Outdoor brooders

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by cityfeet, Dec 31, 2016.

  1. cityfeet

    cityfeet New Egg

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    Mar 15, 2015
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    In February I have 20 chicks coming. In the past I've had the brooder indoors but learned how dusty that gets everything so I don't want it in the house this time. I'm thinking of building a brooder outside and running power to a heat lamp hanging into the brooder.

    If I buy the sheets of insulation at Lowe's and line the walls with it, do you think that would be sufficient to contain heat generated from the lamp so we don't lose any?
     
  2. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

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    Lamps are not necessarily the best / safest (particularly for outdoor brooding). What may serve you better is to search for the "Mama heating pad - picture heavy" thread and read there. The system included there is much safer, and will mitigate the need for additional insulation. Just pointing you in the direction of an alternative approach - thats all.

    Good luck
     
  3. cityfeet

    cityfeet New Egg

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    Much appreciated. I'll check it out.

    We lost 1/3 of our first flock using the Brinsea. It was disappointing because it had such good reviews. We switched to the heat lamp and haven't had problems since. They do the job well but I am concerned about the fire hazard so I'm willing to look at any other options. Thanks!
     
  4. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

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    Sorry to hear about the Brinsea brooder. I use a similar thing and have not suffered similar problems. I also know quite a few members here on BYC that use them. Personally, I'd write to Brinsea and describe how you were using it and ask for their feedback. They are very good at responding - that much i know.
     
  5. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    You need to understand you are providing a heat source for baby chicks to warm themselves, not heating an entire space. Think stove top burner vs oven. Or hot water bottle vs oven. Or heating pad vs oven.

    Chicks already are heated by their own internal combustion from their food source. But the thing they lack is the outer insulation to retain their body heat. So we provide a heat source for them to warm under when they begin to lose body heat. That's the principle of the brooder. Heating the entire space may result in overheating if the chicks aren't able to shed excess heat in a cool part of their brooding space.

    Now, as CT pointed out, the heating pad system is superior to a heat lamp. Why? Because it more closely replicates the natural heat source of a broody hen. The difference between your Brinsea and the heating pad cave is the MHP provides direct contact so the chicks are able to transfer heat from source to their bodies much more efficiently. It's also dark and secure feeling like being under a warm hen.

    With 20 chicks you would likely require a double setup. They also sell extra large pads. The only requirement is the pad must have a "stay-on" feature. The thread on the subject is right here on this forum "Mama Heating Pad for the Brooder". Check it out.

    I have written an article on outdoor brooding you might also be interested in looking at. It's liked below this post.
     
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I use heat lamps and brood “outside” but there are many other ways you can provide heat. Any time you use electricity you need to use certain basic precautions. Keep it dry and make sure your connections are OK. Make sure your wiring and fittings are in good shape. If you have a plug-in where the chickens can get to it, make sure they can’t unplug it by playing on it. I toss the clamp that came with the heat lamp so I’m not even tempted to use it, I wire my heat lamps in place so they cannot fall. You need to use the same basic safety measures whether you breed indoors or outdoors, but outdoors can present some additional challenges.

    Brooding outside presents certain challenges you don’t get indoors, mainly because of temperature swings. My brooder is built into my main coop. I sometimes brood in it during February. I can have days in the 60’s F or days in single digits. There is no way I can keep the entire brooder the same temperature, but you don’t have to. I make the brooder big enough and wrap it so I can keep one area warm enough in the coldest temperatures and another area cool enough in the warmest temperatures. I find straight out of the incubator the chicks are really good at self-regulating their heat as long as they have a choice. I use heat lamps but others use hovers, emitters, heating pads, and who knows how many other things and methods to provide a warm spot. If they are set up right they all work. They all mimic how a broody hen does it. She does not warm the entire universe for her chicks, she provides a warm spot for them to go to. Whatever method you use, that’s what you are shooting for.

    Some of the additional issues you might face outside include predator protection and wind protection, depending on what “outside” means to you. You need to keep the brooder dry whether indoor or out.

