Mama Heating Pad in the Brooder (Picture Heavy) - UPDATE

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by Blooie, Mar 4, 2015.

  1. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Flock Master

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    What ever you use, be sure it's sturdy enough that it can't collapse over the chicks, trapping them inside. I'd be concerned about cardboard for the reason that it's sturdy... until it's not. A bit of moisture, or a seam letting go, and it will collapse.
     
  2. SunshineAnShade

    SunshineAnShade Out Of The Brooder

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    So, i here is my final MHP version 2.0 !
    [​IMG]

    I started from scratch and ditched the cardboard box as others suggested.
    [​IMG]

    Thankfully, I was able to use some spare hardware cloth but i had to improvise and attatch 2 seperate pieces together. The larger piece is a 20x20 square to which I added an additional 4 inches. I connected them with spare wire and covered the seems and all around the edges with duct tape. (Ran out of electrical tape).
    [​IMG]

    I bent the sides to create the legs then laid it down with legs up. I placed the heating pad (inside a pillowcase) on the inside of the shelter so that the sides ran up the legs and the pad is even with the back lip of the cave. I pilfered a few short bungee cords my husband happened to have in the garage and used them to hold the pad in place like Bee had in her set up.
    The extra 8 inches of uncovered area in the front will be a place for chicks who dont need as much heat or need to cool off a bit but still be undercover.
    [​IMG]
    The back of the cave is slightly lower than the front for closer contact although it may be hard to see from these pictures.
    [​IMG]
    I flipped the cave back over then folded a towel and draped it over all sides but left an opening in the front. (There is a tiny gap in the back so chicks can escape from the end if needed yet keep most of the warmth inside.)

    I actually had some press and seal laying around ( for a number years actually but just never used it. I knew there was a reason i kept it!) I layed it over the top like Blooie for easier cleanup and to help keep the edges tucked in. I'm so Glad i had some! :D

    I checked temps and in the back under the pad on 6 it was 94 and in front it was 86. Thoughts please. Will this setup work?
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2015
  3. bruceha2000

    bruceha2000 Chicken Obsessed

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    I think so Sunshine though I suspect you will have a height issue fairly quickly as they grow. But maybe you could just "squeeze" it so it is higher in the middle then? Maybe have a towel over part of the unheated front so there is a gradient? I think that extended space is a great idea. Plenty of times I saw chick faces sticking out from all sides of my brooding hen. While on that topic, I've never been underneath a brooding hen but I ASSUME she adjusts her heat output to match the needs of the chicks. That is the one thing we can't mimic - adaptive heat control.

    Re: the general "pad should touch the chicks" thing. If the pad is wrapped in plastic then in a towel, isn't that insulating the chicks from the heat source? Why wouldn't it be just as good to flop the pad on top of the hardware cloth WITHOUT plastic or towel between the two. I can see the plastic/towel over the top since the chicks will go up there and they usually poop down, not up [​IMG]

    Also, the "rear exit" idea. I THINK the ones I saw that were straw covered and out in the barn or coop had straw all the way around except in the front, no? Of course a hen has LOTS of entrances/exits. I've seen chicks go in the front, in the front edge under the wings, shove up under the side edge of a wing and in behind the wings. Of course a hen has a slight disadvantage compared to a MHP - she has a body in the way so it is kinda hard for the chicks to all go in one entrance and then find a spot. [​IMG]
     
  4. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    Yep...I find the towel too thick to get good contact heat to the pad, so advise a pillow case instead...it's thin enough to let the heat flow. One reason I put my pad inside the wire frame was so they could have more softness there...much like a mama. Not many hens with a rigid belly.

    And, yes, the wire is very easy to adjust in height...you just take your hand and pull up in the middle and reset the legs with another little pull until they are stable and flat to the floor once again. I find, by the time you need to do that, they aren't using it much anyway.
     
  5. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    I've used the folded towel (folded just in half) for Scout, and then for 3 subsequent batches of chicks and found no issues at all it with it insulating too much and keeping chicks from enjoying all of the heat from the pad - even when it was in the teens and twenties where they were being brooded outdoors. I didn't use a big fluffy towel - I used towels off the stack of "These are so thin you can see through them towels". Any excess towel covered the back all the way to the floor with no gap back there, and on the sides I lifted up the frame a bit and tucked in under the edges at the floor. I had the same situation with mine that you do - the frame was bigger than the pad. So the uncovered part became the "cool down front porch" and I loved to see them peeking out from there. It was still warmer there than all the way outside, but it was cooler than the back and center of the frame, and they really liked that choice and self regulating.

