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Adrien Lapointe
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I just read this very interesting blog post from Tony and Emily (who used to live in the tipi at Wheaton lab) about an off-grid chicken brooder that is powered with a rocket mass heater:

https://crosscutsandcastirons.wordpress.com/2015/06/10/mastodon-valley-farm-the-first-5-weeks/
 
C. Kelley
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Awesome! I had plans to build one of these at the last farm we leased, but we ended up opening the restaurant before I got a chance to. Very pleased to see it's a viable idea after all!
 
James clifford
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how do you regulate temperature --looks like you would be roasting the chicks...
 
Sue Rine
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Brilliant. I've shied away from anything other than brooding chicks the natural way because we're on solar power which can sometimes go off during the night. This opens up new possibilities.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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James,

Did you follow the link and see more pictures? At first I thought they were putting the chicks in the little round cob thing, but that's the feed tube for the fire. The heat leaves to the right. I think they have cobbed up a 6 inch duct and it crosses one end of the box they built. The chicks self regulate by moving closer or further from the heat source and each other. Just like using a light bulb and reflector, where you always make sure they can get away from the heat, as well as get to it.

It looks like a pretty clever device. Yay, smart people having fun.

Thekla
 
James clifford
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Thekla,

thanks- i guess the chickens are smarter than my dogs!!! i used to have a coal stove and they would lay right next to it- where their coats were burning hot...
definitely a great idea-- but i think i would much rather run a hot water system and keep a large tank where you get time... but im still sitting in an apartment waiting to
get on land-- was about to get 20 acres- not so sure about it when i use the USDA site for soil surveys and it indicates the bedrock is 20 inches down or less--

has two streams-- im 50 i get one chance at this.. any advice?

 
Thekla McDaniels
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Hi James,

Joel Salatin, among many, has plenty of schemes for farming with out owning the land. Maybe you want to start that way. I don't think I'd want only 20 inches of soil, but there are other considerations.

i don't know where you are, or what your climate is. You can build soil deeper and increase the fertility, but how well you can do that might be influenced by the mineral fraction of the soil, clay or sand or silt or a mix, but it does make a difference. Source of moisture and slope of land also play a part in determining how much soil you can build and how fast.

If you go follow the link and look at the site where the builders of the RMH brooder posted, they tell quite a story. The spell out what they did every week for 5 weeks, and they are not on land they own.

I think it is geoff lawton who has a list of considerations to be aware of when buying land. You might seek that out and see if it mentions depth of soil.

Anyway, good luck to you what ever you decide to do.

Thekla
 
James clifford
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Thekla

im looking in Bulls Gap Tn-

farms all around- but the 20 is up straddling two ridges- USDA soil surveys change to better soils for the "Cleared" farms.

Paul says find DEEP soil-i read about his move to Montana.. makes sense..

The soil is ok for grasses-( which would be good for hair sheep- which is a big deal in the area) completely wooded with two slow moving steams in a holler- which equal to about 1cre of actual USDA prime farm land- yet the adjacent ridge - might knock out the sun early- especially in winter-- i could make it work--

there is a reason its cheap. access is a big concern coming down the side of one ridge and having to cross a stream- and the realtor wont say a thing-- maybe that's a warning? i don't know.. thanks for yours and everyone's time--

its nice being here-- all i get all day is that i am crazy and it wont work... 1st part i don't mind-- its good to be crazy- but the negative.. cant wait to talk with the land. I know there is working on other farms-- i'm ready if they take dogs!!- i know paul takes them- but - im not sure how my cattle dog will be with livestock- he is nutz-- he jumped from my car window and chased a 50-75 head herd -through several acres- i don't know if it was bad or what- 10 minutes later when i caught up to him- the heard was packed in tight by the water hole and he was sitting on top a hill watching them.. he didnt have a bullet hole in him.. lol soo.. good dog or good cows?
 
Sue Rine
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That doesn't sound like a good dog. I'd be very upset if someone's dog did that to my stock!!
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Yeah, I'm with Sue. That's an out of control dog. You can't afford to have that around stock. I don't know what training you've already done with him. It sounds like he has great potential as a stock dog, but only if he can accept that he does not get to take independent action. And that running after animals is not what it is to be a cattle dog.

