Brioche gets its richness from a combination of butter and egg yolks added to the dough. The addition results in a tender loaf that is ideal for a special brunch or holiday breakfast.
A little extra sugar and some cinnamon make this brioche recipe a true treat.
Slice and serve it fresh after baking, and keep any leftovers to make excellent toast or even bread pudding. This bread needs to rise three times so plan ahead. You can also leave the dough overnight and bake it first thing in the morning.
To the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, add the flour and yeast. Turn to low speed, and add the water. Continue to mix on low, and add the sugar, salt and cinnamon.
Scrape sides of the bowl as needed. Add the butter and then the egg yolks. Turn the mixer to medium. Allow the dough to knead in the mixer for 10 minutes. Pause occasionally to scrape the sides of the bowl. The dough will be sticky but will begin to come together as it kneads.
Use floured hands to gently remove the sticky dough from the mixer and transfer to a flat surface sprinkled with flour. Knead into a ball, and place in a deep bowl that has been coated with butter. Cover with clean dish bowl. Let rise in a draft-free spot for 2 hours.
It will nearly double in size.
Punch down the dough. Knead back into a ball, and put back in the bowl. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 2 more hours. Alternatively, at this point you can leave the bread in the refrigerator longer, 8 hours or overnight, and then bake it in the morning.
Grease a deep 6-inch cake pan with butter. Divide the chilled dough into 3 equal pieces, and roll each piece into a thick log about 6 inches long. Braid the three logs. Form into a circle and tuck under the ends. Place the loaf in the prepared pan.
Top the loaf by brushing with the melted butter, and sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar.
Let rise for 1 more hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the center reaches 187 to 190 degrees. After the loaf bakes for 20 to 30 minutes, gently place a tent of aluminum foil over the loaf to prevent overbrowning.
All the cinnamon and sugar brioche to rest until cool enough to handle, at least 30 minutes. Remove from pan, slice and serve warm or allow to cool to room temperature.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of Chickens magazine.
Whether you’re frying eggs and bacon on the stove top or baking a crispy batch of cornbread, cast iron cookware performs better for a tastier dish. And the metal’s durability makes for a great heirloom piece or thrift store find. But caring for a cast iron pan requires a few extra steps, and first up, you’ll want to season it.
This important step protects the metal against rust and deteriorating damage. Season your cast iron pan right, and every time you cook with it, you’ll build a lasting surface.
In this video, we walk you through the steps to cleaning a worn cast iron pan and seasoning it. It’s not difficult at all to return cast iron cookware to perfect usability!
The No-Till Organic Vegetable Farm by Daniel Mays is different from other no-till books that have come out recently. Whereas other books have focused in on the practices used to minimize tillage, Mays has larger ambitions. Although Mays’ book certainly outlines various no-till strategies, it also aims to provide a complete guide to running a no-till vegetable farm.
The No-Till Moment
In many ways, the book feels right for the moment. At a time when no-till, organic vegetable farming is becoming increasingly popular, Mays’ book provides an important perspective: No-till methods can enable real financial stability on a vegetable farm.
As Mays describes, “the goal of this book is to show that no-till farming on a few acres is not only possible—it can be at once economically, socially and ecologically enriching.”
Throughout the book, Mays provides details about his own farm’s finances, something farmers are typically reluctant to do.
“I began the farm with a loan of $180,000 and an interest rate of 3.8 percent. Four years later, the farm grossed over $250,000 in a season. Today the farm sells about $300,000 of food each year from 2.5 acres of vegetables and about the same size of pasture.” Mays also provides detailed cash-flow budgets from Frith Farm (his own operation), and spreadsheets detailing the expected startup costs for similar operations.
More Than Money
The No-Till Organic Vegetable Farm covers much more than just farm finances, however. The book touches upon all the various aspects of starting and running a farm. In many ways, it feels like a comprehensive manual. Although reading The No-Till Organic Vegetable Farm won’t turn the uninitiated farmer into Eliot Coleman overnight, it certainly won’t hurt either.
Individual chapters describe topics ranging from finding capital to crop planning, implementing irrigation systems, harvesting and marketing. For the new gardener, the book promises to provide invaluable information about the basics of plant and soil health.
