but I literally had to scrub the room from ceiling to floor, wash the curtains, steam clean the carpets, dust every knicknack, after the girls left the house last spring. The DUST!

      How’s your hen? What happened?

      • Yes, they do generate an incredible amount of dust when they are growing feathers. My hen had ovarian cancer, so the vet did a salpihysterectomy, which means she doesn’t lay eggs anymore. We are fervently hoping no cancer escaped into the rest of her body before. She’s much more than just an egg producer to us. My husband is quite in love with her too. :-)

  2. Oh dear! That’s really cold for the few day old peeps :S

    I made my own brooder out of fencing and roosting material (2×8’s?) I can hang a heat lamp from it if I don’t have a broody, and the big ones can’t get in, but my little ones have got out… I am going to fix it before my next batch go in. Right now the current residents (5 barred rocks that are just over 2 weeks old) are only in there with mom at night. During the day she parades them all over with all the other hens and roosters around! I can’t believe how protective she is over them with the other chickens – and even my dog. She’s attacked my well-meaning poodle for passing by lol. Everyone else just ignores them completely. I’ve even caught one of the fuzzy butts chasing after a grape caught by my head hen! It’s really funny watching a tiny thing chase after a 6 pound hen!

    Here is my brooder. They escape under the bottom. I have to add a bit more fencing under that part, and it will work fine.

    • I’m always fascinated to see how everyone does the same thing so differently. Also…still jealous of your broody!

      • She’s a super brood. She loves her babies so much <3

        Once one of your girls goes broody, you will need to get her some chicks/eggs. Broodies are terrible to break!!

      • They will hatch ANYTHING! The only thing is, turkey poults do not eat chick starter, but chickens can eat turkey starter :)

        I’ve read that turkeys are good to be raised with chicks, as they learn from them (according to a few people, they are much more ‘dumb’ when it comes to eating and drinking than chicks).

        As long as your hens are healthy (which they are!) you can let a broody raise them!

        I really want to get a tom. I love how they strut. Ever farm I go to has a turkey wandering around. They always come out to greet us. I couldn’t get up the driveway when I picked up my first chicks, because their midget white tom. He dropped his wing low and gobbled for us <3 it was too cute!

        They all free-ranged with the geese, ducks and a few white rock roosters. Can't freerange breeding stock chickens. You would create a big breeding mess :P

      • So, chicks CAN eat turkey starter? It isn’t too high protein for them? The brooder got down to 62 last night (we have frost this morning), and they were snuggled under the Brinsea when I said good morning, but they all sprang up and tore around for food and water. Temp’s up to 65 and rising.

      • I looked it up before I said that. There should not be any issues. My hens eat tons of protein. Remember that chickens get protein from many things, not just their feed. Mine eat a lot of bugs/worms/leftovers that are all adding up their daily intake of protein (not just what’s in their food). I think lack of protein is more detrimental than too much.

        This is an interesting topic about protein. I feed grower at all times and never layer. They do not need the extra calcium in the feed. I offer them grit/oyster shell free choice if they do need it.

        I find they do better on it. They seem healthier and lay just as well. The protein content is either 20% or 22%. I have too many age groups to feed only layer, and my store does not sell flock raiser…

      • VERY interesting thread, Aoxa; thanks! I was wondering how I was going to handle everybody all together, and this answers that question quite neatly. I do free feed calcium/eggshells, so that’s not an issue.

      • Do you feed layer rations? You have girls all born the same time, and no boys, so the extra calcium won’t matter to them. Calcium can damage roosters’ kidneys, it’s not good to hatch chicks who’s parents were being fed layer feed, and if my 7 week old chicks get into it they can die. :S That would be awful!

        I think turkeys are more susceptible to diseases that chickens can carry without symptoms. That is one issue you could have, though I have not met a farmer who raises his chickens/turkeys separately because of it. They do sleep in separate locations of course, but they can get along fine during free range time.

        Hope you get your poults this time!

      • You’re right; I’ve had it easy with all my chickens being hens and all of the same generation. I believe I’ll go to a game bird feed, and keep giving oyster shell.

        Yes, the disease thing is BIG. I keep getting warned about it, and not without cause. But, in order for your chickens and/or turkeys to get blackhead, it is my understanding it must be a) present in the soil, or b) brought to the flock by an outsider. All my birds are day-olds (and I plan to keep it that way), and Chicken Debbie says she hasn’t heard of any blackhead in the area. Being the Head Hen and Oracle of Agway, she hears a great deal from her poultry customers.

        So, I am rolling the dice…

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