It gets cold in winter up here in Northern BC Canada, but a gal's gotta have hobbies to keep herself busy when the weather is too adverse to be outdoors. So I joined the BYC NYD Hatch-along, set my eggs and then realized that I was going to need somewhere to put the hatchlings once they arrived! OMG! After a bit of brainstorming I came up with some brooder plans using recycled materials that I had hoped would meet my brooder wishlist:
- must keep peeps safe from other pets in the house (dogs and cats)
- must be attractive to look at since its in the house
- must be useful/multipurpose when not being used as a brooder
- must be easy to clean
- must be cheap to build (if I weren't on a budget I'd just go buy one!)
- must allow circulation yet keep out drafts
The results, I think, speak for themselves and the total cost was a mere $25 as I recycled or found free almost everything except the hardware!!
Here's how I did it.
Earlier in the year I had acquired some old kitchen/bathroom cabinetry from a local 'freecycle' site. I put most of them to good use in my mudroom, but there were 2 cabinets left - one that needed repair on the base and one that had only a partial door and open shelves where it had butted up against another cabinet. In contemplation of my brooder I decided I'd upcycle these to build an indoor cabinet that looked like furniture and could be used as a recycle centre/potting bench or whatever I fancied, when not in use as a brooder!
I started with the base cabinet. This unit had quite a few holes in the bottom so I removed the old and replaced it with a scrap piece of plywood, I added another piece of plywood to the back, and repaired the vertical piece (between the doors) as it needed to be re-glued. I then built a platform for the cabinet to sit on using 1x3 dimensional lumber and added 8" legs cut at an angle in a simple shaker style.
That provided me with the base unit. This was an old sink base (hence the holes in the bottom) so it had no drawers, but it had a panel which I removed in order to create a wire 'vent' for air circulation. I debated turning the whole unit upside down to use the panel as a point to place a pull out tray, but opted not to as I didn't want my little peeps on wire. At this point, I also decided that the existing doors would be removed and used for something else and in their place I would build door frames to fit inside the door openings to which I would apply wire and a removable plexi-glass panel to keep drafts out during cold months (see finished photo of doors below).
The next task was to figure out what to use for the cover/countertop. I wanted something that I could open, at least partially, to enable cleaning, adjusting of the heat lamp or what-have-you. As I pondered this next step I recalled an old table out in the garden shed - the top had come apart and warped a bit, but it was a harvest table so had two hinged sides. I figured I could attach the back portion of the table top upside down to the base unit while allowing the front portion to lift for access. I even kept the original hinges/screws which are from the early 1900s. Cool, eh! The top needed to be sanded and re-stained, including the underside of the hinged front portion, and I just happened to have leftover stain from another project.
The next step was the upper cabinet. I started by remove the door and the panel on the front which left a really ugly edge full of staple holes. Obviously I would need to put trim around it at some point, but before we got there I had to remove the old shelf liner. I kinda liked it, but it was in rough shape so off it came leaving me with a rough, but very sturdy set of shelves, which, when placed on the base cabinet suddenly transformed the unit into a 'hoosier' style cupboard! Ta da!
With the basic structure completed, the next step was a coat of paint in 'buttermilk' colour, which I had from a previous project. I sanded any areas that needed it and then started painting. Below, you see the base unit painted and a partially painted upper cabinet in place to get an idea of how it would look. I also distressed the finish and rubbed the stain colour over it to darken the wood. I like that 'shabby chic' look.
I then built the wood frame for the doors using the same 1x3 lumber used for the base platform. I stapled 1/2" hardware cloth to the inside of the doors and the vent and then applied a trim piece so there were no sharp wires poking out. I'm still debating whether I want to build wire doors for the top two shelves to match the bottom. I also cut 2 pieces of plexi-glass to insert on the exterior of the doors. Since this unit will reside in my mudroom, it will be subject to drafts as I let my pack of hounds in and out on a regular basis; consequently, I don't want the peeps to feel this draft so this was an easy solution that can be removed when the weather improves. The plexi is held in with 4 equally placed small round head screws that you barely notice. Of course I added some hinges and knobs too. The doors don't hang perfect, but that's okay since it's supposed to look old anyhow.
After painting, I needed something in the bottom that would be easy to keep clean. I wanted a tin tray to fit the area, but that proved too expensive to purchase/have made and I kept an eye out at the transfer station for any pieces of tin, but none presented themselves so I'll keep looking. In the interim, I opted to use peel/stick floor tiles as they are inexpensive and easy to cut/apply. I will caution, however, that they must require time to cure and properly adhere as I put them in and once the brooder lamp heated up they all fell off, sticky side up, essentially creating the equivalent of chick fly paper! Note: no chicks were harmed in the making of this brooder :D
The only thing left to do after that was add a hook for the heat lamp, add shavings, ensure that the temperature was sufficient and add chicklets!
I think the finished product looks pretty good. The babies seem to like it too! Please note the photos do not show the upper cabinet completed since I needed to get the hatchlings in and took pics before completion. I still need to finish another coat of paint and add the trim (and possibly doors to the upper 2 shelves) as well as reset the floor tiles that didn't stick, but you get the idea!
As an aside, the top shelving unit can be removed to use just the bottom cabinet (as shown below). These photos show the hinged top propped a bit because I didn't have the right sized bit to drill the hole for the lamp so I had it set up temporarily. I also plan to add an attached thermometer inside by the heat lamp and I have plans for a removable roost to add in a couple of weeks!
Note: I was anxious to get it done since it did take a bit longer than anticipated and chicks were already here waiting in a guinea pig cage until I was done, so I did skip a few steps such as filling screw holes on the cabinet front/sides, but I can go back and do that later when this brood is out in barn come spring.