And for the seasoned grower, there’s no shortage of technical detail about refining farm systems and developing no-till practices.
Wealth of Knowledge
The book’s ambitions are truly encyclopedic. In a section on drainage, Mays dives into the particulars of constructing a French drain, complete with a diagram. And in a chapter on farm infrastructure, Mays gives advice on how large an electric panel a vegetable farm needs. (He decides on 200 amps, which is probably not bad advice).
In the same chapter, Mays advocates learning basic construction and electrical skills, and tackling wiring projects on the farm oneself. And although there is no chapter in the book on the basics of wiring, it almost wouldn’t feel out of place if there was.
The book is undoubtedly rooted in the importance of no-till practices, though. And Mays returns to this point throughout. As he writes at one point, “the best approach to caring for the soil is usually to stop messing with it.”
In short, The No-Till Organic Vegetable Farm is an invaluable resource that will help farmers and gardeners hone their craft. It offers a compelling and detailed guide to implementing no-till practices, and to designing a farm that is both ecologically and financially sustainable.
“I’ve always had a love for animals and being outside and the hard work and reward that comes from farming,” says Caitlyn Blom, a co-founder of Honey Blom Farms in Knoxville, Tennessee, that she runs alongside her wife, Ciara Blom.
Since launching the farm in the spring of 2018, the venture has gained a reputation for its resident miniature-donkeys and miniature-Nubian dwarf goats—both of which have become eye-catching stars of the venture’s social media accounts.
We spoke to Blom about the roots of Honey Blom Farms and why miniature-donkeys make for such great livestock guardians. We also got the scoop on a little something called goat glamping.
Miniature donkeys play a key role at Honey Blom Farms, primarily by acting as livestock guardians on the premises.
“When our family had a farm we had a donkey who was a guard for our cows,” recalls Blom. “Donkeys are just terrific guard animals and such unique equine in themselves. So two of our mini donkeys were the first animals on the farm because I knew I wanted them as guardian animals for our goats and chickens.”
Since the days of those initial two miniature donkeys, Honey Blom Farms has now started its own breeding program.
If you check out the Honey Blom Farms Instagram account, you’ll notice a few mentions of the hashtag GoatGlamping. The concept will involve guests staying at the farm in a plush renovated 1968 camper van and getting to frolic with the resident goats.
Blom says that they plan to launch goat glamping in early 2021.
“Farming’s a lot of hard work and there’s so much grit and poop and tears and stress that goes into it,” says Blom when asked about the most rewarding part of the farming lifestyle. “But at the end of the day, being able to create your own food source and caring for your animals and the sense of joy that comes around that is the best feeling.”
The neighbors’ leaf pile looked even bigger than usual this year. And, so, it pained me even more to watch it ignite. Like many in my county, they regularly burn their yard waste.
The wet leaves produce extra-heavy smoke. (They also release loads of carbon monoxide and some known carcinogens, too!)
Other folks bag their leaves. Some bags head to landfills. Others are composted elsewhere. For my part, I used to remove every last stalk and fallen leaf to compost in my own bins.
But, when it comes to the overall health of our landscapes and the productivity of our gardens, none of these practices is exactly ideal.
Turns out, those leaves and plant stalks do a lot more good when left in place—or when they’re only slightly rearranged during garden cleanup. Taking this more relaxed approach helps to provide crucial habitat for overwintering pollinators, mammals and even amphibians.
It also works in our favor by insulating perennial plants’ roots and enriching the soil for next season.
“Depending on where you live, you can easily have 30 to 40 different native [bee] species in your garden,” says Matthew Shepherd, Director of Communications and Outreach for The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. “People don’t always realize there’s this level of diversity, because, when we think of bees, we think of honeybees or bumblebees.”
But in North America, there are more than 3,600 native bee species. “They’re all facing the same problems with pesticides and lack of habitat,” Shepherd notes.
Many native bees actually live inside hollow plant stems, so leaving these standing can be hugely helpful to these valuable pollinators. “If your stems are 18 inches to two feet tall, you could probably get away with that without your neighbors complaining too much,” he says.
As for taller plants?
