Well - this is what I ended up with.....
And this is how I got there:
Originally, I wanted to build my own brooder for out in the barn so that I wouldn’t have to borrow a neighbor’s anymore. Three cats & three dogs at home - and me at work all day made the idea of brooding in the house a no-go. Last year I borrowed one that was essentially a big, long box on legs. Easy-peasy ….. I thought.
- Crate (with legs and door added)
- A way to hang a lamp
- Room for feed & water
I salvaged a big shipping crate from work thinking that I could simply add legs and be good to go. But then, the weekend that I was going to start on it, another neighbor offered me two Jersey Giant mix hens. Well, WHO could refuse something like that? But… where to keep them for the recommended quarantine time? That was where things started to get a little out of hand.
Now Gonna need:
OH! And forgot details like: extra ventilation, easy to clean, some WAY for them to actually get from the ‘brooder box/coop’ to the run… little things like that.
- Crate (with legs and door added)
- A way to hang a lamp
- Room for MUCH more feed & water
- Run of some sort
So here’s how it went.
I took the old crate that was going to be a low brooder with lots of floor space and turned it on its side – because the hens wouldn’t even be able to stand in it otherwise. I don’t know what was shipped in it, but there is a bunch of blocking and bracing attached to what was the bottom and I couldn’t get them off.
After zero planning and just a little bit of work, it had legs which gave it clearance of 24” underneath.
I closed in part of the side and added a door. Even got all super-dooper and added a wire ‘vent’.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but everything I had done other than hang the door was going to be a problem.
I shoved a wheelbarrow under it and managed to move it (HEAVY!) into the barn to dry out from the weeks of rain it had been soaking up.
.. you might be able to tell here that the legs on the left are attached to the sides of the crate, and the legs on the right are attached to the ‘pallet’ that used to be the bottom of the crate and that is smaller than the crate itself. Problem #1 - one set of legs is about 6” wider than the other. LOL
A couple of weekends later, it was still raining so I painted the inside which brightened things up a good bit. The next day it stopped raining so I moved it back outside and started to frame up a run …. again, with almost zero planning……
Well, as it turned out, adding those legs at 2 different widths means that the far end of the run doesn’t have a snowball’s chance of coming out square… not that it would matter since, as far as I can tell, there isn’t another single square angle anywhere else on the thing. Also, it started to rain again and guess what? That super-dooper vent means that the inside is FLOODED.
Time to add the wheels! .... um...... ?????
I finally begged a neighbor to come over and see what he could do. I wanted the wheels to sit on the ground without lifting the floor frame off the ground. When the small end of the run was lifted, it should tip up on the wheels like a wheel barrow. It took him about 2 hrs to laugh at my completely crooked contraption, design the wheel braces, remove the old wheels from the wheelbarrow and attach them to the tractor. In that same amount of time… I cut a (crooked) hole for the pop door….
A couple of weekend later - and only 1 day till the hens arrive - and .... IT'S DONE!!!!!!!
Both doors actually work (I was a little shocked)
The plastic roof overhangs a little and provides a little bit of rain protection for that vent in the door, but I'm going to take the piece that I cut and attach it back up with hinges. It will stay open but will keep the rain out.
Since it works like a wheelbarrow, this is the 'handle' end. That board across the end is what lifts if up on it's wheels. Heavy, but do-able.
I still need to add the ladder/ramp from the popdoor to the run.
Inside: The roost, poop shelf, and nestbox. I didn't get a chance to paint those but I will get those done between the hens in quarantine and the chicks that will arrive in May.
The other side is the pop door, which is an old doggie door. I'll have to open and close it each day, but when this is a brooder - I can just leave it locked until they are big enough to have some outdoor time. The white pipe is the chick feeder - the hens will have a larger version. When it's a brooder, I'll have one of the little chick waterers in there. For the hens, the water is outside under the coop.
Since it's mobile, I'm expecting to be able to move it over next to the big coop when it's time to add whoever the current resident is to the flock. That way they can spend a few days seeing each other before actually having contact.
Well, there it is. I hope that this might help inspire someone else to turn some old bits & pieces into something useful.
After living with it for a few weeks as a tractor for adult hens, there are a couple of things I would've done different.
1. I would've raised the coop higher than 24". It was one thing for me to get under there to staple up the wire, etc... but with 2 chickens, bedding & poo there is JUST not enough room if I should need to get to that back corner.
2. I would've set up the tube-style feeder to be filled from the outside and only have the opening inside. It's a small space for 2 JG hens and that feeder takes up a whole corner. I'll probably make that change one day...
3. I would've set up some sort of nipple waterer. When I empty the weeding bucket or kitchen scraps in there, there isn't room for them to scratch without getting their water FULL of junk.
4. I would've made that big lower gate to be 2 smaller ones. That's a lot of room for chickens to slip out past you if you're not careful.
Over all though, I'm very pleased. The hens are healthy and seem happy. Next week I'll move the tractor over next to the main run and let them start to 'meet & greet'.
It's been a chick brooder for a couple of weeks now and it seems to be working very well.
The only change I've made is that I've screwed a piece of hardware cloth over the outside of the doggie-door that leads to the run. That way I can either close it up tight when it's colder or open it up when it's warmer so they can get right up in the 'window'.
It IS pretty small and I wouldn't try to raise more than 5 or 6 chicks TOPS in it. There are 2 and they have plenty of room to chase and jump around and pretend to fly.
When they get a little older, I'll remove the screen door and let them have access to the run part during the day.