Raising chickens is a lot of fun, and very interesting. It also isn’t all that hard. I spent way to much time researching it before I got my first chickens.
In this part 1 of walking you through raising chickens I disstil down the most basic things you need to know about getting and raising chickens.
We start with where to buy, and how to get them. Then move on to the first few weeks of their life in a brooder, and the things to consider along the way.
In my failure segment I talk about how I messed up with my first batch of chickens and lost many of them.
If you prefer to watch
Hello and welcome to the 19th episode of the BudDIY Podcast. Today we’re going to do the first part of a two part series on actually raising chickens and the basics that you need to go to get started without all the extra fluff that’s involved. But before that, if you haven’t visited the website, you can do so buddiy.net, sign up for email newsletter. And also visit us on YouTube if you’re not watching on YouTube already and subscribe because I do post extra content over there and finally at Instagram as well at instagram.com/buddylindseyjr.
So with that, let’s jump into what’s going on around the shop and that is a lot. So not only around the shop but in a kind of personal life as well. We just found out this week that my wife is pregnant with our third child and so that’s kind of fun and going to be a changing event as you can imagine. Outside of that, we also got my a SoftStop in this week and I spent the entire day on Saturday assembling it and recording it. Of all the videos I’ve watched on YouTube, I think mine’s going to be the most detailed, as long as I can get it all edited together and it all makes sense. The downside is it’s not going to be the best picture quality because I’m still trying to figure that out and I don’t know what my problem is, I’m still trying to learn and still trying to figure it out, so we’ll see. But I mean, it’s not bad, but it’s not as good as I want it to be. So we’ll see.
Outside of that, I mean, it’s kind of just a busy week professionally and personally and haven’t really gotten any woodworking done, I was kind of pushing a few things off until I got the SoftStop in, but I got most of the way set up this weekend. So that’s a really super exciting and went with the professional cabinet saw the three horsepower with 36 inch extend the fence. So it’s a lot of fun, got the integrated mobile base. I also got the folding outfeed table as well. So yeah, it’s going to be a great little unit to actual use and there are a number of things that I like over my Delta UniSaw, partially because it’s a complete saw instead of me having to piece one together from the saw. But you can find out more about that when I released the video on YouTube of doing a full detailed… I’d like to think it’s a comprehensive thing, but I’m sure I probably will miss stuff, but we’ll see.
So on that note, let’s jump into our topic on chickens. First I wanted to take a moment of why am I talking about chickens in a DIY manner when most of what I seem to be doing is woodworking. Well that’s because chickens are interesting to me and it’s also… I do DIY stuff, I do all kinds of things. I like a lot of different things and I want to be able to share those things with other people and open other people to maybe different perspectives and different things they may never have considered. I mean, if you would have looked at me at 16 years old, the idea, the thought of me having chickens was outrageous. Like there’s no way I would have chickens. There was no way it would be interested in farm steading or homesteading or anything like that.
However, over time I have kind of opened my eyes up and listened to inputs from other people and some things that I would never have considered myself doing, I’ve gotten into. And some of it because it isn’t as hard as I thought it would be or is it sounds, and another is somebody presented in a different way and it sounded interesting, even if it was hard work. I wouldn’t have thought I would woodworking either so just kind of wanting to bring that up before I launch into like the why I have a chicken thing when most of my stuff is probably going to be related to woodworking or other types of DIY. We’ll see.
The stuff that I’m doing is still evolving, the podcast is still evolving. On that note, last week I talked about all the benefits that you can have with chickens and I’m sure I left a few out, but those were kind of the basics and how if you use chickens to their full advantage, then you are using them and you can save yourself a lot of time and a little bit of money as well and make your life, I don’t know in my opinion, a little more fulfilling and interesting and chickens are great, and I cover that pretty extensively in the last episode of the podcast, episode 18.
So today I want to expand on that and go with starting on how to raise them. It’s going to be two parts, this weekend and next week, and I’m kind of doing this kind of as a primer and I’ve also felt like I should really write a book on this because I spent a long time researching it and I found out that most of the research I did, I didn’t actually need to do. There were only a few key things that I needed to get started with and that was enough to get started and the rest is kind of on the job training, like you figure it out as you go that you can’t really do much more planning beyond some of the basics. And I’m hoping to hit most of those basics here and a lot of this knowledge actually comes from practical experience of things that I’ve done. Plus some of the stuff that I’ve researched to distill it down to the basics of the information that you need to get started.