“You don’t necessarily have to leave the entire stem,” Shepherd says. You can simply trim these down to the 2-foot level and then loosely pile the cut stalks in an out-of-the-way spot. This enables any native bee occupants to safely remain there all winter and emerge during warm weather.
“They need a full year of stability in their nest,” he explains. “For some of those bees, they won’t be adults until May or June or July. So, if you’re taking those stems out in spring, you’re doing away with any benefit you might’ve created.”
Leaving the Leaves
As with native bees, Shepherd notes, “There are also dozens of butterfly species that are threatened, declining or rare across the country.” Many of these, including some swallowtails and luna moths, overwinter amongst fallen leaves. So, when you remove the leaves—or shred them—you’re doing away with some of next spring’s butterflies.
“With the leaves, the idea is you can leave them in the back of your flower border or at the base of a hedge row or wherever to allow them to rot down,” Shepherd says. “They provide the longer-term cover for the beetles and the caterpillars and other things that might be sheltering in there or they just break down and help the organic matter in your soil.”
He adds, “We’re not saying you have to keep all the leaves. And you don’t have to leave them everywhere. It’s perfectly fine if your grass needs to be raked. Then rake it, but take the leaves, and, if you can put them in a corner somewhere, that’s great.”
If you do pile your leaves inside flower beds during garden cleanup, be sure to leave a little space around the crowns of any delicate perennials to avoid smothering them.
Wondering what the neighbors will think? There are some things you can do to counterbalance the less-than-tidy look.
First, telegraph that the garden cleanup moves you’ve made are intentional by trimming any tall grass along the outer edge of your planting beds. Likewise, neaten any bricks, blocks or other hardscaping features you may have put in place to help delineate the perimeter of your gardens.
You might also install bird feeders, pretty stones or even a solar-heated birdbath to add extra interest inside your overwintering gardens. And, if you chose to trim back extra-tall stalks, consider arranging some of these in a tent- or teepee-like fashion. This can add still more visual interest and provide windbreaks for birds and other small creatures.
As a kid, it took me a while to understand which things didn’t belong in the house: muddy shoes, frogs, birds’ nests, bicycles, etc. I’m still working on not bringing birds’ nests and my bicycle into the house, but I clearly see the virtue of keeping certain things out. The same goes for the chicken coop: Not everything belongs in there.
I realize that some chicken-keepers are repurposing a shed as a coop, so it naturally has room for other things besides chickens. And there seems to be some kind of Murphy’s Law that stuff will fill the amount of space available.
But if you’re starting from scratch and building a chicken coop, my general advice is that the coop should only be big enough to function as the windproof and waterproof box that the chickens sleep in. Setting this as a goal means you will have a chicken coop that demands less time, materials and money to build. It’ll also demand less of your time for maintenance.
And by keeping lots of things outside the chicken coop, you also save lots of time, money and hassle in other ways.
I almost never have to top up our chicken waterer. Every time it rains, it fills up from a short gutter and downspout mounted under the coop’s roof. In seven years of chicken-keeping, I’ve only had to top it up for lack of rain maybe twice a year.
But if that kind of waterer were inside the chicken coop, there would be heck to pay. Chickens don’t like waterbeds or watery bedding either.
Putting the waterer inside the coop means you won’t be getting free water and more free time. Instead, you’ll be like an overworked and underpaid waiter, topping up everyone’s water when you might rather be doing something else that doesn’t require putting on muck boots.
If you already have your waterer sitting in the chicken coop or you’re just getting started, here’s a shopping list from top to bottom:
a short section of rain gutter with screws
a flexible plastic downspout
a 5-gallon bucket holder (you can get these from most farm-supply stores)
a 5-gallon bucket with lid, three poultry nipples and an 1 1⁄32-inch bit
First, mount the bucket holder so the bottom of the bucket will be at about head height for the chickens. Drill holes in the bottom of the bucket for the poultry nipples: insert nipples.
Drop the bucket in the holder. Mark and cut an opening for the downspout in the lid. Secure the lid to the bucket. Hang the downspout from the roof. Attach the flexible downspout between the bucket lid and the downspout.
Do a rain dance. Invite the chickens to dance, too. That can’t hurt.
I haven’t figured out a way for Mother Nature to keep the chicken feeder filled. I have to do that myself. But it takes less time and trouble to refill it when it’s in the pen/run rather than in the chicken coop.
