Wednesday, April 24, 2013

There's No Place Like Home

With the temperatures finally becoming spring-like here in northwestern Wisconsin (it may get to 70 degrees on Sunday!), I took advantage of the impromptu snow day yesterday.  We got 8 inches of heavy wet snow, which knocked down several huge branches off my lovely pines--they are still leaning very precariously against the trunk, but hopefully will be dealt with soon--and after my work schedule got completely messed up due to late starts and cancellations, I threw in the towel and took a work day at home instead.

I may never get done with this school year, with all the days I'll be making up in mid-June!

But it was a great day to work outside.  The clouds parted, out came the sun, and the temperatures were right around 50 degrees.  The forecast for the rest of the week looks wonderful, so it was time to get cracking on the outdoor brooder for the fast growing chicklets.  They were far outgrowing their temporary "tub" in the bathroom, and it was creating a host of other issues as well.  I don't talk about it often on the blog, but I have terrible asthma due to repeated bouts of pleurisy and pneumonia.  And this past February, I had a bad run with pleurisy so this spring, my lungs are extra "tetchy" and having those chicks in the bathroom was making it very hard to breathe.  While I was using old newspaper as bedding, chickens do create very fine dust all on their own--and with chicks, you get little bits of fluffy down shed as well.  It was getting to the point that just ducking in to use the potty was leaving me groping for my inhaler.  The final straw was last night, when I woke up at 3 AM hearing a really odd noise and thought it was the storm.  Turns out it was my chest squealing...let me tell you, hauling yourself outta bed to use a nebulizer at 3 AM is no party, so the chicks needed to fly the coop (so to speak) and move on out so I could de-dust my bathroom!

I spent a lovely morning outside, and here's what I built:

Seen from the side, with the nifty feedbox in a handy location

The improved door, which lets me get in and keeps chicks from being squashed in the process!
So it looks fairly utilitarian, but it has several things going for it.  First, it isn't in my bathroom.  Win!  Second, this is the best brooder I've built to date. Given that I don't have particularly grand construction skills, that is saying something.  It is basically three 4x8 sheets of inexpensive chipboard (one the floor atop two pallets, and two being the long sides) screwed firmly into 2x4 lengths fastened into the flooring.  For the sides, it is more 2x4 lengths in the corners, with 4x4 plywood "short walls" connected to them.  A few extra screws, a couple of hinges to allow the door to swing open, some chicken wire across the top and a sandwich of ER15 insulation and old quilts on top of the whole shebang to keep the heat in and the drafts out, and there you go: the latest and greatest homemade brooder.  Last but not least, it is really large--much, much larger than the galvanized tank the chicks had been in for the past week and a half--and they will love checking out the space.  That is, they will love it after they stop acting like it is going to murder them.  You wouldn't believe the shriek-peeping going on in there!

Currently there is one heat lamp with a 250 watt bulb in there, which seems to be making it more than warm enough for the chicklets.  They have a bed of 6 inch deep wood shavings to keep them extra cosy, and before I go to bed for the night I'll go out with an additional quilt to toss over the top and keep them toasty for the night.  I have a feeling I'll need to pull off some layers before I leave for the day tomorrow, or I'll have some hot chicks!  For now, though, they are getting used to having a much larger world to explore.

Aww, warm chicklets in their house (not my bathroom).

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