So on that, let’s just go ahead and jump into where do you get chicks? Well there’s a lot of places to get chicks. You can find a local hatchery, you can find a hatchery online, you can go to Tractor Supply or some kind of a farms store in your area and really kind of start doing research into chicken breeds. You’re like, “What do I get?” Well, I would not worry about what kind of breed beget and I would stick with some of the basics. If you’re wanting meat chickens, go Cornish Cross, don’t worry about anything else. If you want to go a little fancy, maybe go a Freedom Rangers, but they take a little bit longer to grow out to be a full size and process. So if you’re going to meat chickens, Cornish Cross is where to start, maybe Freedom Rangers, but I suggest to start with a Cornish Cross because there’ll be done in eight weeks and they’re a little easier to deal with in that manner.
If you need laying hens, there’s really kind of one, in my opinion, that you should start with, and that is Rhode Island reds. To me, those are the easiest ones to start with. You can do Barred Rocks or maybe a couple other common ones that they sell, let’s say a Tractor Supply company or a farm store or whatever. But I recommend just starting with Rhode Island Reds, they’re generally pretty good for the United States and almost all areas and they’re pretty hardy and they’re really good for laying eggs. So just start with those, don’t worry about, there are just so many different types of chickens, that is crazy.
So jumping back to the where to actually get them, probably the kind of easiest, go get them today place, for the most part, would be a kind of Tractor Supply outwoods, if you’re in this area. I don’t know what are in other areas of the country but some kind of farm store, they usually have some in stock in a sense, and you can just run and pick them up and bring them home today. They’re usually not freshly hatched, they’re a few days old to a few weeks old. I know I went to one of our farm stores and I saw like two week old chicks and I was kind of tempted to buy them because there were two week old Cornish Cross, but they were a little under fed and I didn’t think they would grow out very big, but the price was amazing. I didn’t go ahead and do that because this year we decided to lay off of doing meat chickens because we were going to try to get pregnant and along with everything else I’m doing, doing meat chickens at this during that would be rough.
Meat chickens aren’t hard. They just add a little bit of extra that I don’t need at the moment. Would that in mind, you can go to a farm supply, but another option is to just do a Google search for the town that you’re in and hatchery, and see if there’s anything local to you and give them a call up and say, “Hey, do you have these?” And sometimes you can also get good information there. What breeds best? Say, “Hey, I want to do laying hens.” And they can give you a better breed for your specific regional area. But again, like Barred Rock and Rhode Island reds are kind of your two main stays in the United States. And those are kind of what I recommend to start, they’re easy to get started with.
From there, you can look for online hatcheries. I use place called Cackle Hatchery in Missouri, and they ship kind of all over the place. There’s other hatcheries for different regions that are really big, but they always have a good selection and they have their times of when they can get them and they will mail them to you, which is really interesting. So you can actually have hatcheries and mail you chicks, next day air, through the postal service. So what will generally happen is you’ll say, “Hey, I want these chickens and I want this many and I want them on this date.” And they will send it through the postal service and the postal service will call you and at like 6:00 AM and be like, “We have your chickens, can you come down and pick them up because they’re chirping at us.”
And you’ll drive down and you’ll pick up the chickens and bring them home and you’ll put them right in your brooder, and generally that works out. The only downside, and this doesn’t happen a whole heck of a lot, is if the chickens go to the wrong place or shipping gets delayed or something like that and you can suffer a loss and it really sucks and it is not a lot of fun to deal with that when you get a box half full or are full of dead chicks. I mean from a business perspective, you just call them up and they’ll generally replace them and they’ll send you some new ones. From my personal perspective, it really, really sucks to see all these chicks that have died and it’s just not a lot of fun.
But that’s a part of farming. Death is a part of farming, death is a part of life. Death is a part of the system that we’re in. Whether you raise animals yourself or you eat stuff on your own, you are killing something in order to eat, whether it be plants or animals, or you’re killing something and that’s just part of life, that’s part of understanding what goes on in the world. But at the same time, it is kind of an emotional thing to get dead chicks.
With that in mind, the hatchery that I prefer, Cackle Hatchery, it’s about four hours away from our house and fortunately we have family that lives about an hour away. So what I like to do is I like to drive up, visit family for a few days and then swing over to the hatchery and come home right away. That way I’m shipping them into myself in a sense and I also save shipping costs, kind of a two for one thing on savings. And that way I know the condition they’re at because they were literally born the day before I pick them up. So I know generally they’re only 24 hours old.