And the feeder and waterer aren’t in the way when I need to clean out the coop either—bonus points!
Most chicken feeders have a tray or saucer that holds the food, leaving it susceptible to rain and vermin. A better way to feed them in the pen is to mount a 5-gallon bucket on one of the fence posts.
While you’re getting one bucket holder from the farm-supply store for the waterer, get a second one for the feeder. Then it’s just a matter of drilling a couple holes in the bottom of the bucket from which to suspend eyebolts.
Drill a hole in the end of a few champagne corks so you can screw one over the end of each eyebolt. (It’s good to have extras to replace old corks that fall apart over time.) Then hang the bucket in the holder, fill it with about 25 pounds of organic chicken feed pellets—this system works best with pellets—and snap on the lid.
I only pinch the lid closed in two places: It makes it easier to remove but still keeps out rainwater.
If you have lots of chickens, you may want to use more than one feed bucket (ditto for waterers). You can also use bigger containers—such as storage totes resting on several cinderblocks—if you have a chicken population explosion.
We installed an automatic coop door that lets us sleep in. But after I installed it, I saw that it had several thin wires exposed inside the chicken coop. I think most chickens would ignore them, but it’s difficult to second-guess which one will think the thin, colorful wires might be something edible.
So I scared up a scrap piece of plywood and cut it to fit. I screwed it into place to cover the wires so we don’t have any electrocutions or electrical fires.
Yes, something like that would be unlikely, but unlikely events that would be tragic if they ever did happen are called “black swans.” So add that to your list of things you don’t want in the coop: “black swans!”
Shatterproof Bulbs Covered in Teflon
Some people want their chickens to keep up egg production over the winter. If that isn’t an economic necessity for you, consider forgoing that option for several reasons.
All female animals have a limited number of eggs they can produce. So any extra production over the winter just shortens the actual laying portion of a hens’ life.
Exposed wiring could attract chicken interest (as explained earlier).
A drop of water on a hot bulb—or flapping wings or an inquisitive peck—could leave your coop floor covered with broken bits of sharp glass shards.
If you cleverly bought a shatterproof bulb, it may be covered with Teflon, which will off-gas and poison chickens.
Even at minus 30 or minus 40 degrees F, chickens will be fine in a coop that’s dry and blocks the wind. I mean, come on: They have down coats! And like many animals—but not humans—they don’t lose body heat from their feet.
Humans evolved in balmy Africa, so our extremities are focused on getting rid of excess heat from our feet, hands and head. But some animals—such as birds, cats and dogs—have countercurrent circulation. Blood returning from cold extremities sucks the warmth from blood vessels coming from the heart and return that heat to the heart, so it isn’t lost.
Plus, you don’t want to be like the chicken keepers in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, whose heat lamps set three coops and houses on fire one winter a few years back causing more than $60,000 in property loss and 11 dead birds.
Pine shavings work great as bedding in the coop. Cedar shaving look pretty similar but should be avoided as they can cause respiratory problems.
Not every chicken exposed to cedar shavings will show any problems. But then, not every smoker gets cancer.
Given the availability of alternatives (pine shavings, tree leaves, coffee chaff, pine needles, etc.), there’s no good reason to expose your chickens to cedar dust.
Would you rather have to put on muck boots every time you went to gather eggs? I didn’t think so. That’s just one reason to forgo putting the nest boxes inside the coop.
A couple other reasons: With the nest boxes inside the coop, they are more time-consuming to clean out and hens may roost on top of the boxes, creating one more surface to clean.
You’ll save time and hassle by mounting your nest box on the outside wall of the coop.
Specifically on a wall that is outside of the pen. My wife, Chris, was so certain she wanted this that she also insisted on a flagstone path from the back door to the nest box. She can gather eggs while still in her slippers!
Yes, my advice is that henkeepers should stay out of the coop! The exceptions are if you’re leaning into it for cleaning or making some adjustments to the roosting bars or something.
This just goes back to what I said at the beginning: The coop should just be the box your chickens sleep in. There’s no real need for it to be bigger than that. Making it big enough for people just boosts the costs and maintenance.
