Our first experience incubating and brooding chicks has been a great learning experience, so I thought I’d share with you some of what we learned. First and foremost, as you may have guessed, is that brooding indoors is Not Ideal.
We didn’t have an appropriate outdoor space, though, so into the office they went. I was pretty diligent about the cleanliness of the brooders, so the smell wasn’t the issue (which is what we had expected.) It was the film of dust that covered everything in the office as they grew feathers. It was SO MUCH DUST. Yes. So. Next time out of doors for sure.
Although the Brinsea EcoGlow is safer and more natural, I ended up not using it as much because it didn’t fit in the small boxes and by the time we moved them the bird/lamp ratio was insufficient. I think I would have needed two EcoGlows to feel confident they could all get underneath to get warm. Also, they only way I could see that they were ok was by lowering my phone in to take a picture, like the one below. Last, my early boxes weren’t super tall and the mischievous marans didn’t take long at all to figure out the first jump to freedom.
We increased their box size using a refrigerator box from Lowes. I cut them in half and connected the box halves with a doorway cut and duct taped together to make one large space following this article from the Chicken Chick. At this point we had really two rooms, so I used the EcoGlo in one and the heat lamp in the other. This arrangement worked out pretty well.
Most importantly, we switched from the watering system shown above, a tray that uses a mason jar as waterer and pebbles added to keep the chicks from doing something crazy like drowning, to a nipple water system. What I fretted about with the jar waterer was that the chicks needed a lot of fresh water and I couldn’t manage to keep their water clean enough to suit me even when I changed them out 4-5 times per day.
We built the new ones from this tutorial at Garden Coop. It was terrifying to take away their water so they could get used to this one. They’re just not smart. I sat there for an hour watching, thinking I was going to end up with chicks dying of thirst with little water droplets on their heads. All it really took, though, was one chick finally getting what I was showing him, though. In about twenty minutes, the rest of them had it.
What I worry about now with these new ones is mostly that the cardboard, where exposed, gets sort of wet. I could have duct taped the backboard for protection, but it didn’t get as bad as I feared. The floor, however, does. I put a cookie tin lid underneath to protect it, because for some reason the chicks love to scratch the shavings away and let the floor get wet. Comparatively, though, I’ll take a wet spot over no clean water any day.