So that actually leads to an interesting thing about getting newborn chicks and that, generally when you get a box of chicks and you’ll open it up, there’s no food or water in there and when you first experienced that, you’re like, “What’s going on?” Well, interestingly, chicks can survive up to three days without having food or water at all because naturally the chicks are waiting for all of the chicks to hatch. And then when they’re all hatched, they’ll all go get food and water together. And it’s kind of crazy, but that’s how it works. However, once you give them water and once you give them some food, you cannot stop giving it to them and making sure they have it or they will die. Kind of a crazy biological thing, but that’s how it is. So when you get that box of chicks, don’t worry about it if they haven’t had anything to drink.
So the final part on actually getting chicks is when do you want to get them? Well, that really depends on several factors, kind of depends on your geographic location, what the purpose of them are, and what the kind of the weather is going to be and how much work you want to deal with. So let’s start with where I live. I live in the middle of the country and we have four seasons and all four seasons are fairly mild. We don’t have craziness in any of the directions.
So on that note, if I’m going with, so I live in Oklahoma, so if I’m going with meat chickens, that means I’m probably going to get the first batch of meat chickens and about April, April 1 to April 15 area, depending on how many batches I want to through. And then they’re going to stay in my brooder for three weeks. If I’m, again this is for me, chickens are going to stay in my brooder for three weeks and grow out in there because I can control the temperature and everything. And usually by the time they get to the latter part of April, I’ll put them out on pasture, put them out in the yard, and it’ll be fine from there because they’ll be fully feathered out and can protect themselves from there. And then after that, they’ll go another five to six weeks from there.
And so you’re getting out to the end of May, maybe the first week in June, and we process them from there. So then by that time, after that eight weeks, it’s been kind of the cool part of the year right into the warmer part of the year and boom, we’re done. And if we only want to do a single batch, we’re done for the rest of the year and we have the chicken that we want. If we wanted to do a couple more batches after, when we’re three weeks out from processing the first chickens, that’s when we’ll get in the next batch and we’ll just lay that over. And you could do, we could do multiples all the way into the August, September timeframe, I think we get three to four batches depending on how well we time things. Now that is a lot of work because you’re doing three or four batches of processings and processing does take, I mean you figure a half a day to a day depending on everything that you do. And it’s not a little bit of work. It’s not bad, but it’s not a little bit.
So those are the optimal times. So let’s extrapolate that to different parts of the country. You’re going to want them out on pasture if you want to do pasture raised meat. And so you’re going to want to wait until the temperatures, like in the 50s, 60s area during the day for most of the day, if not a little warmer for the majority of the time they’re going to be out on pasture. So whatever that looks like for you, that can help you judge from there. If it’s going to start dropping down into the 30s and 40s you know, in September area a night, that might be when you want that last batch to actually to finish up if you’re going to do multiple batches in a year. So that’s kind of the when for your meat chickens.
So let’s go to the when for our laying hens. Well this one’s kind of a tough one. This one’s kind of a really dependent, less on the weather and more on when you want things to happen. So let’s go through the life of a laying hen. So they’re going to spend probably the first three to five weeks, depending on the year, figure five weeks, let’s just go with five weeks in the brooder. From there, you’re going to go put them out in the coop or on pasture or whatever you’re going to do, and they’re going to live the next two and a half, three years, potentially up to eight years, depending on what you want to do on that pasture, in that coop, wherever you have them. And they’re going to be just fine.
In the fall, when it gets to being closer to winter, and they’re going to regrow all of their feathers so they can have a winter coat of feathers and they’re going to lay eggs. So generally it takes six months for your laying hens to start laying their first eggs and it just kind of happens one day and you’re like, “Oh cool, we’re now getting eggs.” And then you’re like, “Oh cool. We’re getting eggs all the time now.” Which is awesome, until they hit about two and a half years old and they’ll slow down their production by 50% or more and as time goes on, they’ll delay out those layings the more time goes on. And because I think I read somewhere that chicken only lays like a thousand eggs in their lifetime, but the first majority of those in a sense and consistencies in the first two and a half to three years.