So there are the eight things that should stay out of the coop. Now if I can just figure out a better place than the dining room for my bicycle.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of Chickens magazine.
The holiday season once again has arrived. This year’s festivities may be most memorable for the socially distant way people are celebrating … and shopping.
Never mind Cyber Monday: All sorts of special online deals have been dazzling gift buyers since Halloween. My husband, Jae, happily trotted into my work area on Saturday to inform me that equipment he must absolutely have for his photo studio has been heavily discounted for the holidays. I nodded absently, commenting that he should add it to his list and I’ll check it out on Black Friday.
Wrong answer. “Black Friday has become Black November! Haven’t you been noticing all the deals??? All the emails? You need to get this for me NOW! Ummm … please?”
Truth is I had indeed noted the uptick in emails being filtered off to my Promotions email folder. I had also ignored the entire lot (sorry, vendors!). I have now shopped for my husband (shhhh! it’s a surprise!) and for my youngest son, with the family elders next on the list. But before I get to them, I must share my top five favorites from the many poultry-related gifts I’ve discovered online.
Call them Bawk Friday deals!
When the Wrapping Is the Gift
Forget about what’s inside the box. How about what’s on the box? This adorable gift wrap features more than two dozen different breeds of birds illustrated in full color and ready to pock … errrr, perk up any gift!
Available in baby blue or teal, each sheet measures 700 mm by 500 mm (roughly 28 inches by 20 inches). Sheets are sold individually or in sets of two, four or eight.
Your loved ones will easily identify which gift came from you.
This ceramic holiday ornament from Trending Custom is one of my favorite poultry-related gifts. This 3-inch ceramic circle features a snowy barnyard in the background with the message “Merry Cluckin’ Christmas” in festive letters across the top. The foreground features up to seven chickens, each decked out with either a festive scarf, Santa hat or Christmas lights.
Buyers not only select how many chickens appear on the ornament but also choose from 15 different chicken illustrations, including a White Crested Black Polish, a White Silkie, a Barred Rock, a Turken and more. Customization includes the names of the featured chickens.
It’s the perfect gift for a flock-keeping friend … or a way to remember your birds as the years go by.
I’ll Drink to That!
Many of us may not readily admit this, but we might just prefer our chickens to other people. Chickens don’t hog the bathroom, cut us off in traffic, leave the stove a mess, or drone on endlessly about perceived slights.
Our love of chickens may already raise some eyebrows … which is why this etched tumbler makes an ideal gift for us!
This double-walled, insulated cup keeps beverages at the temperature you want and does so with style! Choose from 14 different colors, including teal, coral and light blue.
Whatever the color, your stainless-steel cup will be emblazoned with the silhouette of a hen and the phrase: “Chickens. Because humans are annoying.” Available in 30- and 20-ounce sizes.
Raising chickens is an everyday occupation. You rise early to release them. You’re home at sundown to lock them up. You muck out soiled litter, scrub and sanitize feeders and waterers, haul 50-pound sacks of feed, perform maintenance on the coop, collect and pack eggs, and are continually vigilant for predators and parasites.
And nobody knows this because, from the street, your home looks like any other house in suburbia.
The UPS courier has no clue you tend chickens in your backyard. Neither do the newspaper carrier, the take-out delivery driver, that new couple across the street … nobody! It’s time to let the world—or at least your neighborhood—know who you are with Chummy Tees’ Backyard Chicken Farmer T-shirt. Available in a variety of sizes and also as a hoodie and a tank top, you can proclaim your calling in comfortable style.
Do the Math
Jae and I learned about chicken math our very first week as flock owners. The same holds true for our friends Bill, Carol, Jeremy, Rachel … well, pretty much everyone we know.
We say we’re going to start out with only three chickens. By the end of the week, we’ve got six or eight (in our case, 34). Gosh darn it, how can we resist those fluffy little birds? It’s nigh impossible!
That’s why, when it comes to poultry-related gifts, this sign by Bigtime Signs is perfect for the chicken lover in your life. Measuring 9 by 12 inches, it proclaims your proficiency at chicken math. Hang it on your coop, on your run fence, on your gate, pretty much anywhere.
