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DIY Chicken Brooder for First TimersJune 10, 2020
If you’re reading this, you’re my kinda people. Either you’re here because you enjoy reading my blog posts or you’re here because you are about to start keeping chickens. Either way, you’re my kinda people so welcome and let’s do this!
Some of you OG DitH followers may remember this, but when I first started blogging, a lot of what I talked about was our new home. We had just moved into our second home. Our first home was a custom build about 25 minutes outside of city limits. It was a two story mid-century modern home with lots of grays, golds, whites and navy blues. We decided every detail of that house – I even clashed with our contractor’s wife who was a “designer” and hated my vision for our kitchen but then later used photos of it for advertising purposes HA! As careers changed and we wanted to be residents of Oklahoma City so that everything (including friends and family) would be a lot closer, we decided to move. The house we fell in love with was originally built in 1984 and although it has been updated throughout the years (hello beautiful kitchen) we looked at it pretty much as a blank slate, but with character. We knew we wanted to go room by room and put our own spin on it. One of the biggest appeals was the exterior. The backyard is spacious on all sides of the house and has very English Tudor cottage-y feels. Flowers, huge trees, brown wooden gates leading into the side gardens, raised garden beds, rows of fruit trees, etc. The house itself is half rock, half wood with wood shake shingling so the entire thing just spoke to us and we knew we wanted to revive it and turn it into our own English cottage that we lovingly came to refer to as Maple Hollow Cottage since the home sits on Maple Hollow. I say we. It’s basically me just really not letting go of that name and my husband being for the most part indifferent although he is NOT indifferent about home design. He is right there with me picking out every detail of every space inside and outside our house and I love it.
Anyhow…how does this apply to chickens?
In the backyard by the raised garden beds, there is a raised wooden platform. The moment I saw it right there by the gardens and an ivy covered fence on the other side, I knew it was perfect for a little chicken coop. My husband was…less enthusiastic..about this idea at first but eventually got on board and we started to dream up our chicken plan. It took a while to get to the point where we were ready, but at the start of 2020 we began to talk more seriously about it. I decided that to spur us into action, I would request my chickens and coop for my birthday LOL because, ya know, Adam can’t “say no” to what I want *for my birthday* after all! [Sidenote: the psychology behind why women feel the need to say “my husband said no” is literally infuriating to me, so to be clear Adam cannot and would not “tell me no” but we do have equal conversations and make equal decisions, so really what I’m saying here is that making it my birthday request negated the need for negotiations hahaha]
So on my birthday, we placed the order for the chickies! I had done previous research to determine which breeds I wanted to coop together. There were a few things I looked for to narrow down my breeds:
- I wanted breeds that are known to be socializable. Meaning that they commonly follow people around, sit on your lap, learn their name, come to you when called, don’t aggressively peck at children, etc.
- I wanted breeds that are known to get along in a coop with other breeds. Some can get quite peckish and will mercilessly pluck out the feathers of their “enemies” and I definitely wanted our ladies to get along.
- I wanted our egg production to vary in color and so you have to specifically be choosey about breeds here to put together what you want the color palate of your egg basket to look like.
For these reasons, we narrowed our search down to four breeds that fit all of these specifications. Here are the breeds that we got:
- Olive Eggers (green eggs)
- Ameraucanas (blue eggs)
- Plymouth Rocks (brown eggs)
- Silkies (white eggs)
I would strongly suggest doing a ton of research prior to starting your coop to determine what it is that you’re wanting and how best to achieve that goal. Most people that are coop newbies go to stores like Tractor Supply which carry baby chicks to just simply pick up what’s in stock and take them home. Last time I was at Tractor Supply they had Longhorns and a mixed assortment of Bantams (miniature breeds) in stock. I’m so glad we didn’t take this route and did our homework first. This way we were able to customize personalities, aesthetics and egg color/production rates. If you are also wanting to order specific breeds, the first thing you’ll need to do is a quick Google search of hatcheries (preferably in your state or surrounding states) and then check to make sure they have your breeds and that they will be hatching them within your time frame. A lot of hatcheries are on different hatching time tables. So, although we ordered our chickens in May, they were not shipped to us until June 8 and they arrived June 10. So the theme here is to keep in mind when you’ll be ready to welcome your chicks when ordering. We chose our hatchery because it was located in Missouri so we knew it wouldn’t take long for the chicks to reach us. Had we ordered from a hatchery in Oregon, obviously things would look a little different and we wouldn’t feel very confident about live arrivals. Another reason why we chose this specific hatchery is that they carried 3 out of 4 of our desired breeds. Well, they carry all 4 but Silkies were out of stock.
