Laugh it up. When my flock was 100% free ranging and self feeding I had it made and didn't even know it For me anyway free rangers had a 20% survival rate at six months. Not much I could do about it. Mama would appear one day with a dozen or so shiny new peepers ! About the only help that could be rendered was to take a basic chicken crate and cut a hole in the top corner big enough for peepers to pass. Get the crab net ,catch Mama and put her in the crate laid on it's side . Come dusk all those peeps would find the hole and crawl under Mama,then at least for ten days or so they got fed and watered. After letting everyone loose about every 2 days one more would disappear and so it went.
NOW, it seems I'm in the incubator business and all the extra effort vs natural selection. My commercial incubator cranks out peeps 300+ egg capacity ! So first order of business where to put all these peeps ? I'm crippled up pretty well so it's all about easy and CHEAP.For next to nothing a 5 stage brooder was built. I want to share some of the tricks picked up along the way. If you have a yard that needs a $2500 coop this is not the one ! First I needed a low maintenance brooder, my thinking runs along the Industrial side I used what most people call junk, but tough junk.
The 4 stage brooder is made from pressure treated wood salvaged docks, destroyed in '04-'05 Hurricane season. As I used to breed dogs ,most crates are modular and use 3/16"wire pull the corner pins. These are common sized panels that no Raccoon will get in ! Better still they have a door with 3 latches and they are tough.
The 5th and final stage is their starter coop. This was created because 3 sets of six that I tried to integrate with the adults (10-12"tall) all wound up dead or missing . Common sense dictates they be "trained" to perch and perhaps be a bit more developed first ? So I got an old plastic bed liner, built a frame to support it and set the pitch to let water run out the end.
The thinking is easy cleaning and getting them used to 8 perching poles. This way in a couple of weeks they will know exactly how to survive in the adults coop. All this is built on to the back porch (24'x6') of an 83yr old "cypress cracker shack"and water heater. One thing I forgot was the "mosquito factor" They can kill a bird in 3 days flat ! So as all companies that do pool enclosures will give away the old screening I recommend a trick picked up along the way, staple the screen where you intend to put wire fencing. When you nail the fence on it's there forever ! Nylon screen lasts 20+ yrs stops snakes cold and takes care of insects. My wire was ripped out with a Skid-steer . So it's tweaked a bit. It saved me at least $200 for wire and screen and just
a hunch, I think the pullets don't mind !
Keep in mind nobody sees my back porch but the dog and the critters .These are just
redneck ideas that just happened to work out. If any of this helps you to keep happier
healthier birds GREAT. So far I've enjoyed low maintenance and almost no losses .RR