Smart chicken-keepers realize that a brooder box must perform the duties that the mother hen would normally perform for her babies. The chicks are literally under her wings of protection for six to eight weeks. They come out to eat and drink but periodically return for her warmth and quickly return when threatened.
At about 2 months of age, though, the new hatchlings are ready to join the flock. This DIY brooder box will do exactly that.
The task is to create an enclosure that is capable of keeping baby chicks secure and warm until they are feathered out to the point that they are independent. It’s still up to the chicken-keeper to monitor feed, water and the heat source.
This particular DIY brooder box, designed for about 10 chicks, will make the task that much easier.
The box isn’t weather-tight, so keep it in your garage. When the chicks become young pullets, move the box into the coop and let the older hens meet the new gals for about a week or 10 days before opening it up to let the groups commingle.
Materials You’ll Need
Building a DIY brooder box isn’t particularly difficult, but it does require a few tools, some skill and patience, and a bit of time. Here are most of the materials you will need to get started:
one 4-by-8-foot sheet of oriented strand board (OSB) or plywood. (I like it to be about 3/8 or 7⁄16 inches thick to keep the weight down.)
five 8-foot-long 2-by-2s (pine or fir, which will be less expensive)
two 2-by-3-by-8-foot pieces of fir or pine lumber
~100 3⁄4-inch deck screws with a Phillips head
~25 3⁄4-inch pan-head screws
a few long screws (2 1/2 or 3 inches)
~10-by-2-feet of small-opening poultry netting or 1⁄2-inch wire mesh
a handful of Sheetrock nails (not more than 13⁄8 inches long)
one small pair of hinges
one 8-foot and one 6-foot piece of 1-by-4 (to create the hinged top)
very thin strips of wood to screw down over the edges of the poultry netting. Use whatever is available in your area. This brooder was made with wood strips that measured 1 ½-inches wide and ¼-inch thick, cut to the length of the netting edge.
Here are most of the tools that you’ll likely need to build this brooder box.
a drill motor and bit set
a circular saw with wood-cutting blade
a Philips screwdriver or bit for power drill
a tape measure
a 4-foot straight edge and pencil
some kind of wire cutters
some sawhorses or other work surface
three or more 4-inch C-clamps
an awl or other pointed instrument
a medium-sized claw hammer
You should understand that if you have more efficient power tools or pneumatic staplers, your job will be that much easier. At certain stages, it’s also helpful to have an extra set of hands
Use the captioned photos to walk you through the process. Baby chicks really won’t be available until after winter, so take your time and enjoy this fun little DIY brooder project.
Good luck, and stay safe!
1. Tools & Materials
Start by laying out what you’re going to need. I like to use the smoother side of the oriented strand board (OSB) sheet for the inside of my brooder.
Use a wet/dry vacuum to clean the finished DIY brooder. If chicks soil or spill water, use a wide putty knife or small dust pan. Remember to keep the smooth side to the inside.
2. Which Side of the Line
Make a mark 24 inches from one end of the OSB (or plywood) and then make a similar mark on the opposite edge. Using a straight edge, make a line completely across the 4-foot width. Using your circular saw, make the cut on the line.
Notice that I am cutting right along the edge of the line, leaving a full 24 inches. Perform this exact same task on the other end of the OSB, but make this cut at a 30-inch line. The piece that is 24-by-48 inches is the back of the brooder, and the 30-inch piece is the bottom.
The DIY brooder will still work if you’re off a little. You just might need to make some simple adjustments.
3. Add 7/16
After cutting and removing the 24-inch back and 30-inch bottom, cut a 48-inch piece of 2-by-2 lumber and place it along the back edge of the bottom, as shown here. Use about five 3⁄4-inch deck screws along the bottom and five more along the back.
For added strength, add a little wood glue to the joints. Once you have cut a 2-foot section and a second 2 1⁄2-foot section from the 8-foot piece of OSB, you should have a piece a little less than 42-by-48 inches.
(Note: 2-by-2 lumber actually measures 1 1⁄2-by-1 1⁄2. Don’t let that throw you off; suppliers just call it 2-by-2.)
Cut 30 7⁄16 out of the 42-inch piece, and then cut that piece in half down the middle. The idea is to create two pieces that measure 24-by-30 7⁄16. These two pieces will be the side ends of your DIY brooder box.