But, about your land search. If you can't get straight answers from the realtor, and you are denied direct communication with the sellers, I'd be very wary. It is not against any laws for a buyer to talk to a seller. Real estate agents might have "policies" but those are not the people I would want to deal with. Remember that the realtors are both going to get a sizeable chunk of the money you pay for the land, and they get their money at the point of sale. They want the sale more than they care about your satisfaction, about a good match between buyer and land.

In fact, if you buy it, then you don't like it and sell it- two realtors make a chunk, plus the agents for both realtors. Then you buy a better piece and they all get more of your money.

I think in your position I would have a talk with the realtor about disclosures, about what you want out of the realtor, what you want out of your purchase. Then, if s/he can't come a little closer to meeting your needs, then get another realtor. There is no law against changing agents, though again, they try to discourage it. Don't feel guilty if a realtor has spent time and money helping you look for property. That's how their job works. They maintain an office and they try to find you property you want, so that THEY can make the sale. If they don't please you, move on, and leave them with a wish that they have a lucrative career with clients who want just what they are providing, and no hard feelings, but you are going to seek your portune elsewhere.

You could do on line property searches yourself, craigslist or google. Do you know what you want and where you want to be? If not, decide. If so then set your course for it. You could maybe even start a thread about the property or situation you are looking for. This is a helpful community. If you described your wishes, and a piece of property that might work for you was in my neighborhood, I'd tell you.

Good luck to you

Thekla
 
James clifford
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Thekla,
No the dog isnt out of control- i didn't even yell at him--i was too busy laughing my butt off after i found out the rancher wasnt going to kill me!!!
well at least not for the dog-- although, i think he was tempted to shoot for i was in North Carolina with a heavy Brooklyn accent!!!
Mr. Crook is 3 years old and had a dream of his come true!!!
He is a good boy--he was just being a boy.. and having fun..
he don't know better- yet!.. we spend a lot of time camping and renting apartments--he is not around live stock much..
he did get to see a horse up close and they kissed!!!

he - needs some training-- but that was what i was wondering if he actually did a good job - if he had the herd under control
that fast... it seemed perfect-- other than his fat butt got through the tiny back window in a mustang.. he is 100lbs

for me--i see the food prices- and know my history and there will be hard times coming- right now honey dews are selling for five bucks at the grocer.
im on the wrong side of the equation- and my health knows it-- the Drs and their chemicals caused massive damage to my systems
best time in my life is when i followed eating raw and going positive ph.. tony robbins stuff.

i am on a fixed income- i was looking to forward to replacing my food bill with income if i grew stuff and marketed sheep or something..
and with a fixed income i am working with the low down payment and property no one else wants--

i could wait another year and save to get better land-- is it worth it getting older and sicker?? i dont know. but i rather have something- than face next years
food prices... we have not seen anything yet- the fuel prices have hit- and have not gone back down- now the environmental disasters will be coming in waves.. as it is written
Bible - or the associated press- it doesn't matter anymore..
i looked at the soil surveys of Joel Salatin-- i dont know exactly what his boundaries are- but really only a small portion of what appears to be his land is actual prime farm land
and his soil depth is about the same of what i am looking at-- i just wont have that long stretch of pastures.. his area is very pretty..

thanks

james




 
Sue Rine
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That was a very kind rancher.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Hi James,

OK, we're a long way from RMH brooders, just one more thing to say.

Many enterprising farmers are having tremendous successes ($50,000 and more on half an acre of land) using SPIN (small plot intensive) method on urban miniplots. Curtis Stone of Kelowna BC is an example, . He farms other people's city lots, and has a system of what to plant and when...

Take a look at his TED talk, see if it gives you some new ideas.

Thekla
 
leah cardwell
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what a great idea, so glad it worked for you. I hope to put a rmh in my new barn when I get it built and I never thought of putting a brooder by it.luckily my buff hens do the job for me lately. As for the dog, the dog isn't bad, he is untrained and so is the owner. The reason it is bad to chase cattle like that is because it can cause injuries to the animals and it causes them stress and may cause them to injure themselves by running through a rence. Take yourself and the pup to obedience school so you both learn what basic commands are like 'come', leave it" and "stay". It may save your dogs life some day. You are responsible for his behavior and obedience school is NOT expensive.
 
