Chicks to the Brooder

This week marks the beginning of chicken season, with new chicks hatching and going into the brooder. I created this video to explain the basics of our brooder setup and to discuss how we get the chicks off to a good start.

Transcript

Hi I’m Dave, your farmer from Wrong Direction Farm.
Today’s a great day for us because it’s the beginning of chicken season. These guys were just hatched this week at a hatchery.
It’s early April and it’s a chilly day out here. But inside the brooders the chicks are warm and comfortable. We’ll take a look at them. But first, let’s just talk about what the brooder is.
A chicken brooders is a place where we keep the chickens for their first two to three weeks depending on the season and the outside temperature, to give them a chance to grow in their first set of feathers, to get a little bit of body mass, to the point where they have the ability to regulate their own body temperature. When they’re out on pasture they will not need to be huddled up. We have some propane heaters in there. We have some bedding on the floor. You want a mulchy kind of dry bedding just to give them a place to be warm and dry. And of course, we provide them with food and water, to get them used to the food we’re going to be giving them once they get out to pasture. So let’s take a look inside the brooders.
Our chicken brooders are built around these old tractor trailer bodies. So what we do is we start the chicks off at approximately 90 degrees. Turkeys start a bit higher, about 95 degrees. And we drop the temperature in the brooder by one degree every day by just turning back the thermostat knob a slight bit. That gets the chicks, by the end of the period in the brooder, kind of hardened off, similar to the concept of hardening off plants that have been growing in a greenhouse. We also harden off chicks and get them used to the ambient temperatures that they’ll experience outside during the spring or summer weather.
As the chicks grow, in the next couple of weeks, we will gradually raise their feeders and their waterers to higher levels so that they can reach them better. And we’ll also increase the ventilation. Right now the ventilation is set at just about five percent of the time the fan is on. But as they grow up, we’ll increase that to, up to fifty percent or so when they’re just about to leave the brooder so they’re used to an outdoor breeze blowing on them.
Thanks for watching. Have a great day!

During the next few weeks we’ll keep a close watch on the little guys, gradually dialing back the heat and increasing the ventilation. When we have consistently high temperatures we can let them out onto the pasture as early as two weeks old. But for our April batches we need to be cautious because of the possibility for cold and wet weather, so we typically wait at least three weeks. If we see that the forecast has any particularly cold weather in store, we’ll sometimes hold the chicks back a few extra days rather than stressing them with cold before they’re ready to handle it.

The first batch of chicks is always a special temporal marker for us. It marks the beginning of our farming season. It’s exciting to be jumping into this new season. We’ll be sure to share more as the season progresses.

Dave Perozzi

Dave Perozzi

3 thoughts on “Chicks to the Brooder”

  1. Thank you Dave, love watching your videos. What is that powdery feed made of if you can explain please. If they eat that for first weeks of their life, and they life is short (how many weeks bdw?), what is the chance they will go for insects/grass from the pasture. Its sort of if one grow up on mc donalds food usually stays on that diet for most of his life.

    1. Hi Dana, the feed is a mix of Certified Organic grains, so it definitely isn’t like a diet of McDonalds junk food. It helps to grind it fine because their digestive tracts are immature. As they age, the feed particle size can increase. By the time they go out on pasture they instinctively know how to eat grass and bugs, and they are just getting to the size and have the gizzard development to get some use out of the grasses. Here’s a post I wrote about what chickens eat on pasture, and from there you can link to other more detailed articles about the various constituents of their diets (grass, bugs, and organic grains). Thanks, Dave

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