The sidebar (below) should make this more clear.
You should also notice in this photo that I have already added a piece of 2-by-2 that is about 28 1⁄2 inches directly behind the tape measure. All the corners will have this 2-by-2 or 2-by-3 screw backing.
In the image below, it’s easy to see the process. All inside seams are joined with screws and glue. It may be helpful to use C-clamps when tightening the screws, but once the screws are in place, you can loosen the clamps and move on to the next piece.
The corners aren’t put on in any particular order, so simply measure and cut each on as you go. Notice that I put a 2-by-3 across the top of the front span for a bit more support for the top.
5. Predrilling Close-Up
A small drill bit is used to drill the OSB and 2-by-2 backer. OSB is rather hard material, but you can use a sharp awl and hammer to start the hole.
Just be careful to apply some pressure from the back if you’re going to hammer on the structure.
6. Apply a Screw
A 3⁄4-inch deck screw is applied to the hole.
7. Ready for Front
At this point, your DIY brooder box is nearly ready for the top and front. The narrow area at the bottom in front can be filled in (see step No. 8), or you can use poultry netting for the entire space.
All eight inside seams now have a 2-by-2 or a 2-by-3 screw backer. At this point, you’ll begin to see how truly rigid the box has become.
In this slightly elevated view, the narrow remaining strip of OSB has been used to fill in the front bottom. Because my poultry netting is only 24 inches wide, this is a much better option than trying to fill the entire space with wire.
Also, this image shows one spot where two very long screws are needed near the top. The top 2-by-3 on its side is installed to leave about a 12-inch gap.
That will make sense as you finish.
9. SheetRock Nails
I like to pull the wire tight with an awl or Sheetrock nail and/or use a screw. If using a screw, cut one side of the wire and wrap the wire around the screw head before using the screw bit to drive the screw in.
Once you’re happy with how tight the wire is, you can just drive in the nail. Make sure it doesn’t come out the back.
10. Lid Corner
The lid corners were made, braced and hinged. I cut the 1-by-4 on a 45-degree angle and used metal braces with additional wood on the inside. You could also butt splice the 1-by-4 and then create added strength with the thin strips that cover the wire.
Caution: If you use lid material that is less than 1-by-4, your 24-inch poultry netting will not be wide enough for the top.
11. Finished Brooder
The front and top are complete! The lid can be opened without removing the heat lamp, which is wired in place so it won’t move and become a fire hazard.
The main image for this story also illustrates the thin strips that were used to cover the edges of the poultry netting. I would likely use feeders and watering devices that are slightly smaller to give the chicks a bit more room.
Now your DIY brooder box is ready for some floor litter and baby chicks!
Sidebar: Cutting the Board
The diagram below represents a single sheet of Oriented Strand Board (OSB, plywood) measuring 4-by-8-feet. The heavy lines represent the location of saw cuts.
Use OSB that measures about 7⁄16-inch thick to keep the weight to a minimum. You could make the bottom and sides wider, but it makes reaching in and across to catch chicks pretty difficult. As drawn, this will create a brooder that is 10 square feet, which is more than ample for 10 chicks—even more when they only a few days old.
Dispose of the narrow strip that is left over, or use it to create a low front below a strip of poultry netting. All corners will be reinforced with 2-by-2 lumber to provide a surface so screws can be used to make sheets meet securely. Use litter on the bottom of your brooder to a depth that covers these corner pieces.
At about two months or even less, you can place the DIY brooder inside your henhouse to introduce the young chicks to the rest of your flock. Chicks won’t need a lamp at that age.
During introductions, put a layer of cardboard on top of the brooder so adult hens can’t hop up and poop through the top. Older hens should accept the new arrivals in a week or 10 days.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of Chickens magazine.
Like many things in 2020, Thanksgiving Day will look a bit different this year. COVID-19 has turned the world upside down, changing the course of traditional celebrations.
But the core of Thanksgiving—giving thanks—remains unaltered. And since we can never spend too much time counting our blessings, let me start the ball rolling by sharing four farming-related successes I’m thankful for in 2020. Feel free to follow along and share your own list online!
