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Greenmeadow Poultry

Two low cost brooders

Light-bulb brooder

Chicks in a boxThe absolute simplest way to keep your chicks warm is to put them in a good-sized carboard box with an ordinary 60W light-bulb over one end. Arrange the bulb at an appropriate height so that the temperature directly underneath it is thirty-seven degrees centigrade. And there you go.

The downside of this method is that the chicks are in the light all the time and this can sometimes encourage feather-pecking and make them slightly crazed, in the same way as humans exposed to twenty-four hours of light suffer a bit. They also cheep ALL the time, which can get on your nerves if you have them where you can hear them at night! However, if you are only trying out hatching before committing to buying a lot of kit, it is definitely worth considering. It can probably be rigged up from things that you already have - a desk lamp, for example - and the electricity will cost seven or eight pounds for six weeks.

Heat-mat brooder

Heat mat for brooderAnother way forward that I have been using recently is a Vivarium Heat Mat. An eleven inch square pad, suitable for a dozen chicks, will cost around fifteen pounds and is only 12 watts, therefore costing about one pound fifty for six weeks use.

The pad is taped (with gaffer tape) on to the bottom of a piece of hardboard that is propped up two to four inches above the floor covering of the brooder-box. The chicks can then tuck themselves underneath it as they would a hen, and come out to eat and drink. You gradually raise it up as they grow and they spend less and less time underneath. The pad warms the wood it is taped to as well, so as they get a bit bigger, they will start to sit on the top.

I usually screw the board to some two-by-four along two sides, but I have also had it propped on various combinations of tupperware or jam-jars - anything that won't collapse and squash them. Four inches is a bit high for day olds, so you need to make sure there is plenty of bedding in the box and the edges of the two-by-four are well down in the bedding. Once they get to a week or so old, you can raise it up a bit.

I like this method of brooding - it's more natural for the chicks as they are exposed to a normal day/night cycle, and it is MUCH cheaper than the traditional 250 watt dull-emitter bulb, which although very effective, costs about thirty pounds per six-week brooding period to run - which for small quantities of chicks is very expensive indeed.

Cheryl Arvidson,
West Bagborough
Nr Taunton
Somerset
TA4 3EQ

email: info@thegreenmeadow.co.uk
telephone: 0797 0594 226

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All the information and photos on this website © Cheryl Arvidson 2010.