Predator-proof brooder? Brooders are indoors! Why does it need to be predator-proof?
Well, if you’ve been following my wife’s blog, you know that we are blessed with five four-legged mammals that we share our home with, two cats and three dogs. Knowing that we are bringing home 6 baby chicks this weekend, I have been planning for a while how to create a safe place for them to live until they graduate to the deluxe chicken coop in progress in our back yard. (We don’t want them becoming chicken nuggets before they even get a chance to run around on the grass, if you know what I mean.) So, the solution lay in our downstairs bathroom. There is a full-sized tub with sliding glass shower doors, and since we have another full-sized tub upstairs, the downstairs one is extra.
I started putting it together last weekend. Our chick starter kit had arrived from Murray McMurray Hatchery, so I had the brooder lamp and red bulb ready to go. The most challenging part of the project was figuring out how to suspend the brooder lamp over the middle of the bathtub in a way that would allow height adjustment to keep the temp where we want it. In consultation with one of the salesmen at our beloved local hardware store (not a big box, believe me!), I fleshed out my idea. I would put a short chain horizontally across the span from the wall to the top of the shower door, using some suction cups and an S-hook from a flower-pot hanging kit.
Here you can see the chain, with the brooder bulb already hanging from it.
I used two suction cups to allow a greater weight tolerance, then connected the chain to itself to form a small loop.
The other end is attached to an S-hook that hooks over the top of the shower door frame.
I didn’t initially feel confident about how much weight it could hold, so I did a test. (I had visions of the brooder bulb coming crashing down on the baby chicks, scaring them to death, crushing them, or lighting their bedding on fire. Please see earlier comment about not wanting chicken nuggets.) I hung some sprayer bottles filled with enough water to be about twice as heavy as the lamp, one from the horizontal chain, and one from the vertical chain–so I could see if having the weight swinging would cause any problems. The suction cups held up just fine. I left the test weights on for a while, to give the suction cups time to fail, and they didn’t budge.
The next step was to hang the lamp itself. Using two more S-hooks and a longer length of chain, I hooked the lamp at the end of its chain to the center of the horizontal support. The nice thing about the S-hooks and chain is that it’s very easy to raise or lower the lamp by hooking through a different link in the chain. Lamp cord over the top of the shower door, attached to a good extension cord, and our lamp was in business.
I wanted to learn how to regulate the temperature while the brooder was still empty (no chicken nuggets!), so I put the brooder thermometer on the floor of the tub directly under the lamp. Then I checked it periodically, making adjustments as necessary, until I could keep up a temp of about 90 degrees F, day or night. I actually let this go on from Sunday until today.
Today was the day to make the move from an empty tub at 90 degrees to a brooder ready for the birds. I unplugged and hoisted the lamp up high enough to get out of the way, then took out the thermometer. Then I put down a few layers of newspaper directly on the floor of the tub. Once I had that, I used the corrugated cardboard roll from Murray McMurray to form a chick corral, which I set onto the newspaper.
Once I had it set the way I liked it, I covered the newspaper with about an inch or two of wood chips. I’ve read that newborn chicks get confused and start eating the wood chips before they figure out what food it, so I covered the wood chips with a few layers of paper towel. Finally, I reinstated the thermometer, placed the two feeders and two waterers from our starter kit, and lowered the lamp back down.
Voila! Our (hopefully) predator-proof indoor bathtub chick brooder!