Peep…Peep…Peep. If you are like me, than Spring Fever has taken over and you have fired up your heat lamp and dusted off the brooder box. There are spring chicks all over, including my bathroom.
My bathroom?! Much to the surprise of any visitors, yes, I am brooding my babies in the bathroom. It is a secure, warm room, that I can close up tightly to protect the young chicks while they grow. Protect, secure… those are all words that we use when talking about building chicken coops, why are they being used to talk about brooders and chicks? You see, at my house, we have predators that live right indoors with us. Two cats as well as two maybe not so trusty dogs.
Our cats and dogs do not mess with our grown birds. They have coexisted for years in the backyard of our little piece of land. This year, we had to say a heart breaking good bye to our trusty protector, a Rottweiler named Nyla Marie. In turn, we have gained a puppy, a cute mix of a mutt, named Roscoe. Roscoe is very much in training when it comes to chickens. He has not earned the trusted status yet. He is cute, but at 5 months old and 75lbs, he is a ball of energy that has the potential to hurt a bird. It is my job, my priority, my responsibility to be diligent in protecting my flock and training Roscoe.
Desensitization is the training word of the day. It is psychological term that is defined as the “diminished emotional responsiveness to a negative or aversive stimulus after repeated exposure to it.” We are constantly, under supervision, introducing Roscoe to chickens. While they are not a negative stimulant, they certainly can produce a reaction. He is never alone and often on a leash for these introductions. We want him to see the birds as just one more part of the backyard landscape. The farm raised Blue Laced Red Wyandottes are large birds that he pays no mind to at all. The wild Easter Egger, who looks like a pheasant, is of little importance to him, but the peep, peep, peep of the baby chicks have proven to be a draw that his puppy curiosity can not over look.
So, instead of the usual place by the backdoor that the brooder once stood, it is now housed safely in our bathroom. There are also a few extra precautions that we take. Our brooder box is a galvanized feed tub most like what is used for large animals. It is sturdy and able to absorb heat well. We also have a grate that fits over top of this. The grate keeps the young chicks inside as they begin to stretch those newly feathered wings. The heat lamp is set up on its own pole and is completely independent of the tub that contains the chicks. This allows me to adjust the amount of heat that the chicks are exposed to. It is also important to have enough room for the chicks to walk away from the heat source so that they can regulate how hot they want to be. Over heating and not warm enough can be detrimental to a chick. Mother Earth News is a great source to temperature control in your brooder. Based on their recommendation, I start my brooder at 95F and lower it as the chicks age and feather out. They also have space to walk away if the light source is getting to warm.
Brooder protection from our furry family members is an important part of the baby raising experience. Chicks are so much fun to have around, but safety is key in helping them grow. Ok… and to the exciting part, we added Light Brahmas and Easter Eggers to our flock this year. What new babies have you added?