Building a Bigger Brooder

big brooder

There is no space left in the brooder. The chicks have gotten too fed up with each and there is more squawking than we can stand. They are still too young to move into the coop not to mention the snow and wide temperature swings that could potentially kill them. It’s time to get creative and take drastic action. We cut a number of large packing boxes boxes open and duct taped them together into a large 7 X 7 foot box in our basement spare bedroom. We put a tarp underneath it, a tarp on the inside of it, lined it with protective paper an then dropped in pine shavings. The room has it’s own thermostat so we brought it up to 80 degrees and the hung a heat lamp over the box to keep the box at 85. Works like a charm! Although a bit dusty. Hopefully this will only be for 2 weeks maximum.

It is so nice to finally see the chicks run, jump and flap their wings. We started to see more chicken like activity like scratching and pecking the ground. Now they are starting to establish a pecking order. They come face to face with the competition, stretch up tall and start bumping chests! It’s a riot! Much more fun to play with them in their new environment.

Surviving the Chicks

Aracauna Chick

This isn’t about the chicks surviving, it’s you about surviving raising the chicks! You know….you read all the blogs, articles and books, but it never really prepares you for taking care of new born chicks. What should have been the most exciting moment when we pulled the chicks out of the box for the first time turned a little cold when we found one with a broken leg. We had to put her down and it was then that it dawned on me, I have 30 little lives depending on me!!

Thank god the chicks delivery was delayed until Friday so I could spend 3 full days in a row with them before going back to work. On their first morning with us I woke up with a dozen of the little girls with a case of pasty butt! I read about, I laughed about it, but it’s a serious thing! The poop from a chick can get stuck on it’s butt and clog up the works causing toxicity and potentially death!

Pasty Butt

So what do you have to do? You have to clean the butts of every chick that has one of these crusty masses. Okay….so I do as the blogs say and pull out a warm cup of water, Qtips and little bit of olive oil. Dipping the Qtip in the water, I use it to moisten the clot until it breaks down and then wipe it off, cleaning the area and then following it up by applying a little olive oil around the poop shoot so the poop will just slide off next time! Amusing, but I spent almost 3 hours trying to be extra careful not to hurt or traumatize the little ones. Not wholly successful at that.

I started scouring the blogs again and found two recommendations that worked. Adding some ground raw oats to their feed to fix their stressed digestive system, and before Qtipping the chick, hold them under a tiny stream of warm water in the sink. I only had 6 to clean Sunday morning and none after that.

Then we found a little chick that was peeping really loud, looking weak and was getting bumped around, not able to get to the food and water. She was named Little Miss Peeps from that moment.Little Miss PeepsWe separated her into her own box, having to carefully regulate the temperature and trying to teach her how to drink water by forcing her beak into the bowl every 2 hours to be sure she didn’t dehydrate. After 2 days she finally caught on and started to eat with gusto.

Special Needs Chick

She spent her first night back with the other chicks Sunday night and is starting to blend in fine! It was touch and go there for awhile.


Now that the chicks are all healthy and we are getting comfortable, it’s starting to become apparently that they are growing FAST. We can already see full wings popping out of the downy fuzz! They are hopping around like jack rabbits!  The brooder is running out of space. Now we have a new issue to work on!

The Baby Chicks are Here!

Day old Chicks

The chicks finally arrived! 12 Buff Orphingtons, 12 Black Australorpes, 6 Aracaunas and it looks like 4 surprise chicks! I don’t know what the special exotics are just yet, but they sure are outgoing, literally climbing into my hand! Unfortunately one of the Buffs had a broken leg and a bad case of pasty butt, an issue that can kill a chick. She did not look good at all so we had to put her out of her misery, Lesson number one on a farm. Make a decision based on the animals comfort level and likelihood of survival. Tough one for me!

Tired and hungry, the chicks immediately took to the food and water. I have never seen animals eat that much food! They almost ate the whole bag already!

Special Needs Chick

One little chick is smaller than the others and also seems to not see well out of her left eye. She was peeping so loud it hurt my ears. She was getting bumped around from the other chicks and not getting any food or water. I separated her from the others in a little box with a light over it and gave her her own personal buffet! She inhaled most all of it. Then she realized she was all alone and started squawking again. I found the next pathetic looking chick and put her in the box as well. They quickly became friends and spent the afternoon eating, drinking, snuggling with each other and exchanging garble noises. Once they looked happy and full, I brought them back to the crowd and they seemed to do just fine.

Snuggling Chicks

Phew! Who knew chick day could be so dramatic!

The Chicks in the Mail


This is an empty brooder. Why is it empty? The newly hatched chicks were mailed 2 days ago and still haven’t arrived! The best way to get a cheaper, high quality chick is to mail order them. It’s recommended to find a hatchery close to you, and this one was only 10 hours away. I’m stressing…..a little. The chicks feed off of the yolk up to 3 days. I’m sure we’ll get a call first thing in the morning.  

For those of  you who don’t know what a brooder is, it’s a box that heats up with a lamp to 95 degrees. That’s how warm the chicks need to stay for the first week of their life. The temperature is lowered 5 degrees a week until the temperature in their coop matches the temp they have lowered to. Our neighbor was kind enough to loan us his extra techy version!

We are getting 30 chicks + 1 surprise exotic chick that came free with the order. It’s going to be fun to figure out what type it is! Because we bought so many, we won’t be able to keep them in the brooder for more than two weeks. There won’t be enough room. Then into the coop they go with a heat lamp!
Can’t wait until tomorrow when I get the call from the post office saying “come get these chicks out of here!”

And by the way, this is the first time I’ve given my husband permission to go pick up some chicks if I can’t make it!