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we are raising our chicks offgrid.

 
Al Lumnah
Posts: 9
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We are keeping the brooder right next to our wood stove to keep them warm. Up in Northern NH we still have the wood stove on to heat the house a bit. How do you start your chicks? Do you use a heat light? How can I raise my chicks if my wood stove isnt needed?

 
alex Keenan
Posts: 487
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The question is, how do you maintain temperature required.
With a light as a heat source, bird and go under the light or should have room to leave the light to a cooler area.
Most setups depend on this action on the part of the chicks.
So the question is,
1) what are your heat sources?
2) can heat be held constant? If so for how long? Right after hatching chicks need stable heat source close to hatching temp. As they get older temp can drop and they can better handle fluctuations in temp.
3) how constant is the room temperature where the brooding chicks are at? If room temp varies alot it will impact chicks area temp.
4) can chicks self regulate by going to heat source and going away from heat source? This may allow your actual heat source to vary if chicks have enough room to move away from too hot a heat source and move to it as it cools. Think some type of mass heater the slowly cools.
 
steve bossie
Posts: 245
Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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i would go with a heat lamp. esp. for the 1st 8 weeks. they can get pneumonia pretty easy early on.
 
Miranda Converse
Posts: 239
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We have raised chicks in various different ways and from my experience, a constant heat source hasn't been entirely necessary after the first two weeks or so. I actually have two week old chicks outside in the 50's right now and they are doing fine. There are 17 of them so they keep each other warm pretty well.

My suggested ways to raise chicks off grid:
Raise lots of chicks at once to keep each other warm
Use a broody hen to raise chicks for you (Silkie chickens are supposedly great broody hens)
Provide a small shelter that will keep their body heat in, if they are outside a dark colored one to absorb heat from the sun(if it's cold out, don't want to cook your chicks in the summer)
Raise chicks in the summer
Keep their brooder draft-free, I usually use large Tupperware bins and a cloth draped over the top will keep warmth in, drafts out
Give them something to cuddle with like a soft cloth, just know it will get ruined

I have never measured temperatures in my brooders, I just go by observation. Not sure if you have raised chicks before but they have several different cries and you will learn which ones mean what (kind of like a baby; "I'm hungry" cry, "I'm cold" cry, etc). They will also huddle when they are cold and spread out when they are warm. Too warm and they will pant, too cold and they will keep clambering over each other and they will cry. The above suggestions are just ways to help keep them warm but if they are showing signs they aren't warm enough, you will have to supplement heat somehow. Also, they will adjust to cold much easier if done gradually and incrementally. I will turn my brooder light off during the day at first and leave it on at night, then leave it off night and day over a week or so before they go outside. If they ever cry when the lights off, I give them more time. So far, I have never lost a chick to any respiratory illness (knock on wood!).

Hope this helps!
 
Todd Parr
Posts: 572
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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I use a brooder that is kind of an long oval. I put a heat lamp at each end. I do that so that if one light goes out, they won't catch a chill that leads to illness, and they won't freeze to death before morning. If I didn't have electricity, I would use a broody hen like Miranda suggested. Just be sure and separate hen and chicks from other adult birds. My hens kill any baby chicks that hatch out if they are all together.
 
alex Keenan
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As someone pointed out, drafts are a issue. I use plastic tubs for brooders. I also have a very larger brooder dome that I only use when we have a major hatch.
I find that for a couple dozen chicks the large tub works well. I use utiltiy fencing to make a cover on top the extends down four inches on each side.
I use a standard heatlamp base with clamps and attach it to wire. I ducktape the handle so it does not drop. I start with 100 watt or 75 watt bulbs depending on the average room temperature.
I have lamp on one side and food and water on the other.
I also cover the whole tub at night when the room temperture drops.
As the chicks age I change bulbs from 100 -> 75 -> 60 -> 40 to none when they are feathering.

Right now I have three baby geese in a tub, found the cat sleeping on the cover this morning. Cats are a good judge of just right
 
Ferne Reid
Posts: 86
Location: SW Tennessee Zone 7a
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Well, the OP asked about raising chicks off grid, so brooder lights might not be a helpful suggestion.

I put my chicks in the corner of a non-heated concrete block room in a spare rabbit cage. There are tin roofing panels up against the concrete walls to reflect heat back. If it's cold, I drape some sort of cover (usually an old towel) on the sides of the cage that are away from the walls, and put something under it so that they're not sitting right on the concrete floor. I give them a good layer of sawdust to bed down in. Then I light a kerosene heater in the corner.