James clifford
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the dog is highly trained for many things- he just isnt out in the country where he gets to see cows all the time. He loves cows--the reason i mentioned it was to find out if he was commanded to go--- did he do his job naturally...

and who would have thought a 100lb dog would fit through the tiny window- so he never received any commands-- this was the first time he jumped for he wont jump-- the dog is like a tank--

again - this wasnt about whether the dog was trained- but if eh cows were rounded up and safe by the pond and he was sitting on the hill- did he do his job

training was and is not an issue
 
Thekla McDaniels
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No, he did not do his job. His first job is to always wait for instructions. Cattle are not there for his impulse, nor to satisfy him and his urge to chase/herd/manage. For a dog to act independently is dangerous. You are lucky indeed that the owner responded as he did.
 
Erica Wisner
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Post 6/18/2015 5:42:24 PM Subject: Rocket Mass Brooder
how do you regulate temperature --looks like you would be roasting the chicks...

Thekla McDaniels wrote:James,

Did you follow the link and see more pictures? At first I thought they were putting the chicks in the little round cob thing, but that's the feed tube for the fire. The heat leaves to the right. I think they have cobbed up a 6 inch duct and it crosses one end of the box they built. The chicks self regulate by moving closer or further from the heat source and each other. Just like using a light bulb and reflector, where you always make sure they can get away from the heat, as well as get to it.

It looks like a pretty clever device. Yay, smart people having fun.

Thekla


When you put a lot of mass around the exit pipe (yes, off to the right in the photo) the mass soaks up the heat from the fire and stays warm for hours or days. About 4 to 6" of earth over the pipes keeps it from getting too hot all at once.

I'd be tempted to offset the pipe a little bit to one side of the brooder box, leaving an unheated area on the other side, so they can choose where to hang out and stay comfortable.
You could probably do one pipe under two boxes, heating a wall in the middle. Or a down-and-back run that would bring the exhaust back by the barrel, for easier starts and a range of hot/warm spots over the pipes (or two hot/cool boxes).

In any case, when building a heater for a target temperature, you'd need to monitor it for a while to get the firing pattern down right. How much fuel compared with the weather, etc.
The nice thing about a big thermal mass is that you are going to have relatively stable temperatures, if you get it wrong you may be off by a few degrees but you probably won't fry things the first time.

I've also wondered whether chicks would scratch through the dirt to get to the pipes. They can't do much damage to metal pipes once they get there, but they could expose a hotter hot spot. Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing... and can you imagine the adult hens from a batch that learned that trick, who think all they have to do to make a nice warm dust bath is dig a little deeper?


I can imagine all kinds of uses for a rocket brooder/incubator - the same setup should be useful for starting seedlings, sprouts, etc. Look forward to seeing other things they decide to use it for.

I would definitely suggest using bricks if you can get them, or even making some adobes, to make it easier to build the rocket without it collapsing.
I still wish we'd done more practice with the basic, durable brick firebox rather than just the castables-and-moldables innovation projects, while Tony and Emily were at wheaton labs. You can get enough brick for a 6" firebox for about $65 new, or $25 if you get used brick from an aggregate (sand and gravel) crusher yard. Or free, if you have a good Craigslist community. You'd need insulation too, which might cost another $30 to $50, the barrel, and some pipe or flue liners of similar dimension (6" ID pipe would be similar to 6x6 or 5x6 ID flue liner or drain tile). The rest can be clay and sand sourced from the site.

-Erica W
 
Emily Aaston
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Hello. I plan to add photos and data soon to share with you our experience with our rocket mass brooder. We will let you know how well it has worked. we are also getting a 2nd batch of 100 chicks 6 days from now. as soon as I have a chance I will update this thread.
 
Emily Aaston
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Ok. I have a few minutes to spare so I will share some photos and a description of our "Rocket Mass Brooder version 0.7" experiment. Tony and I knew we would be moving to Mastodon Valley Farm around May 3, and had a batch of 100 Freedom Ranger chicks arriving on May 8. We also knew we wouldn't have electricity. So we did a little research and learned about "hay-box brooders" or using kerosene lanterns. At first we thought we'd try building a "hay-box" but still wondered where we'd get a heat source. Hot rocks? hot water bottles? After spending last winter in the rocket mass heater tipi, I began to imagine a Rocket Mass Brooder. In my first imaginings, I thought we could build a structure made entirely of cob, so essentially build a round cob basin that would have ducting in the walls, and would return to the barrel and exhaust from there. But then we thought it would be good to have a cool area as well, instead of encircling the entire enclosure with warmth. We also had limited time, so we decided not to build a 25 square foot cob basin, and instead opted for a quick wooden insulated box. There is a sawmill on the property and plenty of scrap wood so we slapped together a wooden box and attached some purple insulation that was lying around with a R4-R5 insulation value.