So with that in mind, it’s like when do you want them to start laying? Generally you want them to start laying in the summer, so that means you would need to back off in the spring or summer so that they get their best production time starting out in the summer. So you want to back off by six months. So that’s putting you at like the September, October, November area, depending on where you want to start for getting your laying hens. What’s that time? That’s the winter time. And so it’s going to add a little bit of extra effort on you raising them to make sure that they stay warm and they stay healthy and they’re ready to go for that first five week until they’re fully feathered out and ready to go home pasture.
Once they’re fully feathered out and ready to go out on pasture, they’re almost bulletproof in a sense from a weather perspective, unless you have crazy snaps that they aren’t used to. But generally that’s not that big of a deal. So if you want to have the absolute optimal time, you do that in November timeframe. I don’t really recommend that though as your first set of hens, if you’ve never done chickens before. So I recommend getting your laying hands in the April timeframe so that you have time to learn through the summer. And that way you’re not worrying about it in the winter. Again, not hard during the winter, but it’s one less thing you have to worry about.
So we covered several points on getting your actual chickens. We’ve talked about where to get them, find a farm store local to you and or go to a hatchery local or close by or get them through the mail. All of them fairly simple options. All you have to do is just go online, especially with the hatchery, pay for them online and they’ll work that thing out for you from there. Discuss what to get, if you’re going to meat chickens, go with Cornish Cross, best breed to deal with as your first run, eight weeks and you’re done. Or you go with say Barred Rock or Rhode Island Red, Rhode Island red is my personal favorite to get started with and be done with that.
And then I recommend the spring time for either your meat and or your laying hens as well to get them and get them going. And then again on the how, either have them mailed or go pick them up. So that’s it for actually getting your chicks, let’s talk about what to do when you actually get them and the things involved that you need to jump in right away and start doing.
So the main thing about chicks is that they’re meat chickens and they’re probably only going to need to be in the brooder for about three weeks because they grow so fast. If they’re laying hands, then you’re going to want to keep them in your brooder for about five weeks area depending on kind of weather and how things are going. Would that mind, I keep saying brooder, brooder, brooder what is a brooder? Well, a brooder is generally the first place that you actually put your chicks and it is a controlled environment that you set up in a place where you can control the environment, for the most part, so that your chicks kind of start out their life and a condition that is optimal for them.
Just go with the generic case, you have a box, you put in a heat lamp so that the temperature is around 100 degrees and a spot for them to sleep and congregate and play. And then you also have food and water in there and you also have your traditional pine shavings on the floor so that they can’t poop on those and it absorbs it and it goes into the rest of the shavings. And from there you just make sure they have plenty of water and plenty of feed for the first few weeks and they just grow, they just kind of do their natural thing. And that’s kind of what a brooder is because once they’re done in the brooder, you know they go to a coop and or pasture and they’re ready to go.
So let’s get into some of the details of the brooder. Let’s start with size of the brooder. The size, kind of the minimum size that you want to do is three square inches per chick. And so if you want to do 12 chicks, you do a three square foot brooder for them. I kind of feel like that’s a little small personally, like this is my personal feelings and so I go bigger. I go like five square inches per chicken. So obviously I have a really big brooder that I don’t really need that big, but it’s something that I wanted to do and I built it.
How I designed mine was I kind of designed mine a little wider and so that I could have a heat on one side and no heat on the other side and so with the chicks will naturally do is they’ll go to the place that they want to be. If they want to get right underneath the warm lamp, then go right underneath the warm lamp and gets super, super duper warm and if they feel like cooling off, they can venture over to the other side of the brooder and they can cool off. If they want to be a little bit warm, a little bit cool, they can just plop right down in the center. That was kind of the methodology that I went and it’s something I actually saw on a YouTube channel.
You can actually do whatever you want. The main thing is for the first couple of days to max three days, you want to make sure that they have an area that they can all fit in that is around 100 degrees. This is the most crucial thing that you have to do. It is something that I literally go out and check four to five times a day and right before I go to bed and right when I get up first thing in the morning because you can really set yourself up for failure if you don’t get this done well the first time.
The other thing you want to do is you want to make sure you have heat distributed among an area that all of the chicks can kind of spread out underneath the heat. You don’t want the heat like directly against a wall or in a corner without it being separated out because what they’re going to do is they’ll all pile on top of each other to sleep. It’s the weirdest thing in the world, but it’s a natural thing. They’re trying to get protected, they’re trying to stay warm, they’re trying to stay together and so they will literally just sleep on top of each other. The problem is the chicks on the bottom will suffocate to death and you’ll come out and you’ll see a dead chicken in the morning if you’re not careful.
