Showering With Chicks

The only thing that i like more than a bargain is reusing, recycling and re-purposing. Because of this, my Saturday morning ritual often consists of getting up early to visit the local and not so local garage sales. While I’m out and about i also pop into the waste management facilities (the tip) which we have a few of. Now over the years i have had to train myself to really look hard at things and ask myself “Will i actually use this?” in fear of ending up on the show ‘Hoarders’. However when i saw these beauties i knew exactly what i was going to do with them.

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You see we had been looking for brooders for our chicks. At one stage i was going to build one out of old cool room panels but these were perfect and required almost no alteration.

The steel box turned out to be the old hopper the tip used for sorting aluminum cans but the bottom had rusted out. I replaced the floor using some timber and a couple of sheets of tin i pulled out of an old trailer that I’m turning into a chicken caravan.

With the two fibreglass prefab showers i placed them end to end, drilled a couple of holes and tied them together with some wire, and then used some spare tin i had from the floor of the other brooder to make a divider with a door to keep the heat in one side.

I gave them both a good clean, filled the bottom with pine shavings and added a feeder and a drinker. And Bob’s your uncle. Or not quite. What about the heat source i hear you ask?

As Laura mentioned earlier in 50 Cent Becomes A Father, we are using reptile heat mats instead of brooder lamps. There are a couple of advantages to this. They are a lot more energy efficient, the chicks become used to the day/night cycle because there isn’t a constant light shining, there is no risk of a fire starting, and you don’t have to worry about the globes running out. I am using the basic design of a cold brooder which is an insulated box that the chicks can come and go from as they please. It is usually warmed by the chicks own body heat however this style of brooder is not recommended for cold places or for chicks under 3 days old as chicks younger than this cannot produce enough heat on their own.  So this is where the heat mats come in. I have placed a heat mat on the top and bottom inside of an isulated box (the insulated box being the top of an old plastic dog kennel) and am using a temperature probe attached to a digital thermostat so i can easily regulate the temperature inside the box.

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Originally I joined two heat mats together for the bottom of the box (i have since removed one of them as only one is really needed and i forgot to take a photo of just the one)

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I then buried the heat mats under the pine shavings

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I fixed a heat meat onto the inside top of the box

IMG_1350The end result

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As it is winter here at the moment, i am also covering the box with material for extra insulation

The chicks will spend their first two weeks in this brooder and then they will be moved to the fibereglass brooder. The fibreglass brooder has a separate thermostat attached to two heat mats, which are buried in the litter to provide extra heat on cold nights

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Costs involved to set up both these brooders:

Hopper and Fibreglass showers $30.00
Heat Mat x 4 $68.20
Thermomstat x 2 $19.98
Small Feeder $4.30
Small Drinker $5.00
Large Feeder – My parents had lying around
Large Drinker – $13.70
Pine Shavings 60L (this is obviously not just a once off cost) – $14.00
Total $155.18

All other materials were salvaged for free

It only took me a couple of hours to set these brooders up. Considering we can probably run about 50 chicks in each brooder (this is abiding by the NSW Department of Agriculture recommended guidelines of how many chicks per sqm), i think that this was extremely good value for money.

As a comparison, i did a quick search on eBay and the cheapest option of a brooder (not including postage) was $320.00 plus $50.00 extra for a removable litter tray. This is basically an aluminum box which included a brooder lamp fitting but not the globes. It also doesn’t include any accessories such as feeders, drinkers etc. It states that it is suitable for 40 chicks but at 800mm by 500mm that is only 12mm by 12mm per chick – i certainly would not pay that amount of money to keep my chicks in conditions like that.

My next endeavour will be turning an old trailer we were given for free into a chicken caravan.

NSW Department of Agriculture Brooder Recommended Guidelines: http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0013/203521/small-scale-brooding-rearing-chickens.pdf

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