So -it’s all Facebook’s fault. I saw a picture of a “Frizzle Chicken” (google it, you can thank me later) on Facebook one day and said to My Prince – I HAVE to have one of these. From then on, he was all in. We began doing what nerds do and researched all about chickens…raising chickens…housing chickens…feeding chickens…cleaning chickens…etc etc etc. He began looking into getting the actual chickens and we had kind of decided to order some chicks when the season came around. Until….
We randomly ended up in Canton, Texas the weekend of First Monday. (It’s a gigantic city-sized flea market in North Texas). We ran across some Silkie Chickens – which are similar to Frizzles and decided to get the pair. We named them Dave and Francine.
This is Francine – isn’t she cute!
The breeder said she was a good layer and gave us some tips after we asked him a million questions. He shoved them in a potato sack and gawked at my horrified face. We made it home with our new friends in a box in the back of our luxurious mini-van. My prince built them an awesome little coop and we started our journey.
The simple coop and run my prince built for Dave and Francine. The tin lid and lid to the coop lift for easy cleaning.
This is Dave – he’s not quite as fluffy as Francine.
We gave them a heat lamp, water and food and kept a close eye on them. It was several weeks and Francine had not laid an egg, so I was about to start doing what nerds do and consult the google when she suddenly passed on to the great chicken coop in the sky. I was very sad, but I knew this was a risk with chickens. They aren’t the heartiest of animals and it’s risky to purchase chickens from a breeder you don’t know and who sells chickens in a market like Canton. We never remember these things until after the fact, but we won’t be purchasing anymore from there.
That next day, my sister was coming to visit and had been looking forward to seeing our chickens. Being the problem solver she is, when finding out about Francine’s demise, she immediately began to search for chicks. It wasn’t hatching season so we didn’t think we would find any. Amazingly she found a small family farm on Craig’s list! We visited with Raven from Rae² Family Farm. She was super nice and let the kids tour the farm and hang out with her other animals. After a rainy day trip to Frankston – where the farm was- my sister, the five kids we toted between us, and I came home with NINE silkie chicks.
GAH! Aren’t they precious?!?!
SO!!! After that LOOONG intro, THIS is the post in which I share our first experience building a home brooder and what we learned. There are many ways to build a brooder and you can even buy them, but we needed one pretty fast and this plan is my version of one I saw online. There were some things we had to change – causing some kind of funny moments, and I’ll tell you all about it, right now!
First we took 2 plastic storage tubs and turned them upside down with the tops on. We used a box cutter and some heavy duty shears to cut a rectangular opening in the bottom – which will actually be the top of the brooder. You need to have a large opening for good ventilation.
Next, we used the box cutter to make an opening on the side of the two tubs in the same place for our tunnel. We used a water bottle that we had cut then ends off of and then duct taped the edges to make it smooth. (This didn’t work out so well)
I worked the water bottle into the openings making a tunnel for the chickies to go through so they could travel between the tubs.
I used some nonslip drawer liner to put on the bottom of the brooder. I read that newspaper alone was not a good liner for the brooder. There are toxins in the ink for one thing and also it can become slippery when wet or dirty. The chicks can become “spraddle legged”. This is when their little chickie legs just go out to the side and they can’t stand up.
We didn’t know what “spraddle legged” meant, so when I googled it and showed my brother in law the picture he suddenly connected the dots in an old saying his Grandpa had about Grandma….can’t unlearn that. Sorry Bobby!!!
The bins snap right onto the bottoms (which are actually the tops) and snap easily off for cleaning.
Ultimately this tunnel design didn’t work out – for the moment, they were small enough to fit through that water bottle but about a week later we had to upgrade to a much larger piece of PVC pipe.
AAAANNND one of the chickies got STUCK in the duct tape going through the tunnel so he had to wear a graduation cap shaped duct tape hat for a while until it fell off! Poor guy!
This is our little graduate. It fell off after a few days and he’s fine now. SO – be careful if you use duct tape to line the edges of your tunnel, for your chickies might get stuck!
Also using the box cutter was difficult and time consuming, so we ended up heating up a kitchen knife to cut through the plastic. That worked much better for cutting the larger opening for our tunnel.
My Prince cut a large circular opening for the PVC tunnel we used. It was actually two pieces of pipe with a door in the middle that we can slide down to block the tunnel when we are cleaning the brooder. You can get those pieces in the plumbing department at Lowe’s or Home Depot.
This is the finished tunnel. It actually works out really great. Even though the chickies are so big now, they still fit easily through.
We used a metal chick feeder from Tractor Supply, and an ice cube tray for their water. I also added a little container with grass pulled from the yard. They LOVE the grass and it’s funny to watch them fight over it.
The chickies are all still with us and are a month old now. They are ready to go outside now, so my prince is working on a larger coop and in a few more months I’m looking forward to the first eggs!!
Here are a few things I learned from our first experience in having chickies and making a brooder!
- A heated knife cuts through the plastic easier than a box cutter and makes a smoother cut than shears.
- Chickies grow fast! So make the tunnel large for them to fit. (Don’t duct tape the edges either, smooth them with sandpaper if you’re worried)
- Keeping your chickies inside is easier for regulating the temperature. They need to be kept around 85-90 degress the first week, even with a heat lamp, that’s hard to do outside in the winter. We kept them in the laundry room and that worked fine.
- Using a shallow water dish is better for little chicks, they can drown if it’s too deep. The ice cube trays worked great because they didn’t tip over and we fairly easy to clean.
- We used a dropper to add Apple Cider Vinegar to their water a couple times a week. This promotes good health and deters intestinal illness. I also just got some sea kelp in the mail today from Amazon so that will be added to their diet as well.
- Check your chickies for pasty butt. Yes, that’s what I meant to say. It’s a condition that prevents them from being able to poo and can cause them to die. Plus, its just gross. You can clean it with a q-tip and vegetable oil. None of our chickies had it thank goodness! (Also helps to have a good breeder!)
- A red heat lamp can help reduce pecking and aggressiveness amongst the chickies.
- Keep a thermometer in your brooder to make sure the temperature is right for the cuties.
Most of all, I learned that fresh water, temperature, and the right food is what will best keep chickies healthy and happy.
My go to source for info is a site called Fresh Eggs Daily. She knows her stuff and is required reading if you’re thinking of getting some chickies of your own.
These are our chickies at just 3 weeks! They grow quickly!
Farm Where You’re Planted is a bestie blog about faith, family, farming, and fostering.