By Logan Whitcomb
We have decided to run a batch or two of broiler chickens this summer at the Kenyon Farm, and I am planning out how we are going to approach this new task. We will require some new infrastructure, and I hope to take advantage of the opportunity to improve our existing chicken systems by constructing a new brooder – the Ohio Brooder. I learned of this design from my time at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s annual conference, where I took a class on pastured poultry by Mike Jones of Tierra Verde Farms. Much of my plans come from his guidance, and he explained most of his ideas came from Joel Salatin, who I hope to meet this summer when he comes to Amish Country in Ohio.
Our broiler operation will look like this:
- Mail delivery chicks, make sure to count deceased and get reimbursed
- Brooder: We will release the infant chicks into a brooder space, I propose it be on the concrete block in the barn
- Pasture/Tractor: we need to construct a container to keep the chickens in while on pasture, the design of which I will draw out
- Butcher: how are the animals going to be processed, will AVI be purchasing any of them?
Our goals for this project are:
- Keep chores down to one hour or less;
- when summer hits and we are busy doing a variety of other tasks, there won’t be time for me to spend three hours on chickens alone
- Provide a good quality of life for chickens
- Keep the animals healthy and happy
- This means dry bedding for the time they’re in the brooder, plan to check everyday for wetness and allow more space, moving the brooding lamp around and cleaning as you go
- Allowing the animals onto grass will produce better, healthier meat and happier animals
- Protect chicks from disease and environment
- Both brooder and tractor need to be secure
I’ve started by measuring the available concrete space in the barn. The importance of the concrete is that it will allow us, after finishing brooding, to scrape the bedding remains into the front loader and easily move them out.
We have a 192 by 150 inch rectangle, of which I would take a 6×6 block and put the Ohio brooder (which measures 4×4), three feeder trays and one 5 gallon drinker, which I would put up on a block to keep level as well as discourage chicks from swimming/drowning in it.
The Ohio Brooder involves the following:
- Weighs about 30 pounds without insulation material.
- Accommodates 150 to 250 chicks when made 4 by 4 feet or 250 to 300 chicks when made 4 by 6 feet.
- Is operated on the basis of the behavior of and comfort of the chicks rather than thermostatic heat control or temperature shown by thermometer. Thermostatic heat control is unnecessary, since the chicks readily adapt themselves to their heat requirements and comfort in a brooder of this kind. A thermometer is misleading rather than helpful, since the ordinary thermometer can not be depended upon to indicate the radiant or infrared heat requirements of chicks or poults.
- Has a wide range of heat supply for special brooding requirements throughout the year.
- If we use the Ohio brooder, less insulation is required in the rest of the space as the chickens have a place to go to be warm.
- The insulated heat-lamp brooder is a simple plywood box on four short legs, with two heat lamps. Insulation is provided by piling wood shavings on top.
List of Materials needed
- One piece of 4 by 8-foot, ¼-inch plywood or 1/8-inch pressed wood (to be cut into one 4 by 4-foot top and four 1 by 4-foot sides)
- Four cleats 1 inch by 1 inch, 4 feet long, to which the top and sides are nailed.
- Four pieces of 1 ½ by 1 ½-inch lumber, 16 inches long, for corner posts or legs
- Two porcelain electric lamp bulb sockets (Porcelain lamp sockets are necessary for these lamps)
- One 150-watt, 115- to 120-volt projector or reflector Mazda spot or flood lamp and one 250-watt R-40 Bulb Drying lamp
- Twenty feet of rubber-covered electric appliance cord with plug and cap
No special provision need be made for ventilation. That which takes place through the open space between the lower edge of the hover and the floor will be ample. As the chicks or polts grow larger and need more air and less heat, bricks or blocks can be placed under the legs to raise the hover 2, 4, or 6 inches higher. When feed and water are to be placed under the hover, or the floor litter is to be removed, one side can be raised to the desired height and held in place by a hook suspended from the ceiling of the brooder house.
- 250-watt bulbs are the most likely to scorch the lid of the brooder and cause premature socket failure. Use lower-wattage bulbs when possible.
- Use either heat lamps or reflector flood lamps.
- Heat lamps are preferable because of their longer life.
- Red bulbs aren’t necessary unless you’re brooding a breed with a tendency towards brooder-house cannibalism. (Modern broiler breeds are non-cannibalistic, so you’re fine. Heritage breeds and modern laying breeds vary.)
- Red heat lamps are available in 175 watts and 250 watts. Red floodlights are available down to 50 watts.
- White heat lamps are available between 100 and 250 watts. White floodlights go all the way down to 30 watts.
- For above- freezing temperatures, use two bulbs of the size given below
- 4×4 Brooder: 125 watts.
- Monitor the chicks first thing in the morning. If they are resting around the perimeter of the brooder, rather than inside, you can reduce the size of the bulbs, saving even more electricity.
They will spend 3 and 1/2 weeks in the brooder, and will then be moved to pasture until 8 weeks, when they will be harvested.
Chicken Tractor Design
The tractor design I am using was provided by Mike Jones.
It is constructed by putting two 10ft 2x4s against two 12ft 2/4s, creating a rectangular base. Two lengths of cattle panel are then arched between two ends of the rectangle, creating a roof. Hog panel is attached to the sides, and creates an enclosure. Chicken fence is then run along all of this existing fence and any gaps, to keep predators out. Two wheels can be attached to the back end for ease of movement.