I have been working frantically to get the little yellow playhouse I bought converted into a brooder/incubator room. The first two occupants of the room hatched last night, so I had to get it done today so they could begin occupancy.
The building was originally a playhouse with an 8′ x 8′ footprint. Half of that is a covered porch leaving me a space of 4 feet deep by 8 feet wide. In that space, I needed to fit a brooder and my cabinet incubator.
I have been thinking about this space for weeks and wondering how to configure it. My old brooder, a converted reptile cage is too large to fit through the door. I will be selling it on Craigslist. I am going to miss this brooder. It served me well.
The other complicating factor to configuring the playhouse is the fact that the door opens to the inside. That limits the options even more. I decided to devote the right side of the coop where the door opens to incubator space. I was able to fit in a small white cabinet, and I made a couple of shelves for egg storage.
I used the area on the left to build a sizable brooder, almost 4 feet wide by 3 feet deep. That is twelve square feet of living area for the chicks. With my bone disease, I can not bend over well or for long periods of time. I decided to build the brooder floor at waist level. The playhouse has a window on each side and I situated the floor of the brooder right under the window sill. The chicks can look out the window. The brooder will get good daylight, and I can open the window for ventilation and cooling if needed. There is room for storage of feed and shavings under the brooder floor.
The yellow item is a contact brooder from Brinsea called the EcoGlow. The idea is that the chicks crawl under it and come in contact with the heated surface. It is a terrific invention. It is infinitely safer than a heat lamp and much more energy efficient. They come in two sizes. I have two of the larger ones. They have four adjustable legs that can be raised and lowered as the chicks grow. For day olds, it is best to have one side touching the floor. That is why it looks crooked. Here is what it looks like occupied. Pardon the dust. The two babies have crawled all the way to the back. I just checked on them, and they are snug as a bug in a rug.
In addition to the EcoGlow I also have a hanging heater called a Sweeter Heater. These are wonderful flat panel heaters that hang from overhead. Mine is hidden by the horizontal board but this is what the Sweeter Heater looks like. The heating element is fully enclosed in plastic and will not burn an animal if it makes contact. I love the Sweeter Heater. I have used it in so many brooders and coops and I know it will serve me well here as well.
I also included a safety clamp lamp with a 7 watt red party bulb. Red light decreases pecking in young chicks. I am a total worry wart, and I fear the little ones will not be able to find their way back under the EcoGlow in the dark. The red party light should help them see at night. To confirm that there is electrical power to the brooder house, I can just look out the window. Right now I am operating on an extension cord from the garage until the little yellow house can be hardwired. I used a hole saw to cut out a spot where the cords can be fed through to the outside for safety. I left openings in the 2×4 braces in which to feed electrical cords.
I took every safety precaution by clamping and re-clamping everything and adding bungee cords to prevent falling, should the clamp break. For access to the brooder I made sliding plexiglass doors down at the floor level. I can slide the door open and fill waterers and feeders easily. The area above the sliding doors is a framed around a hardware cloth screen. It swings open for access to the chicks and for cleaning the brooder. The brooder floor is plywood which will be covered with a waterproof plastic carpet runner after the chicks are ready for shavings. I keep my chicks on paper towels for a few days until they learn what real food is and don’t want to eat the shavings. It is imperative that chicks be kept on a non-skid surface to prevent leg injuries.
Today was hatch day for these sizzles and one other sizzle as well as five dark egg I am incubating. I am a bit worried that this hatch is going to be terribly bad. During the powerful storms last week we lost peer for a day and the incubator was plugged into a generator. Something went wrong, and the temp spiked to 114 degrees instead of the 99.5 it should have been. I happened twice. Hopefully I will have some good news to report tomorrow.