Unfortunately, the first time I did it, I lost several chicks this way and it was super depressing. And so that’s why I opted for the system that I have based on my personal experience. And so it actually worked out the next year, I had no losses due to kind of them squashing themselves. In fact, the only loss I had my second year, I have no idea why it died. It just did. And that’s another thing that I want to mention. Sometimes transporting it can be too shocking for a one or two chickens and they just die and it’s just something you deal with. So there is that aspect. It’s not necessarily anything you did wrong. It was just shipping was too stressful for that particular one. Some of these chicks like they could run through a tornado and be just fine. Some of them, if they look at the mirror wrong, they’re dead. So it’s just how they are.
So again, first few days you want it to be 100 degrees, the first two or three days you want to be 100 degrees. You also want a cooler area that they can go to as needed and you want to make sure they have plenty of space to sleep in so that they’re not all crowded on top of each other. And really what you want to do is you want to set up your area so you can immediately put them in as soon as they get to your house and you just, they’re in. And then from there you can adjust based on what they’re doing. If they’re all clumped together in one spot all day long, that means you don’t have enough heat. If they’re all spread out in a way from the area and they’re trying to get as far away from the heat source, but they can’t, then that means they’re too hot. It’s really a judgment thing.
So I mean it’s kind of common, if they’re up next, it’s too cold. If they’re way far away all the time, it’s too hot, you need to move your heat lamp a little bit. Super simple. After the first couple of days that you’re at 100 you want to solely start tapering off the temperature or moving the heat lamp up, up and up and up and up, so that by the time they get out to the three week period for the meat chickens, for the last couple of days you’re there, you don’t even have a heat lamp on them at all and they’re just normally in the brooder that’ll harden them off and they’re ready to go outside.
Same thing with the laying hens, you’re going to back it off for a few weeks and then depending on weather and temperatures and depending on how many feathers you have, the last week you may not even put the heat lamp on them at all and you maybe even in last two weeks, you might not put the heat lamp on them at all, but they’re still trying to feather out and you or they’re too small. And so you want to keep them in that brooder because the laying hens will grow slower than the meat chicken.
So I think that covers the heat pretty well. It’s not actually as hard as it feels like it might sound. When I first was getting into it I’m like, “Oh there’s so much science to it.” And there’s really not and you don’t have to be super duper precise, just know that first couple of days, 100 degrees and then slowly lower it. In fact, I actually kept it at like, it was probably 100 degrees for like the first week in one area in case they all needed it. And then over time I would let it go and then after about two to two and a half weeks, I would just basically leave the lamp off except at night when it was getting a little bit cold and they’re fine.
But again, I built my brooder extra big so that I could have cold and warm areas. So on that, we discussed heat, let’s talk about bedding. A bedding is one of those things that I stressed out over so much and really the only thing you have to do for bedding is make sure that you have at least eight inches of pine shavings. Just go down to Tractor Supply, say, “Hey, I need pine shavings.” There’ll be in a big container, not container, but big compressed plastic thing of pine shavings that you’ve seen in the bottom of animal pens and stuff and you just take it home and dump them in there. Measure out eight inches, eight to 10 inches, and spread it out and you’re done.
Don’t worry about, you know I’ve read stuff, they’re like, “Oh, they’re going to start eating the pine.” They will. For the most part, it doesn’t actually matter. Just don’t go with the little fine grains, you want to go with a thicker flaky stuff and you’re going to be just fine with pine shavings. I probably obsessed about what to used for the bedding for like a week and it didn’t matter. That said, do not use cedar for your shavings because that is toxic if they eat that.
So now we have the actual heat taken care of, we have the bedding taken care of and also on the bedding you don’t need to necessarily worry about rotating out the bedding. Just let it in there and let things go. They’re going to poop on it, they’re going to scratch it around, they’re going to move on it. If you start to, if it starts to smell a little funky, go ahead and add a new layer of pine shavings. I was adding a new thin layer pine shavings probably every two to three days when it was getting in the last a week and a half that they were in the brooder and everything worked out just fine. It fact, it create a great compost later on and it was super amazing.
