Why do we need another chicken blog or forum?

Many chicken forums are moderated to sell commercial feed, chemicals and ideology.
I prefer to find my own balance between nature, welfare and cost in raising happy chickens.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Even if you can't fully cold brood...

...most people who brood artificially can cut their power use massively by creating a warm 'igloo' in the general brooder. Why use 100W globes 24 hours a day for 3-6 weeks when you can use a single 40W globe for half that time, and still brood high numbers of chicks? All you need is to ensure that the heat source is effective enough to warm the nest area up, and that chicks can get away from heat when they need to. And of course when you start switching the heat off during the day (an hour at a time, then two hours, depending on weather), you need to be sure the chicks have learned where to huddle to warm up.

But if you want to do this, the cold brooder plans on the right probably aren't the way to go. The small doorway is ideal when fully cold brooding, but when using a lamp, overnight you can find that the chicks get too warm and tend to cram themselves at the doorway, blocking the exit. Weaker chicks inside the 'igloo' overheat while ones stuck outside can chill.

To use cold brooding methods to reduce power use, a better design would be an entirely open-fronted nest area with a hanging curtain of towel or sacking cut into strips (like those flystrip door curtains you used to see hanging in front of grocery shops). Stuff hay around the nesting compartment on three sides and let the fourth be the fabric strips. If it's getting quite cold at night, you'll want to check the chicks before bedtime to make sure the brooding compartment is staying warm; if it isn't, simply block up the hanging curtain with a bit of wood, leaving a smaller doorway.

Alternatively, lamp brood by day (when chicks can more comfortably come and go) and totally cold brood at night.

Whichever way you go, I can't stress enough how important it is to watch the birds, especially until they've learned to use the 'igloo' on their own. But if you're using a cold brooder with a low wattage heat source to downsize your power bill, during the day in most weathers there's little that can go wrong. I can happily go off to work and tuck the chicks away at night when I come home.

In fact, heating an entire brooder is a recipe for coccidiosis problems, as keeping litter warm just requires a little extra humidity or spillage from a water container to create ideal cocci breeding conditions.

Of course it takes effort to get the setup right, and you must adjust it as the chicks grow; slow feathering breeds would clearly need extra room in the 'igloo'. But the reduced power usage is surely worth it!