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Brooder tips for a 54 gallon Rubbermaid tote?

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Branch Chickens, Feb 1, 2014.

  1. Branch Chickens

    Branch Chickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We are expecting our first batch of chicks in late April ([​IMG]) and have decided to use a 54 gallon tote as our brooder.
    I'm wondering if anyone else who has done this has any tips to share.

    A few specific questions:

    Should we cut one large window (or a couple of smaller ones) in the top and enclose them with hardware cloth or should we just place a large screen over the entire top? We have an old door screen that would work for this, but I'm wondering if windows built into the snap-on lid would be more secure.

    What should we do with the lamp/heating lamp? Inside mount or outside?

    When it's time to add a roost, should we put holes in the sides of the tub and run a dowel across it, or is there another option that doesn't involve holes?

    When the chicks are itty-bitty, should we divide the space in half with cardboard or give them the run of the entire tote? We're only getting 9 chicks, so they are going to have a ton of room in this thing.

    Thanks in advance for any help/advice you can give!
     
  2. Smithyard Farm

    Smithyard Farm Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I did tat last year. I hung the light in such a way that I could raise it a little bet every week as they grew. At first it was right inside., I started it at 99 degrees at chick height and gradually increased the height. Watch the chicks if they are cold, they will all huddle together and you know you have it to high. I also used puppy pads in the bottom of it, covered with paper towels. for the first two weeks. It was easier to clean and the little chickies didn't have to try to walk through the shavings. I didn't worry too much about a roost. they were fine in there for the 5-6 weeks or so they were in there. others will tell you they need one, but mine did fine without, and had no issues transferring to the coop. And, I didn't cover them. the tote I had was deep enough I didn't worry bout them getting out.

    its very dusty... be prepared for everything to have a layer of dust within 5 feet. I had mine in the dining room, and when I finally moved them out, it looked like a haunted house movie set! no one told me that - I was quite shocked! I guess I was so enthralled looking at them and watching them (you will sit at the edge for hours) I was unaware of what was happening around me! Good luck! so much fun!
     
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  3. Branch Chickens

    Branch Chickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you Jen!
    Any thoughts on dividing the tote in half when they're freshly hatched? I worry that the space might be too large and that they will wander off to the perimeter and get cold. Do you think they'll have sense enough to hang out near the light?
     
  4. Joshua G

    Joshua G Chillin' With My Peeps

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    They will stay near the heat source if they are cold, and the more space the better that way any chicks that get picked on can get away from the bully.
     
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  5. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    Last edited: Feb 1, 2014
  6. Branch Chickens

    Branch Chickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you for your advice! I love the suggestion of the little cardboard boxes as chick playground equipment. [​IMG]

    We're brooding 9 (unless any are lost in shipping) chicks for between 4-6 weeks. I measured the space at the bottom of the tote, and it's a little over 4 square feet. 16" x 38" with a little extra room at the corners. It's not a perfect rectangle. It's not a giant box by any means, but it looks larger than many that I've seen. It's the long 54 gallon tote rather than the deep one.
    Do you think this size will work for the first few weeks? If it seems to be getting too small, we can certainly come up with another option.
     
  7. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

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    with 9 chicks, you could probably use it for the first 2ish weeks, that 3rd week they'll start getting iffy on space and after that they'll really increase the likelihood of pecking or bloody diarrhea/cocci problems from over crowding. That small a space also makes it hard for the chicks to really self regulate their temps, if you have the warm area warm enough, there's not much space for them to get to a cool area.

    My old standby is cardboard boxes. Get two (or more) largish boxes and tape them together, side by side. Cut a little chick door between them. One box has the heat lamp, the other box has the feed and water in the cool area. It's easy to add more space with more boxes.....rule of thumb is they'll each need 2 square feet of space at 4ish weeks. Depending on your location and weather and when you'll be able to put them outside, you'll need to add more space.
     
  8. Branch Chickens

    Branch Chickens Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Sounds like a plan! Thank you!
     
  9. bcfd2004

    bcfd2004 Out Of The Brooder

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    We used one to start our 14 chicks. They outgrew it in about a week. We bought a 4 ft kiddy swimming pool for their new home and took old cardboard boxes and formed them around it to keep them in. We built them a roost out of scrap wood that they started using immediately. Really cute when they fall asleep and their heads hang almost to the floor! We put paper towels down for a base then a layer of pine shavings, then more paper towels just to try and minimize cleanup. It's working really well so far. We layed 2 bricks together to set the feeder and waterer on to keep chips out (kinda). We started making them a mash out of their feed a couple days after we recieved them and they went crazy for it. Just put the crumbs in a dish and add the same vitamin fortified water thats in their waterer. They are hooked on it and will only eat the dry crumbs if I force them to. We put a kitchen chair alongside the pool and fastened the light to the back of it so we can move it up and down as needed. These are the first chicks we have raised and with a lot of ideas from sites like this and other chicken addicts we are very pleased with our progress. We have also started hatching about 30 eggs in an incubator. I think we are going to be a little overwhelmed before long but enjoying every minute of it. It sure is easy to get carried away....
    [​IMG]
     
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  10. chickenlindz

    chickenlindz Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Just watch the heat lamp... If you use a 250 watt bulb it'll get too hot if it's just shining down on them.
     

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