So the next thing we need to talk about is food and water. This is a little interesting to deal with. Food is simple. Go find some growing feed at your local farm supply store and go with that. I found some that I could get there is non-GMO, non soy, all natural grower feed and it’s literally called Grower. Most every supplier of food, there’s a grower formula, get that. Because it’s going to have the right amount of protein versus carbs, generally about 20% of 22% protein is what they need to start growing. You’ll give that to them for the first few weeks.
If in my case, I gave my meat chickens the grower feed the entire eight weeks and I don’t even worry about it. For the laying hens, you’ll give grower feed, depending on who you talk to, you give them that for the entire time they’re in the brooder. Sometimes I’ll cut it off a week before that at about four weeks. It just depends. I just give it to them the entire time they grow in the brooder and then I switched to other types of feed after that we’ll discuss later. But anyway, just get some crumbles, get the grower and you’re good to go and get a feeder. These are generally the, depending on which one you get, the kind of the long and they have holes in the top that they can stick their head in and eat. That’s all you really need. Get one of those.
And for the first like two weeks you’re just going to make sure that they always have food to eat all the time. If you go in there and there’s no food, then you messed up. Not really, but just make sure that every time you go out there that their speed just pop it off every time you go out and check. And that way they always have food. After a couple of weeks, you’re going to want to start backing that off because especially if you’re the meat chickens and you give them too much food, they will grow too fast and they won’t be able to support themselves because they’ll grow so fast. So after about two weeks, start tapering off the amount that you give them, still give them plenty but you not free choice all the time, all day long.
Water is another issue that you’re going to have to deal with. It’s kind of a funky thing because you don’t want their bedding to get wet that there’s the shavings that they’re actually going to sleep on. You don’t want that to get wet because if that gets wet and they get cold at night, they’re going to die. And so you got to be careful on that. What I did, and what I see a lot of other people do is you build a, just take some two by fours, build a square and put some hardware cloth on top of that and then put that in the brooder with the water on there. What they’ll do is they’ll jump up on there, they’ll drink, and if they splash out any water, it’ll go into the pine shavings that are underneath that, great. And it’s not going to get into where they’re actually doing their sleeping and everything and you’re just fine.
And then every few days or every day depending on it and you give them the fresh water every few days, you can just pick up that thing, swirl it around a little bit to get all that water to kind of absorb into other parts of the pine shavings that are underneath. Put it back down, put the water in and you’re good to go. Same thing with the feed generally I put up there so it falls down in that area too. Again, super simple on that. You’re just kind of building a platform to put it on with hardware cloth so it all just falls through and they aren’t getting into it whenever they’re trying to sleep and they get cold. Really, that’s about it when dealing with chicks in a brooder, those are all the basics and if you just follow all of those things, then you’re going to be successful with the brooder. You’re going to be more successful than I was with the brooder as well.
I want to talk about design of the brooder a little bit and then we’re going to be done with this part and we’ll move into other parts, the last two parts in the next episode next week. The design of the brooder really depends on what you want to do, up to what you have in mind. You can spend hours and hours and hours looking online and finding a brooder. I would spend 30, 40 minutes just Googling pictures of brooders and find a design that you like and make that or if you have a little bit of extra money, just go buy a brooder that other people make and call it a day, depending on the size that you need. Some of the main things that to think about is one, is you’re going to have some moisture content in there and so if you want to reuse the brooder that you’re going to have, then you want to make sure that the moisture that’s in there, it’s not going to rot away the wood or there’s a separation available.
I actually built mine so that I have metal oil pan, like the giant metal oil pans, that’s the bottom of mine so that any moisture that goes to the bottom is not going to rot out the wood that’s there and I can just slide them out, clean them up, slide them back in for the next year and they’re good to go. The only thing I have to worry about is the wood that’s on the side of the brooder and so far so good, I haven’t actually had a problem with that. Another design element that I personally like, is I like to have a lid with hardware cloth on it so they don’t jump out.
I don’t know what it is, like some people can get brooders that have open tops and they’re only like two feet tall and the chickens never jump out. I have chickens jumped out all the freaking time. I don’t understand how these people don’t have chickens jumping out of the brooder. And so that’s why I have hardware cloth lids that go on and they’re heavy so they can’t necessarily be moved. And that’s just, that’s just how I deal with it. It’s really annoying, especially because I got to open it up and then reach in there and grab stuff and shoo them away from the door, it’s kind of frustrating. And so I prefer having a lid with hardware cloth. The other benefit to that is, if we’re going to have a really cold snap out of nowhere, I can actually go put a piece of wood overneath or something else over the top of that hardware cloth lid and it’ll help hold the heat in better overnight so that nothing bad happens to them overnight.
