Large Series Brooder Boxes

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by jarydwhite, Jan 5, 2014.

  1. jarydwhite

    jarydwhite New Egg

    Jan 5, 2014
    I need to build brooding boxes that hold hundreds of chicks!!! (Free range!)

    If I give each bird 4.33 square feet of housing when its 4 weeks old through 8/9 weeks, how much space should I give them at these stages?

    Day Old
    Week Old
    Two Week Old
    Three Week Old

    The boxes will be 59 feet long by 4 feet wide, and however deep I need. I want to build them similar to this design except imagine it being 59 feet long.

    Inside this long box there will be slates that can be moved every foot. This slates will serve as separators. Chicks will be placed in one end of the box and a slate will be placed allowing them the required space, but also not wasting space. As the chicks grow the slate will be moved to give them more space. Another set of chicks will start from the other side of the box one week after the first set. So to two spaces will move closer to each other until there is just the one slate separating the two. At that point the first set is moved into a grow out area and that side of the brooder is cleaned and let set for a couple days. We will have multiple of these boxes with isles between them. Enough that we can allow time for cleaning of each one, and always be able to produce a consistent amount each week.

    So how much space do I need at those ages? This will let me know how big to build the boxes, and how many to build.


    (FYI: Our chickens will have 4.33 square feet or more of housing, and over 11 square feet total space when you include their outdoor runs (until we find a way to utilize our pasture space)).
  2. perchie.girl

    perchie.girl Desert Dweller Premium Member

    Thats alot of brooding space..... I like that brooder design with one exception.... Have you thought of using hardware cloth on the bottom because its going to be a night mare to clean. With hardware cloth you can pressure wash the screen between batches of chicks. Oh and if you can do canvas to catch the poo that goes through it will dessicate very quickly that way..... No shavings needed.

    My next brooder will have a wire bottom. I will lay down either towels or shelf liner for when they are very very young. I tried to brood up 40 Guinea Fowl in tubs and it was a nightmare. Once I switched from Towels to shavings I lost quite a few from eating the shavings.

    just a question ..... How many chicks do you plan to brood up? In addition to the partitions how about making it modular so you can add length as you need it.... you can keep a hundred chicks in a very small space.....


    Oh and WELCOME [​IMG] from the San Diego High Desert.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2014
  3. jarydwhite

    jarydwhite New Egg

    Jan 5, 2014
    That is a very good idea. I would like to line the whole box with something easily cleaned.

    I have looked at various "wire" bottom setups and my concern there is with the chicks comfort. Some kind of soft non-toxic "towel" sounds like a feasible idea. We already have a series of hot water heaters for the shrimp tanks. We could set up an industrial sized washer and dryer (with the waste water properly dealt with). I never thought about the chicks eating the bedding but I can see how that would be a problem, so a solution must be found for that.

    I do like the idea of having a "wire" bottom for the purpose of waste management. If there was a way I could easily build something that both removes waste and provides a comfortable surface for tiny chicky legs, that would be ideal!

    The length and over-all design of the brooding boxes is also affected by the overall design of the system. For example, I would rather not waste motion moving chickens from their brooding area into their pens every week (large amount). This is also because it would be more stressful for the birds to all be move this way. The boxes could be small enough to move on wheels, but that would mean making several individual boxes for each "batch" or "harvest".

    When we ramp up to what will be our full capacity, we will be starting around 1,000 chicks a week, and processing that many as well. All from this one location, and eventually all processed from this location as well. I hope to start down the road of getting ODA inspected after the first couple fully ramped up harvests.

    Our chickens will have 4.77 Square feet per bird of housing space with my current calculations. We have another 7 square feet per bird of pasture space.

    I have thought about building one 445 foot long brooding box down the length of the closed side of the building. This way the chicks will be right next to the pen they will be occupying when they leave the brooder. All I would have to do is open a hatch. The pen they enter would have been previously emptied from the last harvest.

