About every third year we purchase baby chicks and keep them inside our home for 6 weeks. Most people wisely place them in a barn, shop, garage, mud room, etc., but for people who live off grid in snow country, it is not so simple. The 100 Watt heat lamp tends to suck the battery bank dry over night and if the sun does not show the next day vital system such as running water and refrigeration could go down and the generator would be running constantly.
This year we invested in a metal water trough we converted into a brooder. We have been wanting one since the 1st round of chickens we purchased. We are on round three. However, we could not justify the expense the first two times and used card board boxes and placed them by the wood stove to keep warm. This year we broke down. Collecting firewood is no easy chore and to keep the home fires blazing at night during the warm spring was nonsensical to us since it is tiring work to collect firewood. This prompted the purchase of the watering trough, brooder conversion.
To warm the chicks without a heat lamp, we used Krista’s home made candles from the company, non scented of course, to sit on top of bricks and to warm a terracotta pot placed above it. The terracotta flower pots warmed to a nice 80 degrees F at the bottom and 140+ degrees F on top. Paper burns at 451 degrees F, this is from reading the novel Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury , so we were not worried about the terracotta pots catching anything on fire. We also added two plastic gallon water jugs filled with boiling hot water. By morning the small peeps were still warm, but needing a change in the water for added heat. Our home temperature dropped into the low 60’s, but the warmth of the candles and water bottles sustained the peeps just fine. Once move out day came, we were happy to place them into a partitioned area of the coop because it ended our constant daily maintenance of the brooder, multiple times a day.
However, the story does not end well. Our coop has been fortified and we have never had a breach before by a wild animal except for a baby owl. A few days after the pullets arrival to their new home, disaster struck, and it struck hard with the brutal slaughter of four of our new potential laying hens. The culprit was unknown and we refortified and placed game cameras out to find out what the mysterious killer was. If you stay throughout the video, you will see the destructive force that decimated our pullets and may cause us to purchase more chicks next year instead of every third year that we like. Raising peeps indoors is miserable to us from the 3rd week to the 6th week. The first 3 weeks are not so bad, but the chick dust and smell requires constant cleaning from week 3 on.
The next few posts will be about our battle to save our pullets from the late night attacks and to put an end to the slaughter.