Here Come the Chicks!

Mom is getting excited because it’s baby time on our farm. Our first lambs are due in just three weeks, and next week we’re getting chicks!

by Martok
Homemade chick brooder
Photo by Sue Weaver
With our homemade chick brooder, we can watch our new Buckeye chicks as they grow up.

Mom is getting excited because it’s baby time on our farm. Our first lambs are due in just three weeks, and next week we’re getting chicks!

We had chickens until a nasty predator got in their coop and killed some. When it killed Mom’s favorite, Gracie, Mom gave the survivors to a nice lady who keeps them for eggs and pets. Mom vowed no more chickens until we have a better coop. So, Dad is building Fort Chicken, a predator-proof chicken coop for our new birds. Yay!

Our new chicks are Buckeyes, a rare breed of all-American heritage chicken developed in Ohio during the late 1890s and early 1900s. You can read about them in Mom’s article in the March/April 2011 issue of Hobby Farms and on the cool Rare Chickens at a Glance chart you can download for free.

David Puthoff, the nice man Mom interviewed for her her Hobby Farms article is sending our chickies next week. She already bought their starter food and cleaned the chick feeders and waterers with a 1:10 bleach-to-water solution. Today, she’s going to clean and clean their new home with the same solution. 

Mom broods chicks in a homemade, tabletop brooder fashioned from a see-through plastic storage box. She wrote about it in Chickens, but she said I could also talk about it here. If you want to make a neat brooder for starting chicks in your house, this is it!

You will need a fairly tall, hard-plastic storage box with a lid. Pick one spacious enough for your needs, figuring 6 square inches of space per chick up to 3 weeks of age, 9 square inches during 4 to 5 weeks of age, and 1 square foot for 6 to 8 weeks of age. Or make two boxes so you can move part of the chicks to the second box as they grow.

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You also need a sharp knife (Dad likes exacto knives for this job), a piece of 1/4-inch mesh hardware cloth slightly smaller than the lid, 10 1/4- to 1/2-inch bolts with nuts and washers, a sharp nail or awl to use as a scribe, wire snips, a drill, and a screwdriver.

Turn the lid over on a hard surface and scribe a 1-inch border inside the framed panel. Then use your sharp knife to cut a window into the lid. 

Next, allowing a 1-inch overlap, snip the mesh hardware cloth to fit. Drill holes to secure it, and bolt it down. You can trim the top with wooden strips, like in the brooder in picture, but you don’t have to. They’re only for looks. When the bolts are torqued down, that’s it!

You can warm your chicks with a brooder light like in the picture or, better yet, a gooseneck reading lamp. Experiment with standard light bulbs of various wattages until the interior temperature is just so. (Chicks huddle in a pile if they’re cold and scatter way out to the sides if they’re too hot.) If you use a gooseneck reading lamp, you can fine-tune temperatures by raising or lowering the lamp. It’s easy, and because you can see through the sides, you get to watch your chicks grow up!     

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