    Doing that however presents one big challenge. The most of the pasture space is on the closed side of the building. Which is the side that had the exhaust fans, the other side has one long open "window" covered in chicken wire with a huge curtain that is controlled by a pully system.

    If I build the box on the closed side I have to figure out how to get my chickens around, under, or over it to get outside. I could build it down the length of the windowed side, forget about the 20' x 445' grass space outside that side and build the boxes a few feet away from the wall (for an isle).

    I would rather not sacrifice any grass space, and I would also rather have the brooding box on the closed side of the building to maintain heat.

    However the boxes are going to be built with 1" thick hard foam insulation in the walls... so maybe the heat will not be difficult to maintain?

    Also the design I mentioned is not exact to what I am trying to figure out. The general shape is what I need, but the tops will all be enclosed to hold the heat in the boxes. I may install small plexy glass windows so they can be checked without losing heat by opening the box.

    I have a lot more questions related to brooding. Not sure if I should post them separately. For example would it be difficult or expensive to run a pvc pipe down the brooding box with nipple drippers? Do chicks know how to use them? Should I use "bucket" watering systems? Or will that be to difficult to maintain with so many chickens?

    For watering I thought about building them with plastic barrels using the same method as with a 5 gallon bucket. Except I thought maybe I would put a float valve inside with a hose attachment on the outside. Connect a hose and run it to the water line. Maybe have it run up to a 3" pvc running the length of the building. This way I do not have to deal with hanging several rows of 1" pvc covered in drippers. Avoiding dealing with the pully system all together, and I noticed that the spots under where they had the water lines are sort of sunk in... meaning with buckets (or barrels) if you see a mess you can move it instead of being stuck with spilling in the same area. The float valve is like the thing in your toilet. It opens when the water is low and closes at a certain level, The water can be left on and each barrel will "turn on" to fill itself when it needs it, using no electricity.

    I will do the same thing for feeding except we are not feeding them 24/7. We are looking into some cool "alternative feeds" (more on that later) that will reduce their feed cost.
  4. perchie.girl

    perchie.girl Desert Dweller Premium Member

    Commercial hatcheries use nipples They who designed them. They do figure out how to use them pretty quickly... It is one thing to raise up a few chicks its quite another to raise up a thousand at a time. Prepare for leakage another reason for the wire mesh. In the hatcheries they keep them on wire for the very same reasons

    There are logistical issues that I cannot address because I havent the experience. I am a manufacturing engineer problem solving is in my nature. Circulating the air and temperature control. Ammonia being a big one to deal with inside.

    Look in the meat birds section.

    There are more than I can count people who run commercial operations the size you are starting.

    Also for alternate feeds I hope you are going to give fermented feed a try. The comments I am seeing are incredible savings on feed costs Low incidence of coccidosis and birds that grow up healthy and a very good size at butchering time.

    There is a very knowledgeable person that pretty much dominates the list Her name is BEEKISSED. She is on several groups that are right up your alley and could give you more insight as to what is involved. I would chat her up a little and she would probably be able to direct you toward a discussion group that would be to your benefit.

    With regard to work with product flow its easy enough to figure out..... A pad of grid paper and some scale sketches of what equipment you will need to use sketches of your pasture areas access doors.... Food in Poo out Chickens in chickens out.... What to do with losses you will have to deal with that as well. My mantra is never back track job workflow ideally should go from point A to point Z without crossing paths... Ideally .... LOL.

    In order to process chicken for sale you will have to have certification from what ever agencies there are in your state. Which will include your plan for biosecurity. No visitors should be allowed unless they follow biosecurity procedurs... which can include foot baths and or washing and sterilizing hands or providing disposable paper outfits. Most places allow NO visitors. Its to protect your chickens. disease and parasites can be brought in on the soles of someones shoes.

    But I am certain you have done your research..

  5. jarydwhite

    jarydwhite New Egg

    Jan 5, 2014
    Thank you for all the information.

