Saturday, March 25, 2017

Chick Days at Little Sprouts!

It's HERE!     It's HERE! 

The chicks have hatched! Right on schedule. Well over half arrived by tonight, and the rest should be hatching tomorrow, at 21 days. So far, there are 109 chicks running around tonight in the indoor brooder, and another 24 drying in the bottom of the incubator.

A veritable sea of chicks!

This little guy seems to be somewhat in charge, keeping watch over his brothers and sisters and cousins.
 This hatching is the first of likely three hatchings this year. This is the start of our new approach to raising chickens for both meat and eggs.  More on that in a later blog post!

These will also serve as the winter egg layers! The eggs were collected in mid February from hens that needed no extra light to lay through the winter. In theory, they should be more consistent layers during short days in winter when they mature.  Next we will do a summer set of hatchings to get hens comfortable laying in the dry heat of summer.

I'll explain more in later posts.

Brooder Setup

We are trying a new "indoor brooder" setup this year. The weather is a bit wet and clammy to send these newborns right out into the night air, so they are going to stay inside for a week or so as they get strong. But by tomorrow night, there will be 200 chicks if all goes well. How do you keep that many little feathered friends warm and dry ?

We used to use the eco-glow heaters from Brinsea.  They are wonderful heaters! But as you may recall, most of ours burned up in the chicken coop fire a couple of years ago. They are quite pricey, so we opted not to replace them. Instead, we switched to homemade brooder heaters using ceramic screw in heater elements.  These elements come in  50 to 250 watt varieties, produce no light, and provide a decent even heat without much waste.

So the design is simple, a plywood base with 7 screw in light sockets mounted underneath. Each socket then gets a 50 watt heater. The base is 34" x 34" with 350 watts of heat. Then we put legs on the corners that are adjustable height.  It is a decent homemade version of the EcoGlow heater.

The sides are 8 inch tall plastic panels from an old bed frame. Underneath is a piece of greenhouse plastic to protect the floor, covered with a few layers of newspaper. Tomorrow we might add a few shavings.

For extra safety this first night, we added Styrofoam panels to hold in heat and insulate a bit. Probably not necessary, but don't want to take any chances!
This little guy looks like she is basking in the sun at the beach in mid summer! The black circle above him is the ceramic heater element.

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