Oh spring! The snow is melting and the sun is shining…or maybe it’s raining and dark…or you just got dumped with another foot of snow. Well, the weather might not be cooperating just yet, but there’s one thing that unites the spring experience for all chicken lovers, and that’s the sound of taking a look at your local grocery store. ‘Food for animals.
keep them warm
Whether you’re bringing babies home from the store or welcoming them out of their eggs in an incubator, you’ll need somewhere to put them until they grow enough feathers to regulate their own body temperature. , even if the outside is still frozen. Their first home needs to be secure, have enough space, and most importantly, keep them warm. As a general rule of thumb, regardless of size or shape, most people use a heat lamp to warm up their chicks, but there are many downsides to this. the most worrying of which is its potential fire hazard.
Advantages and disadvantages of the hot plate
Chick hot plates are an alternative, but they are expensive. The cheapest on Amazon that I could find is over $50! Is there a better way? That’s the thought I had when I brought home my first batch of chicks four years ago. I didn’t have a convenient, out-of-the-way place in a garage or shed that also had a convenient power supply, so it remained inside the house as the only place to keep a brooder: a house with dogs, cats and kids running around and too much potential for a knocked over heat lamp to start a fire.
Borrow from snakes
Instead, I had an idea for another unusual pet that I like. If you don’t like snakes then I’m sorry, this might make you a bit gross. You see, I breed ball pythons. These guys hail from the savannahs and scrublands of Central Africa. They spend a lot of time hiding in burrows and usually only come out at night to hunt, but like most reptiles they cannot regulate their own body heat. The part of Africa they come from is close to the equator and, although it has seasonal variations, its average temperatures are very constant. In order to replicate this here in eastern Washington, I need equipment: a heating mat to generate heat, a thermostat to regulate the temperature, and an enclosed but ventilated space to contain it all.
Wait, did I just describe the perfect brooder box setup? That’s what I thought when I brought my new girls home. I grabbed an old Jumpstart thermostat, an unused heating pad, and a plastic skin from my supplies and set it up in a large cardboard box the same way I would a snake in a tank. I set the temperature to a comfortable range for the baby birds. The heating pad goes under the bathtub and plugs into the thermostat, the thermostat plugs into the wall and the temperature sensor is placed above the heating pad, between it and the bottom of the tub. And it worked ! It’s worked like a charm for every girl group I’ve had since that first group. No one gets cold or overheated, and lowering the temperature to start getting the chicks ready for their transition to running outdoors is as easy as pushing a button! I eventually replaced the cardboard with a plastic tote, similar to my snake’s. The bins are easier to clean, don’t collapse, and have lids when the chicks start jumping around and testing their wings.
Up-cycling: from scales to feathers
I was able to avoid spending extra money by using what I already had on hand; old equipment that was neglected in storage. For those of you who don’t have exotic pets (which most of you probably do), a simple programmable thermostat and heating pad are inexpensive and readily available online. Of course, there are many ways to brood chicks, so do what works best for you, but if you’re looking for something different, well here’s what works for me, and it might work for you too!
Louis Fish Stevens comes from Washington and writes that “Our flock of chickens is mixed; two Easter Eggers, a Barred Rock, an Austrlorp and an Olive Egger rooster which was of course the sole survivor of a series of three that I repurchased in March. I kept Welsummers, Cuckoo Marans, Wyandottes, Orpingtons and other EEs and of all of them I think the EEs are my favorite. I love their fluffy faces, they are the friendliest birds and my most consistent and prolific layers. My older EE hen was the first to start laying this year, right on February 1, when it was still dark and cold like the Arctic! »