    I have indeed done a great deal of research. I am a very good researcher but it takes time. I have spent about 10 hours a day almost every day doing research and building spreadsheets.

    We plan to take full advantage of our ability to process and sell 20,000 birds in a calendar year, through a Oregon Department of Agriculture inspected facility. We also plan to build our own.

    In Oregon there isn't anyone raising and processing free range chickens at this scale. There are conventional operations but they do not have any exterior space for the poultry. The birds can't even see daylight and are in extremely high density environments ( less than one square foot per bird!). These facilities have several (3 to 9) houses the size of the one we have on each farm, and they processed at USDA inspected facilities and sell across state lines. Because they are processing at USDA inspected facilities that means they are also capable of selling more than the 20k birds a year that we can. Which means these farms are just industrial food production facilities... not farms.

    In several eastern countries they raise chickens in open air buildings (just a roof and netting). Apparently air has difficulty traveling farther than 60 feet when it enters a building. I assume this is why the building is 59 feet wide. I do not think we will need very many fans (we have a couple) because the building will be open on both sides. The "closed wall" will have large sections removed and on the outside we will building sliding doors. The perches/feed/water will be inside, so the chickens will likely go inside at night. We will build predator proof fencing. Plus I live on site right next to the building, and I have a lot of plans for security, both from predators and from disease.

    I have also looked into HACCP training. We will go get certified and I will develop the HACCP plan along with standard operating procedures, statistical process control, and out of control action plans. All of which are familiar to me.

    There are a few farms that process a few hundred to a couple thousand free range birds a year, but the ones that process the most of these free range labeled chicken are actually being supplied from conventional producers. They raise a small amount of actual free range (pastured poultry is very rare) and market themselves as such, but a lot of the chicken they sell was processed at their facility but raised at a conventional one.

    One thing you have to consider when thinking about densities is that as long as you keep the ratio of bird to square feet the same, the more birds you put in an area the less square footage each one needs. One bird in a 4 square foot space might take up 1 foot, and then have 3 feet to explore. Two birds in an 8 square foot space each take up one foot and each have 6 feet to explore. Chickens like to stand next to each other, so its not like your going to have 3 feet between each and every chicken. Your likely to have them in groups of 2 - 5 or more. Meaning there is plenty of space for them to explore.

    This concept only starts to work if each chicken has at least slightly more square footage than its body takes up. From that point the spacial growth is exponential when you put more chickens in the formula.

    There is a problem with this however. The less space you give each chicken over their body size, the more chickens you need in a given area to allow them enough space to move... and much more for them to be comfortable.

    The problem with conventional "farming" is they give only a small fraction of space more than the chicken takes up. When this building was in operation for conventional farming it housed 50,000 chickens. We will only have 9,720 chickens in here at any given time. Our chickens will also be given outdoor space equal to over twice the indoor space. Which means we are putting 9,720 chickens in the same space as conventional farmers would put over 150,000.

    Since we will be running at less than 1/15th of the density of conventional operations, and more than 20 times the production of most actual local free range operations, and more than 10 times the production of the highest single producer of local free range labeled chicken; I believe we will fill a much needed sector.

    Fermented feed is one of the things we plan to do. We are also looking into processing the remains (heads/feet/etc) into feed for the shrimp. We are going to be running off propane for awhile but one of our biggest goals is to have a 100% solar powered facility. This will come after we acquire our own property and build new facilities (designed specifically for large scale free range farming, we want more pasture).

    But, for now I have to figure out the best design for these boxes. Thanks for the insight!

    EDIT: Oh yea and we are going to use a very deep bedding layer. That combined with 1/15th the density of convetional ops, 2 thirds the space being outdoors, and 1 third the space indoors being open air on both sides makes me think we wont have any air quality problems. Each pen will be used for only 20 weeks each season, meaning no waste management issues. The brooding boxes is where most of the WW will be done.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2014

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