Homemade Battery Brooder

Welllaidacres

Chirping
Jan 2, 2020
59
96
76
Eastern Illinois
My Coop
I’m looking for ideas on building a homemade battery brooder. I would like for it to be able to house 200 Cornish cross chicks. I’d like to keep them there for 1-2 weeks. What size would I need to build or is there a golden rule for square footage on that? My thought would be to build a tiered structure like the attached drawing. It would likely be made of wood with fold down doors in the front to clean out with. I would use gutters on the side to make feeders/waterers. The feeders wouldn’t take any square footage from the brooder then. I would also like to thermostatically control each tier if possible. Anybody ever done this or have any insight? Thanks!

I tried searching here and on YouTube but haven’t found much.
 

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iwltfum

Songster
Sep 10, 2018
409
663
181
Maine
I'll second @aart
We brood 65-70 at a time in a 20sqft area, but give them double that after the first week and it's still pretty tight by the end of the second week even with 40sqft. If I were to rebuild my brooder it, I would try and get close to 1sqft per bird by 14 days. You may be able to push it with intensive management - think refreshing the bedding a couple times a week at least. Maybe a giant drawer system for manure to drop into? Sounds like it might get complicated. Do you have much experience with running custom built thermostatically controlled electrical circuits? This would be a great idea to design and redesign a few times in order to get it right and then sell them to small farms, but I'm not sure I would want to count on the first generation of this idea to work well enough to successfully brood a large amount of chicks in.
 

Welllaidacres

Chirping
Jan 2, 2020
59
96
76
Eastern Illinois
My Coop
I have found wafer thermostats that I can wire in the circuit to control the heat. I am having a very difficult time finding space requirements for brooding Cornish cross. I know in the setup I currently use I have ample space, my goal would be to have a batch brooding while the current batch is finishing out. Even if I only had them brooding for a week that would allow me to increase my throughput. Are there any golden rules for brooding space?
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
Premium Feather Member
Feb 2, 2009
26,146
16,853
797
Southeast Louisiana
One of my thoughts when I saw your sketch was that hatcheries use incubators that can hold maybe 60,000 eggs stacked like that. These are the commercial hatcheries that may hatch 1,000,000 chicks a week. Late in incubation their heat problem is not keeping them warm but to keep them from cooking themselves. The embryos generate heat late in incubation, heat can build up. They also need good air exchange since the eggs breathe in oxygen and out carbon dioxide through the porous shell. They use fans to keep the heat from building up too high and for air exchange. You are not going to have anywhere near that number so I don't know if you have to worry about either of those or not.

I think you will need access to all of it. Part of cleaning will be finding and removing chicks that die, not just poop and soiled bedding. You will want to be able to see if chicks are acting sick. I'm not sure how well you can do that with the trays in the middle. I imagine you want to stack it for floor space. If it were me I'd look for alternatives but if that were the choice I'd want the layers spread out as much as reasonable.

I have not raised Cornish X and don't have any magic numbers as far as room. Can you run a test? If it were me and building it out of wood I'd try a 4' x 8' section to take advantage of standard wood dimensions. Same size as my raised bed gardens so you can reach everywhere from the side. My initial run would be 50 chicks in that since you are only going for two weeks. That should tell you what you need to know about space. But remember, I'm just guessing. I haven't raised Cornish X.

Since you are in the US (thanks for providing that info) I'd call you county extension office and see if they can help. If you get lucky and they have a good agent they might hook you up with an expert, probably at your state land grant university. Or contact the Ag Department of your state land grant university directly. Whether you are starting a business or just doing this to provide meat for yourself this is kind of why the Extension Service and land grant universities were developed.
 

Welllaidacres

Chirping
Jan 2, 2020
59
96
76
Eastern Illinois
My Coop
One of my thoughts when I saw your sketch was that hatcheries use incubators that can hold maybe 60,000 eggs stacked like that. These are the commercial hatcheries that may hatch 1,000,000 chicks a week. Late in incubation their heat problem is not keeping them warm but to keep them from cooking themselves. The embryos generate heat late in incubation, heat can build up. They also need good air exchange since the eggs breathe in oxygen and out carbon dioxide through the porous shell. They use fans to keep the heat from building up too high and for air exchange. You are not going to have anywhere near that number so I don't know if you have to worry about either of those or not.

I think you will need access to all of it. Part of cleaning will be finding and removing chicks that die, not just poop and soiled bedding. You will want to be able to see if chicks are acting sick. I'm not sure how well you can do that with the trays in the middle. I imagine you want to stack it for floor space. If it were me I'd look for alternatives but if that were the choice I'd want the layers spread out as much as reasonable.

I have not raised Cornish X and don't have any magic numbers as far as room. Can you run a test? If it were me and building it out of wood I'd try a 4' x 8' section to take advantage of standard wood dimensions. Same size as my raised bed gardens so you can reach everywhere from the side. My initial run would be 50 chicks in that since you are only going for two weeks. That should tell you what you need to know about space. But remember, I'm just guessing. I haven't raised Cornish X.

Since you are in the US (thanks for providing that info) I'd call you county extension office and see if they can help. If you get lucky and they have a good agent they might hook you up with an expert, probably at your state land grant university. Or contact the Ag Department of your state land grant university directly. Whether you are starting a business or just doing this to provide meat for yourself this is kind of why the Extension Service and land grant universities were developed.
Thanks for your feedback! I have reached out to the land grant university and extension. Unfortunately, they have not returned my call or emails. What’s even more disheartening is I am an alumnus of the land grant’s ag department, University of Illinois College of ACES. My current setup is a 48x60” Ohio brooder with 2 250watt heat lamps. I settled on those dimensions because i had a 48x60 piece of plywood. I built it from materials on hand so it was a rather inexpensive build. In the summer I use 175 watt bulbs, in the fall and winter I use the 250s and put bricks or blocks of wood under the legs of the Ohio to increase the air gap and decrease the temperature. I am currently brooding 120 chicks at a time in this set up. I am able to do this because Outside of the brooder I also have additional feeders and waterers and a heat lamp hanging. It is not nearly as warm as inside the Ohio but provides more feeder space and a cooler area in case the chicks get too warm. The venture back and forth freely. My poultry business has really exploded. I’ve only been doing the Cornish for a year now, but I have sold out my last 3 batches of 120. My current batch that is brooding will be ready Jan. 6 and are spoken for. I will do another batch that will finish first of March and have people on list for those birds as well. I never dreamed I would have people waiting 4 months to get my birds, but it has really taken off. I have built two other pens for meat bird production and will now be able to raise 200 per turn. The way my barn is set up is there is a 10’ alley way down the center. All my meat pens are on the north side of the barn. On the south side I have a dog kennel, layer pen, and hog pen. The Far East side is an area that depending on time of year i either have cattle or turkeys in once the calves are on grass. The 10’ alley is mostly wasted space. I say that, but I enjoy the ability to pull my pickup down the alley to unload feed/supplies or bring in a skid steer/tractor from a neighbor when I trade labor for it. My goal would be to build a stacked brooder in the alley. I would put it on casters so I can move it out of the way when needed. This would allow me to have 200 finishing while the next batch is brooding. I have seen stacked commercial brooders following a similar plan, but they are extremely pricy and designed for temperature controlled rooms, not an in heated barn. The stacked brooder is not a must. I could make a larger Ohio and use temporary panels in the alley to brood in to accomplish the same goal. I just liked the idea of feed and water hanging on the side of the stacked structure allowing chores to be easier and keeping both cleaner than being in the Brooding space. One side would have been a door to open to clean and inspect chicks.
 

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