Another thing you need to know when ordering chicks from a hatchery is that you can’t just order one of a breed. They cannot guarantee live arrival just shipping one bird. So you have to order multiples. We decided to order three of each breed we wanted (minus Silkies) and anticipated getting 9 birds. For whatever reason, they sent us one extra of each breed so we actually wound up getting 12 birds (technically 11 since one was actually a goner upon arrival)….and we only need three. Either we’re going to be pawning chickens off on everyone we know or hopefully Tractor Supply will take our extras that survived the journey?
If you’re wondering what the shipping of live animals process looks like, you’re not alone. I was super confused on how that was going to work out. Our hatchery literally shipped our chicks they day they hatched. We got an email that they had hatched and were on their way. That was on the 8th. They spent the whole of the 9th on a truck I’m assuming. And the morning of the 10th, I got a phone call from my local post office that they were ready to be picked up. They all came in the same box and the whole process wound up being extremely seamless and easy. The chicks consume the yolk in the egg and that provides them with enough nutrition that they don’t actually require food or water for the first 72 hours of their life which is why they’re able to be shipped and spend a few days in a box. But once you get them, it’s time to get them some food and water! So now that we’ve gotten the process of picking breeds, ordering them and getting them shipped to you out of the way…let’s review getting ready for their arrival.
Once we got the email that they had hatched and were on their way, it was time to set up their brooder. Which is probably what you’ve come here to read about LOL so without further adieu..
The picture is…not great. That red bulb, ya feel me?
Here is a list of things you’ll need:
- Some type of box. We used a cardboard box. You could use a plastic tub, a metal trough, etc. I’ve even seen people use kiddie pools? Although those are pretty shallow and those chickies will start flapping those wings and getting height soon so I would advise against a kiddie pool.
- A heat lamp with a red bulb. This can be found at any Tractor Supply or feed store. I’ve heard that any other color bulb is dangerous because chickens will happily peck each other’s eyes out and even engage in cannibalism. Red lights deter this because it makes it harder for them to see each other’s sore spots to peck on. Weird, right? So far I have witnessed minimal eye pecking and always correct by immediately grabbing (softly) the offending chick and isolating it on the other side of the tub. I didn’t read to do this anywhere, I just started doing it and noticed the behavior starting to correct itself.
- Water feeder & food feeder. Again this can be found at a Tractor Supply or feed store. I’m sure you could even get them on Amazon. When you first get the chickens, introduce them into the brooder individually and dip their beaks into the water dish so they know to drink there. Pro tip: if they are looking/acting lethargic or sickly, put a tablespoon or so of raw apple cider vinegar in their water. I did this today and they perked right up!
- Chick starter. This is the food that chicks need to eat. You can probably find a ton of DIY chick starter recipes online, but I picked up a bag for $7.99 at Tractor Supply and called it good. Millions of chickens have eaten feed store starter and been just fine.
- Pine shavings. I got a rather large pallet of pine shavings. This is to line the bottom of their brooder. I did about three layers to completely cover the bottom, plus add some cushioning for them to sleep comfortably on. I’m glad I got a larger amount of shavings since little chickies do poop quite a lot. To keep them nice and clean, I’ll change out the pine shavings in their brooder every other day.
- Optional: Water additives. I bought the Manna Pro Hydro Hen 3-in-1 for probiotics, electrolytes and acidifiers. Just add one scoop to each quart of water given to the chickens. The bag comes with the scoop you’ll need. I also got a few bags of 40 cent “layer boost” with Omega-3 since our chickies are going to be egg producers.
All of this cost >$100 and is EASY to find, EASY to understand and EASY to assemble. Seriously chickens could not be easier. Plus they’re the most adorable little floofs ever.
There is a highlight on my Instagram profile called “ChickFlix” where you can keep up with all things Maple Hollow Cottage Coop Ladies! Check it out and stay tuned!
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