At first, we also wanted to build the rocket mass heater core with 4 inch ducting. We though this would make the project quicker, and would provide sufficient heat for the chickens. We even spent a day searching for a smaller steel barrel. But after contacting Erica, we felt we better not waste time tinkering with a less optimal system. But we did go with 6 inches. We felt 8 inches would be too big of a mass.

We then decided we would send the ducting through one end of the box to create a warm mass on one end of the 8 ft by 4 ft box and leave plenty of space for a cool end. We did debate whether or not we should have the ducting return back to the barrel so that the exhaust would be heated up by the barrel, but with trying to keep materials cost down, and wanting the exhaust to be as far away from us as possible, we decided on sending the ducting through the box once, from the core out to the other side and up. This still left a giant mass for the birds. We filled the bottom 4 inches with perlite, then set the ducting on top and surrounded it with another 4-5 inches of thermal cob.

We also decided to build the core entirely out of cob (heavy on perlite for the burn tunnel and heat riser). Unfortunately, we were in such a hurry that the manifold and heat riser collapses on us the night before the chicks were to arrive. But we decided to buy two more pieces of stove-pipe that was filled with perlite-cob to replace our heat riser and after a week or so of burning the heater, it was dry and ready for our chicks!

OK, I will add some pictures now:
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tony mixing cob and foundation
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cardboard form
1431097947827.jpg
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cardboard form
 
Emily Aaston
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As you can see from photos above, Tony made a 6-inch cardboard form. We did not use any firebrick. From the photos below, you can see that we also managed to build a quick pole shed to protect the brooder from rain.
1431097950383.jpg
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the cob core
1431045788549.jpg
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core with box
1431097949858.jpg
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brooder box with shed
 
Emily Aaston
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I wish I had some better photos, but we were in such a rush when we built it, I am amazed I managed to snap a few. So, when our chicks arrived at 2 weeks old, they did wonderfully in the brooder, even with a couple of freezing nights. We could heat the mass up in the brooder with a good 30 minutes of burn time, and it would remain warm for several hours. With the heat of 100 little birds in an insulated box, they stayed plenty warm. I am convinced now that if we were to make a hay-box brooder the heat from the animals themselves may have been enough to keep them warm. It doesn't hurt to have the added benefit of warming up a nice mass for them.

To answer a few questions I saw...

We did not have a problem with the chicken scratching. They did scratch, but they didn't do enough damage to even get near to exposing a too-hot spot.

We also regulated temperature by keeping a nice exposed air gap in the lid. So the end with the mass was covered with an insulated lid, while the cool side was not covered and had fresh air. We burned the heater for the first week but once they were 3 weeks old we found we didn't need to burn the heater as often.

We will be getting 100 more chicks this coming friday and will stick them in the brooder from Day 1, so can share more insight in the coming weeks. Hope this helps!

We think that there are many options for a rocket mass brooder. This is just what we came up with, with limited time and finances.
 
allen lumley
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Emily and Tony : g1 Definitely for the good of the crafts ! Big AL
 
Arthur Cooley
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Emily Aaston wrote:
We also decided to build the core entirely out of cob (heavy on perlite for the burn tunnel and heat riser). Unfortunately, we were in such a hurry that the manifold and heat riser collapses on us the night before the chicks were to arrive. But we decided to buy two more pieces of stove-pipe that was filled with perlite-cob to replace our heat riser and after a week or so of burning the heater, it was dry and ready for our chicks!


Is the cob mix you used include heavy use of sand and straw, or is it modified for the rmh application? And I have read about potentially using sawdust that might burn out in lieu of perlite - what do you reckon? It's just that perlite down here is awfully expensive. We can get hold of pumice at the beach though, do you think this might suffice?

We're personally aiming to build something similar but for an indoor (100 square foot) space, with a 15 gallon barrel, to be used very very sparingly, and without expectations of it lasting more than one winter season.

I'd be keen to get started, but want to ensure our cob mix is at least suitable.

Any advices from any of you kind folks would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers.
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