Usual warnings about kerosene apply ... make sure you have some ventilation! Also, fill your heater outside and make sure all drips are wiped up before taking it back, as even a drop of kerosene could kill a chick if they have access to it.

Like Miranda, I don't measure the temp in the brooder, but rather go by the chicks' behavior. My experience has been that the chicks have done well even at lower temps then what "they" say they should have. I've never lost any to respiratory illnesses, although I've had a couple of escapees that didn't find their way back to the heat source.
 
Su Ba
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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I've successfully raised hundreds of chicks off grid using an oil lamp to heat an elevated sand floored brooder above the lamp. I don't have time to go into details right now, but it's a system that works. I'll post details in a day or two when I have more time.

This past year I've switched to using brooder hens, which means that I don't have to be home to refill the oil lamp twice a day. The hens give me the flexibility to stay out late if I need to. I'm using feral hens which are extremely broody and protective. They do a great job for me. Better than a brooder set up. Less work too.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Pie
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Ok, here it goes. Please keep in mind that I'm not a good artist, but I hope you get an idea of the contraception I made for brooding chicks. I'm not sure how to attach my drawings, so I may have to make multiple posts.

For the sake of fire safety, I enclosed the oil lamp in a metal box. I used the metal skin of an old wash machine, laying on its side. This way I had a metal door to open for access to the oil lamp. This set up kept the lamp safe from being knocked over by cats, rats, mongooses, dogs, etc.

Then overtop this wash machine, I built a plywood box. The floor was the metal wash machine skin. The top was a door that I could open to access the box, check on the chicks, add food and water, etc. One side of the box, which would lead to an outside run, had an opening about 12" high and the full length of the box. I used an old wool blanket cut into strips to make a fringe like covering for this "chick door". The fringe helped keep the heat in the box and drafts out. The chicks quickly learned to come and go through this fringe, but I blocked it shut with cardboard for the first week until the chicks were hardy and smart enough to deal with the chilly outside run. At first I allowed a 6" wide opening for the chicks to come and go, then eventually removed all the cardboard. Their food and water was inside for the first week or two, then moved to the outside run area.

I built an outdoor run up on legs to match the height of the wash machine. The run floor was plywood with grass clippings litter. I guess I could have used wire mesh, but the plywood worked. The sides were chicken wire. The top was plywood for weather protection. I had doors on the sides for access in order to add food and water, replace the litter, and remove any chicks that I needed to get.

On the floor of the plywood box atop the wash machine, I put a one inch thick layer of clean sand. As the weeks went by, I used a fine sifter to remove chunks of chick poo and uneaten food, and added fresh sand as needed. Twice a day I re-leveled the sand as needed, using my hand. The chicks sometimes kicked it around a lot and kicked depressions in the sand.

Now the oil lamp........ I usually had 25 chicks in my brooder, so in normal weather I used only one oil lamp. I placed the lamp inside the wash machine skin compartment, adjusting it's height by setting it on a pile of ceramic tiles until the top of the chimney was 1" to 3/4" from the metal ceiling (which was also the floor of the brooder box). At that distance, the lamp burned normally and did not smoke. The exhaust from the lit oil lamp heated the metal, which in turn warmed the sand, giving a gentle diffuse heat to the chicks. How high to run the lamp was a judgement call. I watched the chicks and felt the sand. I discovered by trial and error that a low setting worked, even for nights that did not go down below 55°F. (Below 55, I needed two oil lamps running on low. I could have insulated the brooder box and used one lamp for even colder nights, but I only had a couple nights that it went into the low 50s, so I didn't bother to try making adjustments.) Once the chicks started getting good feathers, I could get by with less heat at night and often none during most of the day once the mornings warmed up. Although I never used this trick, the brooder box could have been kept warmer by using a false ceiling, say 10" to 12" above the floor in order to conserve warmth. 1"-2" styrofoam sheet could have worked for a false ceiling.

The oil lamp needed filling twice a day. It actually lasted longer than 12 hours, but if I filled it first thing in the morning, it wouldn't go the full 24 hours, so I got in the habit of topping it off morning and night.

I raised many batches of chicks using this set up.

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Wash machine skin, laying on side
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Plywood brooder box atop the wash machine
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Run build attached to brooder box
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Pie
Posts: 812
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
88
books forest garden rabbit solar tiny house woodworking
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Final pics. Sorry that they turned out so huge. I didn't realize that they were so big.

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Oil lamp installed.
 
steve bossie
Posts: 245
Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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thats a good idea! i was thinking of using several large candles but the lamp is a better idea! i have a small 1 burner coleman stove that would work too but would require more work to keep going.
 
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