That particularly has only happened one time that I’ve had the need to actually do that. Finally, the other reason I like to have the lid on there and the hardware cloth is because I have an old building that I actually have them in, it’s a brick building, but it’s really holey because it’s really, really old and it’s a building that was on the property, we just decided to clean it up, put it in there, and we were able to run electric to it pretty easily, and so that’s what we did. And stuff just gets in there, sometimes animals, sometimes birds will little jump in there a little bit and, but one time I actually found a giant rat snake on the top of the brooder itself on the lid. And if I didn’t have the lid on there, then it would have gotten in and probably eaten a few chicks because they were small enough for the stupid thing to eat them.
Anyway, so that’s one reason I like to have a lid. Again, I know people that have them in their barns and they’re like these huge monstrosities and they’re just fine, never have a problem. There are other people that grow professionally. They just have a shed out in their backyard that they throw tons and tons of pine shavings into. They put 300 chicks in there and then close the door and they just open and close the door every day and they’re fine, they don’t have any problem with rodents and other things like that getting in there and getting to the chickens or their food. So it all really depends on what you want to do. You can go elaborate or as custom as you want. But generally my very first brooder I actually built was from a shipping box, shipping container, wooden shipping container as something was in it for my father-in-law.
He was going to throw it away and I’m like, I bet that would work. So I just took it home, cut the lid in half, put hardware cloth on one side, had wood on the other side and it worked. I mean it was just something that was there, there was enough space in it, but the heat in there and everything was good to go.
Now let’s go to the failure portion of the podcast and let’s stick with our chicken themes and I’m going to give you a failure that I had my very first year of dealing with chickens and I think it was a contributing factor to why I actually, I’d say two failures in one, and as to why I think I actually lost half of my first flock that I ever did and changes that I made along the way that I think helped to fix it and I didn’t have the problem the next year, I only had that one loss in my second batch of chickens that I ever had.
And that is I got the area too hot, I didn’t understand the tapering off and I think I had it like at 100 degrees and a chunk of the area and a big portion of the area for the first week. And I think that overstressed them over time. And then I was actually at a point where I was losing a chicken about every, I think it was like 16 to 18 hours. So some days one, some days two for like four or five days. And man that is super depressing. I think part of it was too much heat and then, and then once I got that off of them they still kept going a little bit and I might not have been cleaning their water out well enough in the process.
And while I thought it was well enough because I was doing what I’ve seen other people do and there was no problem. Maybe there was something about how I was doing or the water or something, I don’t know. So what I basically started doing was every day as I got four watering containers that I use to put into the brooder and I would only use two of them at a time. I would put two in there and then I would take the other… I’d put two new ones there, take the old two take them into the house and wash them with soap and water, dish soap and water and make sure they were super clean and let them dry. And then I would refill them the next day and take them out there and replace and just constantly keep rotating that.
And then the same thing with the food. Every couple of days I would put out a fresh one and make sure it was super duper clean, and after I got the heat off of them and after I started that cleaning that really religious cleaning cycle, they stopped dying. And so those were kind of some of the failures is it might not have been as hygienic as it needed to be. Also, because of potentially the heat and the water. That said sometimes I’ll accidentally let the… I won’t clean out the giant waters that I have now for the chickens out on pasture by a couple of days and they’ll start to grow a little algae and the chickens don’t care. I mean they drink it up and they’re just fine. And so it might not have been that, I don’t know. But do make sure that you keep things clean and keep things hygienic as best as you can and you should be good.
I now try to make sure I keep things as clean as possible for the chickens without having to spend a lot of extra time on it as well. Because you can go overboard on trying to make sure everything and you’re going to kill a lot of time. If you can find the basics that you need to do, then you should be good to go. So with that, I want to thank you for your time. I want to thank you for your attention. I really do hope you check out some chickens and I really do hope you at least try to get a few. Again, I mentioned the meat chickens because it’s one of those, it’s like eight weeks and you’re done. And if you don’t like chickens after that, you never have to mess with chickens again. And however, you do have that end process where you need to process them. But we’ll get into that more next week. Again, I just want to thank you and have a great day.