    People seem to like photos so I’ll show what I use. It’s 3’ x 6’ with a ½” hardware cloth floor and 1’ hardware cloth sides. If I were building it again I’d use ½” hardware cloth for the sides, a snake big enough to eat a chick can get through the 1” hardware cloth but it can’t get back out. I use the top of my brooder as a droppings board. With the wire floor it’s a good broody buster when the chicks are not in it. I’ve also used it to isolate a chicken when I needed to. When I brood in colder weather I put a piece of plywood in there to help provide a warm spot, in summer that’s unnecessary. In winter I wrap the sides with plastic and drape that plastic to the coop floor to hold in heat. In winter I put the water in the area heated by the heat lamp so it doesn’t freeze. That “chimney” off to the left where I keep one heat lamp provides good ventilation up high. I use plastic bins under the brooder to catch the poop which makes cleaning a breeze.

    [​IMG]

    Each system has its advantages and disadvantages. I normally raise between 15 and 30 chicks in my brooder, sometimes in winter, sometimes in summer. With my wire floor clean-up is a breeze. In winter I just dump that piece of plywood onto the brooder floor and empty the bins underneath for cleaning. Most days my taking care of the chicks involves providing feed and clean water, that’s it.

    I vary the wattage of the bulbs to match the season. In cooler weather I use two lamps in case a bulb burns out so I always have a back-up. In winter I don’t have to worry about water freezing, I use a black rubber tub filled with rocks so the chicks won’t drown and keep that in the heated zone. I don’t have to make adjustments as the chicks grow, changing heights or heat levels. My brooder is big enough and well enough ventilated that if the chicks get too warm they move further from the heat, if the weather cools off they move closer. What normally happens is that the chicks roam all over the brooder, even in cooler weather, and go back to the heat when they need to warm up.

    I don’t use other methods so I won’t comment on them, but I’m quite happy with my version of a method that has raised a lot of chicks for well over a century when it’s set up right, indoors or outdoors.
     
  7. cityfeet

    cityfeet New Egg

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    Mar 15, 2015
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    I sure appreciate everyone's input and experience. In the future I want to build a small outbuilding to serve as a walk in brooder, but for now I just need something to make do. I like the idea of the MHP because it does seem like it would be more "natural" though I'm not sure I'm sold on the argument that heat lamps are necessarily an extreme where heat is just blazing down on them. If used correctly, they offer an area where chicks can go to get warm but also places where they can escape the heat. They have worked well for me but like I said, the risk of fire is concerning. Since I need a couple heat sources for 20 chicks I may try the Brinsea again, paired with the MHP, and see what they like better.
     
  8. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    [​IMG]
    This happened just a few miles from our house this spring.

    And recently right here on BYC there are two separate threads, posted within a day of each other, written by folks who lost their coops to heat lamps.


    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/1145876/dont-use-heat-bulbs

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/1145874/only-joined-after-my-coop-burnt

    Good people like @Ridgerunner and many others use heat lamps very successfully in their coops and are extremely happy with their successes. They have been at this game a long time and have perfected the art of raising chicks outside using the lamps and a huge dose of common sense. I have relied on Ridgerunner's advice for a long time, and will continue to do so! I am probably BYC's biggest advocate of brooding with Mama Heating Pad.....but I know full well it's NOT the only way to raise chicks. It's just the best way I have found for me, and it's a good option for those of us who just aren't as confident in the safety issues with heat lamps.

    Let's be brutally honest here - most of us in the beginning are enthusiastic and tend to "overprotect" our chicks - almost to death in some cases. I was one of those - oh, my goodness! Got the chicks, slapped that light up over the brooder in the house and thought I was the next Martha Stewart of chicken raising. I was wrong, and the burn on my then 8 year old granddaughter's hand was all the proof I needed. All she did was lean in to see the chicks in their brooder, the lamp shifted, and without thinking she grabbed it to stabilize it. I was RIGHT THERE.....yet it happened so doggone fast I couldn't do a thing to prevent it. I was doing the right things...the lamp was secured with more than the cord and clamp, she wasn't in with the chicks without supervision, and still she had to turn to me with tears in her eyes and an ugly red mark on her palm. Yeah, I was done.

