OK, now I finished Chicken Sanctuary Mark II. My earlier model was basically a wooden box with slats that only allowed small chicks to go through, and a hardware cloth roof. The upside was that I could use a heat lamp with it, but the big ones kept sleeping on it and pooping into it, so here's what we're trying this time:
I cut one of my favorite things to work with, a compost cage panel in two so that I could combine the two parts together to form a cage with a slanted roof. The footprint is about 2x2½ feet, and the corrugated plastic roof is hinged. I should be able to get the feeder and waterer in there out of reach from the grownups, but the chicks can still get through the spaces. The openings are about 2"x3½" on the bottom, I think that should be enough. Once they grow, I might cut out some slightly bigger openings, but they will probably be able to eat with the big ones by the time they no longer fit in there. It'll be interesting to see what we get, we started with 5 of our mutt OE eggs and 6 powerproducers, I don't know what they are exactly but some sort of production hybrids. I'm guessing Hy-Line Browns or something similar, a friend of our's has had the same birds for a couple of years and she's been very happy with how they manage in her flock and their output, so when she ordered some more eggs we decided to get some too. By the time we moved them out under our broody almost half of the eggs had quit. Some of our own mutt eggs were a bit older already because our only OE had been laying a bit sporadically, so we're down to two in those, and we've got 4 of the hybrid eggs left. One reason for such a low hatch rate is also that I may have been a bit lazy at turning the eggs in our Brinsea Mini Eco. Also, it's only built for 9 eggs, so cramming 11 in there was too much. Yet another limiting factor is that it may have been running a bit too dry, the humidity in there without water in the well has been about 20%, and I think it has been sitting without water for a couple of days every once in a while. I hate using incubators, I prefer letting broodies take care of the whole process, but we didn't have a broody when the eggs went in. Luckily Töyhtis stepped in at the eleventh hour, and will save us the trouble of either using a brooder or placing the chicks somewhere else.
We're going to try to raise this batch of chicks with a minimum effort approach, I'm not going to give them more than a 60W heating lamp in there, so mommy will have to take care of keeping them warm until they feather out. It's looking like temps are going to be slightly above freezing, so it shouldn't be a problem. We managed to keep everyone alive through 0F temps with a 200W lamp last winter, so I'm not foreseeing a temperature problem with this batch of chicks either.
Edited by vehve - 3/6/16 at 2:12am