Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Schoolyard Chickens Project--Setting Up a Brooder for Chicks

We're down to 20 chicks in the Montessori class, but at one week of age they are getting bigger quickly!  I just switched them over from a 37-gallon aquarium into a gigantic Rubbermaid container (the one we usually use for all our camping equipment).  I'm getting a little concerned that they may fly out of it soon, though.  All this leads me to believe we need to set up a roomier brooder in the classroom this weekend.

Makeshift brooder from Charity at Chicken Moon Farm
This is a great example of what we could do.  My friend Charity Lewis, owner of Chicken Moon Farm is a great inspiration to me.  Charity raises chickens and bees and sells sustainably raised meat, eggs, and honey. She also leads a variety of workshops on topics dear to the eco-friendly heart, like water stewardship, permaculture, and mobile chicken coop building--more on that last one in a separate post!  Charity ordered her chicks to arrive just a few days before ours hatched, and her makeshift brooder is just a great idea.  I did something similar last hatch, but didn't get any I'm grateful she posted some.  She has taped together several large pieces of cardboard to make a nice stand-alone brooder that her chicks can stay in until they are ready to be moved to the coop (around 5 weeks).  She has many many more chicks than we do, so we wouldn't need one quite this size.  12 square feet of floor space--for example, a 4' x 3' box-- would be adequate for our needs until the chicks "grow out" their outside feathers.

Extremely large boxes are rare, but fairly big ones are often readily available.  The basic process to make a large brooder from a huge box is easy--just set it up!  And if we could do that, I'd be delighted to just need to cut down the sides a bit for ease of care.  But what's more likely is that we'll get several fairly large boxes, and go from there.  Here's what I did last time. 1) gathered supplies--the biggest boxes I had, tape, box cutter.  2) took the first box and cut down two corners so that one wall fell down, still connected at the base, and became a floor piece for the next box.  3) did this a few times with a few boxes, until I had the size I needed.  I used three boxes, so on the middle box I cut down TWO of the side walls, on opposite sides of the box, allowing it to be the middle "car" in the box train.  Again the two side walls then laid flat and became a part of the floor for the brooder.

Do you have a large empty cardboard box at home, perhaps in the garage, waiting for recycling?  Or perhaps you know someone who just got a new TV or refrigerator?  If so, we can gather those supplies and a BUNCH of duct tape and a sturdy dowel, as shown, and create a safe and roomy home for the classroom chicks.  If your child is in the Elementary classroom, please let his or her teacher know you have a box or would like to help put together the brooder--or comment here.  I plan to be at the Montessori school this weekend working on this project, so just let me know if you can help out. 

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