    So now I raise chicks outdoors from the start with Mama Heating Pad and I've been extremely happy. As has been said, you aren't trying to warm the SPACE, just the chicks. They self-regulate and do a very good job of that, just as they would under a broody. My chicks are raised outside in a brooder pen in the run with Mama Heating Pad. Springtime is chick time, but here in northwestern Wyoming our springtime temps are still in the teens and twenties. One year we got our last snowfall in June. The day this video was taken I think it was in the low 20s. With the exception of the roos, which ended up in the freezer, every one of them is still out there providing eggs and thriving. Whatever you decide to do, BYC is a great source of information - some of it admittedly conflicting - but all of it with one goal in mind and that is to raise healthy flocks. Whether you choose to raise with a heat lamp or with a heating pad, if you never lose sight of that goal you'll do just great! [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
     
  9. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    Thanks for the back-up on the need to be careful using electricity, Blooie. No matter what method you use, there are advantages, disadvantages, and risks involved.

    I’ll copy an excerpt from something I found on the internet and my source on the risks of heating pads. I’ve seen posts from you where you mentioned this risk so I’m don’t feel I’m picking on heating pads, just pointing out that no matter what method you use, there are risks. Be careful whatever you do.

    http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/Safety/AlertsandNotices/PublicHealthNotifications/ucm242866.htm

    Every year, the CPSC receives an average of eight death reports associated with the use of heating pads.1 Most deaths are caused by heating pad fires and involve persons over the age of 65. Heating pad fires can occur when broken or worn insulation of the electric wires in the heating pad causes the pad to ignite or when electrical cords are cracked or frayed. CPSC estimates that more than 1,600 heating pad burns are treated each year in hospital emergency rooms.
     
  10. Blooie

    Blooie Team Spina Bifida Premium Member

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    You are so right....care is needed needed no matter what kind of heat source we used for chicks. I can't even imagine what a nervous nilly I'd be if we were still back in the day of using kerosene heaters in chicken coops! <shudder> I try to be cautionary despite my obvious advocacy of Mama Heating Pad. I always warn people NOT to use the heating pad that's hidden behind the towels and the smelly soaps in the back of the linen closet. I recommend that they buy a new one so that the heating elements haven't become brittle with age. Being married to an electrician for the past 48 years (Gulp, how has he put up with me??) has pounded into my head common sense about broken heating elements, frayed wires, properly rated cords for the job, and the mistake of not covering connections against the elements when using appliances outdoors. With that in mind, I always recommend the two pads that have proven safe and reliable for me and for the others who use MHP.

    I've been thinking about it since I read your post. I guess my thought process (right or wrong) about the heating pads is that they are totally designed to allow things to come into contact with them...clothing, furniture, etc. - while anything coming into contact with a heat lamp is ignition and fuel. My daughter works in a long term care facility, so I'm well aware of the risks of heating pad contact against fragile skin. It's not allowed there, and it's not smart anywhere for anyone of any age. Period. Just my own experience has taught me that too.....after my neck surgery I was taking pain pills, fell asleep with the heating pad on my shoulders, and it was the stinging from that concentrated heat which roused me enough to get that puppy off and right darn now. A lot of the elderly or infirm who are burned by pads don't have that mobility or suffer from compromised nerve function that doesn't always tell them when they've gone past that point. Hence a lot of the the incidences of heating pad related burns. And I've never understood people who use them on infants or children who are almost captive under them.

    Chicks are irrepressibly mobile and perfectly able to get away from the pad if it's getting too warm. They are also remarkably inventive in ways to get some of that heat without being in direct contact with the pad. I've never had a chick injured. To be sure, between every batch of chicks the pad is checked before it's fired back up. We check wires, turn the pad on and leave it for a bit, then check to make sure there no hot spots, make sure the pad is clean, and make sure the outlet it's going into hasn't accumulated dust inside. My run is hardwired for power now, so I don't use an extension cord anymore, but when we did we'd use either one of the those clamshells or electrical tape to cover the connection between the pad and the extension cord. Guess that's about all we can do. Most of today's heating pads are made to be used with moist heat, so I don't worry about humidity and such with it.

    In the end it all comes down to our comfort zones, doesn't it? Any heat source is a potential fire risk. I'd just far rather have that risk OUTSIDE and not in the room down the hall in the house. And I love that we can sit here at our computers and help a new chicken owner see two people with totally different methods and thought processes sharing information like this!
     
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