Friday, April 20, 2007

The Brooder

We brood our day-olds in an old horse water trough. It works well and is so deep that it allows us to continually add bedding all the while that the birds are brooding. We have a wire/lumber top for the brooder that allows us to hang two heat lamps over the chicks. We can adjust the lamps to whatever height we need to keep them comfortable. This year, as every year it seems, we are experiencing extremely low temps. that are well under normal. I had to cover the brooder with a silver tarp and a blanket and then set up an electric baseboard heater nearby to keep the temperature up inside the brooder. If it is too cold, the birds will crowd each other and make a big pile. The birds at the bottom of the pile suffocate and die. We know that the temperature is correct when we see the chicks off in all corners of the brooder pecking away at feed, water and whatever bugs and grass is in their bedding straw. They will stay in the brooder for a week or two and then we will set up another one and split them up to allow them to grow until they are feathered out. Typically, near the end of brooding, we transfer the chicks to the pig barn where they have lots of room to grow until they are big enough to be transferred to the field pens. Once they are fully "feathered out", they are able to care for themselves outside without the need for extra heat from lamps or an inside room. All they need at that point is a roof and some wind blockage that comes from the movable pen in the pasture.

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