Reefer Madness

We just received an old reefer trailer for our next chicken brooder. We’ve been using shipping containers for the last two years, and while we’ve been happy with most aspects of their performance, we found that their lack of insulation causes problems with moisture condensing on the inside surfaces and raining down, especially for the early spring batches of chickens when the ambient temperatures are coldest. This reefer box has three inches of insulation in the walls and ceiling and two inches in the floor rather than the bare steel of the shipping containers. (There are insulated shipping containers available, but the costs are about three or four times the price of these salvage trailers, and the shipping containers are eight feet shorter.)

This is a storage grade trailer so the interior walls are shabby, the FRP is sagging, the reefer unit is gone, and there is hole in the floor where a forklift wheel punched through. But despite its rough condition, it should make a great brooder. I’m hopeful that the thick insulation will provide enough of a thermal break to prevent the moisture problems that plagued our shipping container brooders. Our summers don’t get especially hot, but I expect that the insulation will also help to prevent overheating on the warmest days.

If the trailer proves to be useful, I’d consider cutting off the landing gear and axles and placing the trailer at ground level. But for now I’d like to keep the unit mobile since I need to move the trailer later this year after I can get a bulldozer to prepare a more level spot. For now I’ll just cobble together a portable set of stairs.

We’ll continue using our forty foot shipping container as a brooder, but the twenty foot container is going to be repurposed as a storage shed.

3 Comments on “Reefer Madness

  1. Pingback: Two Doors in One | Wrong Direction Farm

  2. Dave, this is a great idea and it will be exciting to see how this works out. Is there already ventilation? In our shipping container I used a 50 watt panel on the roof and then a direct AC fan that I cut a hole for and mounted near the top of the side wall. It obviously only runs in sunshine but that’s when I need it in summer. I will be watching this experiment carefully as we run a very similar operation to yours albeit as small farmers in Ohio.

    • The shipping containers both have ventilation fans, and like you mentioned I keep the inlets and outlets near the roofline. I still need to install a fan in the reefer trailer. I run the fans on cheap timers and thermostats to keep air flowing at least once every ten minutes. Condensation problems are worse with propane hover heaters compared to electric brooder heaters because of all the moisture generated by propane combustion. Plus the propane hovers require additional ventilation to prevent CO buildup. I’ll try to remember to post something once I get this brooder running for our first batch of April chickens.

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