    If there's a drawback to the heating pad method, it's the space it takes up in an indoor brooder box. Right now it might look like it fits well, but when you add chicks, a waterer, and a feeder floor space suddenly shrinks. That's why mine is always closed all the way to bottom at the back - it's tucked up as close to the back wall of the brooder as I can get it and they just use the front opening to get in and out. Outside in the brooder pen in the run, I set the frame on a bed of straw, then pack straw all the way around it and over the top. Doesn't take the little stinkers long to scratch the straw off, but I just put it back on when I went out to do chores. An exercise in futility most of the time, but it was the little game we played. [​IMG] I so much prefer starting them from the beginning outside, regardless of temperature, but I do keep them in for the first 24 hours if they've had a stressful shipping experience. A little observation and then out they go!

    From this point on, your best teachers are going to be your chicks. It'll be easier to see any fine tuning you might have to do when they are actually in there. I've never had problems with them learning to go under, but I usually put a couple under there at first and hold my hand in front until I think they've realized that the heat is right there, then move my hand and let them out. They were then the first to dash back under, and the other chicks just follow. Training done. I've also brought chicks home, put them in, and had them run for that dark, warm secure spot first thing, and didn't even have to put any under. Your chicks will tell you what you need to do. One of the biggest problems some folks seem to have was getting worried when the chicks didn't "stay" under it. That's perfectly natural behavior- they don't stay under Mama Hen 24/7 either.

    If yours seems to be too low when you first get them, you can raise it by pulling up on the middle. Too high and you can smoosh it down. But they grow so fast you'll be raising it rather quickly. I just can't wait to see them!! Well done, Grasshopper!
     
  6. bruceha2000

    bruceha2000 Chicken Obsessed

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    "That's perfectly natural behavior- they don't stay under Mama Hen 24/7 either. "

    SO TRUE. I was amazed at how little time my 4 day old chicks spent under Zorra. Though it was obvious they spent "enough" time, she was in all kinds of wonky "wings part way up" positions. She had serious "loosen up the muscles" flapping sprees when I opened the door to the brooder pen each morning and they came out to explore "the world".
     
  7. SunshineAnShade

    SunshineAnShade Out Of The Brooder

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    Thank you all for the feedback! Its good to hear advice from others who have used such an innovative set up!

    Just to clarify a few things, I have a fairly thin towel folded and covering the cave on the outside only (the towel covers the cooler area also).
    The heating pad is inside the cave in a pillowcase ( mostly for easy cleaning just in case it gets dirty). It is attached to the roof with 2 bungee cords on each side and one in the middleto keep it in place and prevent it from sagging.
    I do plan to keep the chicks in their new coop 4x8' area which is half our shed space after i monitor them for the first night of course. Its been HOT and humid here in New England though so i do worry about them getting too hot. They may hardly need to use the mhp much (during the day at least). There is ventilation but even with the windows open it still feels overly warm inside. I should check the temp in there soon.
    Thanks peeps!
     
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  8. dpenning

    dpenning Chillin' With My Peeps Premium Member

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    I got a new batch of chicks in early in July. Never used the MHP at all, just hung a feather duster from the side of the brooder. It was so hot in the coop where I'm brooding I've actually been cooling them off with a fan in the hottest part of the day. This is in far North TX where we have been 100*+ every day .
     
  9. bruceha2000

    bruceha2000 Chicken Obsessed

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    Yep, hot an humid here in Vermont too. Just started raining, big front coming through. It will get to you fairly soon Sunshine.


    You definitely have the opposite problem from most people Dawn! I don't recall seeing a lot of threads on "how do I keep my day old chicks COOL! [​IMG] But at 100+, yeah I think it would be necessary.
     
  10. dpenning

    dpenning Chillin' With My Peeps Premium Member

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    I think they are adapting. I still have the fan on them and the door open but I'm not putting frozen bottles of water in front of the fan anymore and they are not panting any more. As soon as they are big enough to go out in the run without fitting through the goat fencing they will lose the fan.
     

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