Wool Hen: Or, How to raise chicks with NO HEAT LAMP and possibly no supplemental heat at all.

Discussion in 'Raising Baby Chicks' started by MargaretYakoda, Aug 6, 2016.

  1. MargaretYakoda

    MargaretYakoda Chillin' With My Peeps

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    We are told chicks need to be kept at 95 degrees for the first week, dropping 5 degrees every week until the temperature outside matches the temp in the brooder. This is simply not true. But you have to set up a brooder in a way that is COMPLETELY different from the ones everybody who tells you this is used to.


    These chicks at three days old were overnight in 53 degree weather. EIGHT full weeks before all the experts say is OK to leave chicks outside.

    This is my third time experimenting with a wool hen. The lowest age and temp I have had chicks outside in is 40 degrees at three days. The wool hen I used then became too small too fast and I scrapped it. The next wool hen I made was "borrowed" by someone who lived off grid and wanted to raise chicks. It worked so well for her she decided to never return it and cut off all communication with me when I kept asking for it back. [​IMG]

    This is my third wool hen and it is as good or better than the second one.
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    Here is how these chicks spent their first 24 hours:
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    I used a standard Rubbermaid laundry basket. I placed a towel lengthwise across the bottom and over the sides. Then a seed warming mat and then a second towel over the heating mat and the long sides of the basket.
    The "hen" is made of hardware cloth with 2" wool strips suspended every inch along the top. The wool strips are just long enough to almost touch the bottom.
    Wool is important because it breathes and holds heat extremely well.

    [​IMG]

    Three day old chicks. They spent the night in the wool hen. This is only the third time I have tried a wool hen, and these are the youngest chicks I have had outside with no heat lamp. These chicks are three days old and they have been outside 24 hours straight in 60 - 70 degree weather. There are 19 chicks in this brood.

    I wasn't 100% sure how they would do so my first move was to take them all out of the wool hen and put them in my basket to observe them carefully. Every single one was warm and active!

    Right after hatch I had them under the wool strips in a laundry basket. (see previous video) Under towels at the bottom of the laundry basket I had a seedling warming mat. Yesterday I removed the seedling mat just before taking the chicks outside. They don't appear to care.
    Even the chick with the slightly open navel seems to be thriving.

    High temp yesterday was 69°
    Low temp last night was 53°
    Forecast for today is the same.

    I used about 1/4 of a 1" styrofoam panel, a wool blend blanket (100% wool is better but I didn't have any on hand) hardware cloth, duct tape, and an old cat bed/toy/napping thing.

    Chicks. Thriving overnight outside in 53° weather with no broody and no supplemental heat.
     
  2. eHuman

    eHuman Chillin' With My Peeps

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    So once you removed the seed mat it was just like a forest with wool vine strips hanging down that they could wade through?

    How do you keep it clean?
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2016
  3. MargaretYakoda

    MargaretYakoda Chillin' With My Peeps

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    So far I haven't had to clean it. but if you look at the photos you'll see that I constructed it in such a way as I can take the top off and the wool strips out. They could be rinsed off from there, or removed from the hardware cloth and washed separately if you want to.
     
  4. nikkers390

    nikkers390 Chillin' With My Peeps

    I really enjoyed reading your post.
    I tried chicks the "traditional" way with heat lamp. It was ok but the light was on all night and I got no rest listening to chirpy chicks. Then I tried using a heating pad raised off the bottom of the brooder. I really liked that and the chicks thrived. For the first 5 days it was plugged in 24/7 and the chicks went under it when they felt the need. After that, I just kept it plugged for the night and they were weaned off artificial heat by 2-3 weeks old. I like your method because I could use it in my remote outside brooder where I have no power.
    Thank you very much. I will try it in the spring with a new batch of chicks. I live in SW FL and it really only cools down at night in Dec, Jan, Feb. Days are usually 80 degrees.
     
    1 person likes this.
  5. MargaretYakoda

    MargaretYakoda Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have just checked the temperature inside the wool hen. 98 degrees, when it is 55 degrees outside.
    [​IMG]
     
    Mama Bay and SueT like this.
  6. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

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    Thanks for sharing your approach - it's very interesting and food for thought.

    Ct
     
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  7. azygous

    azygous Chicken Obsessed

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    I find your idea innovative and quite workable. It might even work without the electric seed mat in mild climates such as Florida, southern California, south Texas, Bahamas, Pakistan, etc. The "huddle box" with the wool strips would help the baby chicks retain body heat while huddling together. Anything that avoids the dreadful heat lamp is a boon.

    I admire folks who are brave and innovative and willing to experiment to find more natural ways to brood chicks.

    Bravo! [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2016
  8. Beekissed

    Beekissed True BYC Addict

    Excellent experiment! Good thinking and a good alternative to those who wish to brood outside without electricity.
     
  9. BuffOrpington88

    BuffOrpington88 Non-Stop

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    Great post! Thanks for sharing this really interesting and innovative way of brooding. [​IMG]
     
  10. MargaretYakoda

    MargaretYakoda Chillin' With My Peeps

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    :D Thanks. This isn't my original idea, I'm just running with it.

    As for doing this without the heat mat, these guys haven't had supplemental heat since they were in the laundry basket right after hatch. In an area without electricity this could easily be done with jars of warm water wrapped in a towel.

    I didn't hear about a huddle box until yesterday! That would be a spectacular addition to this. And yes, this is basically a huddle box with wool strips. And insulation. The box I have here has one or two inches of styrofoam insulation on five of the six sides of the cube.

    If you were in a place where you expected the temps to get down to freezing or below I would use good foam insulation instead of the cheap styrofoam. I'd also add a couple of huddle boxes in their daytime run area and maybe have their floor made of insulation also.
     

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