I’m thankful for…
Growing an Abundance of Pumpkins
One of my goals for 2020 was to grow pumpkins inside my orchard deer fence, encouraging the vines to climb the welded wire and grow vertically rather than horizontally. I’m happy to report the project was a resounding success.
Planting three different varieties in raised beds, I was delighted to see my pumpkins grow at a rapid rate—they clearly appreciated the rich compost soil and daily watering I provided.
Seemingly every day the leaves grew larger, the vines longer, and—eventually—the pumpkins riper. When all was said and done, I harvested a couple dozen miniature pumpkins and half a dozen medium-sized pumpkins.
Suffice to say, I plan to repeat and even expand my planting in 2021, adding more pumpkins and even some watermelons to the mix. I’m certainly thankful for this farming success!
Another of my major goals for 2020 was to plant two parallel rows of flowering crabapple trees (four trees per row) to serve as a beautiful entrance to my orchard. My vision was clear, but wet ground proved to be a stumbling block.
I planned on planting the two rows on a mild slope, but the ground at the bottom of the slope refused to drain as well as I’d hoped, delaying planting while I pondered my options.
In the end, I planted the bottommost trees about 8 inches above ground level, surrounding their root balls with an abundance of top soil hauled in from elsewhere on my farm. The result was better than I anticipated, creating a win-win situation where my trees can enjoy dry feet while maintaining the two parallel rows I’d envisioned.
Producing 2,200 Bales of Hay
Last year was a down year for hay production of my farm, so I was glad to see the 2020 crop bounce back in a big way. Even though wet weather during the summer made it challenging to find three-day windows for baling, by the time all the fields were cut, ~2,200 small square bales were stacked in the barn.
Not only that, hay season went by with a minimum of equipment malfunctions—only one shear pin gave out. You can’t ask for a smoother run than that!
While spreading some grass clippings along the edge of the farm woodlands, I happened upon an undiscovered patch of daylilies tucked away in the shade of young chokecherry and ash trees. The patch was large—approximately 6 feet across—and while the daylilies weren’t really thriving in their shaded location, they took off as soon as I transplanted a few to my orchard.
Growing in full sun, they flowered steadily, adding a touch of red and orange to the green of the trees. I’m excited to transplant more daylilies in 2021!
In August 2019, Mya and her grandpa came up with a plan to sell the eggs that the hens on the ranch where they live were producing.
This sparked her to create her own company: Mya B.’s Egg Company. For short, she calls it “What’s Crackin’ Egg Co.”
Mya began by using her Tooth Fairy money to buy blank egg cartons. She then spent time painting and decorating them. Mya purchased an order booklet and helped her mom create a Facebook page to find her first egg customers.
Within the week, she had a full customer schedule and started collecting those eggs for her clients. She phoned each new customer on her own, asking how many eggs they’d like per week. She inquired if they would they like to purchase on a one-time buy or a monthly plan.
Mya B.’s Egg Company found a lot of support from her new customers. One created vinyl-label egg carton stickers.
Her grandma began sewing bags to deliver the eggs in. (It helped with keeping them from being accidentally dropped.) The eggs sold out each and every week.
Mya spent her egg money on special treats for the chickens and took them fresh produce each day. She created informational videos about eggs that she shared on her Facebook page.
Rising Above Tragedy
Unfortunately, at the end of October, a grizzly bear damaged the coop and her flock. This was a difficult time for Mya. But she was resilient and spent the winter planning to rebuild her company from the ground up.
After receiving Chickens magazine from her grandma, Mya researched the different breeds of chickens so she could restock her flock. She studied all of the different products that would help keep her hens happy and healthy.
In March, Mya had her 8th birthday, and she got her most-wanted items:
a chicken harness for walking her birds
two swings for her coop (one inside and one outside)
a rollaway nesting box
a few feed items
Her new Plymouth Rock chicks arrived on March 31. Mya chose them because of their docile and friendly nature.
She repainted and revamped the old petting zoo barn at the ranch and created a beautiful coop for her hens. One of the new features she added was chicken dust, after reading an article in Chickens about feather health.
She decided it would be a good idea to dig in a tire and fill it with dust for her birds.
She has a ladder-style roosting bar that her dad built, and she spends hours each day with her birds, holding them, giving them treats and making sure they have everything they need!
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of Chickens magazine.