Ameraucana Chick Saga Part III: Outgrowing the Brooder

Note: Well, it’s only been 10 months since my last post 😅!! As you can imagine our chicks are now a fully fledged flock! Life happened, and I had to put posting on the back burner until things settled down. And now we’re back! I’ll be doing several posts over the next week to get you up to speed on our fine flock, with plans afterwards to update bi-monthly, on the 1st and 15th of each month.

Outdoor adventure

As our flock grew, they became less interested in basking in the warmth of the heat lamp, and more interested in hopping, scratching, and pecking their way through the brooder in the cutest mass of destruction you have ever seen. We stopped using puppy pads at this point, (3 weeks,) because the chicks had started tearing them to shreds and flipping them over, which defeated their purpose in acting as a “better barrier” between droppings and the pool. Having just moved into a new home, we had TONS of packing paper left over, and this proved to be a cheap and effective alternative.

Starter Perch

It was obvious that the chicks needed more stimulation throughout the day to keep them occupied and healthy. We introduced a DIY chick-sized perch. We used a 1″ spade bit to bore two holes 6″ apart in two scrap pieces of 2×4. We inserted the end of a 1″ diameter dowel into each of the holes in one 2×4. We then capped the end other end of the dowels with the other 2×4. (see the picture to the right.) The chicks enjoyed learning to balance on their new toy, although it was a few more weeks before they would begin sleeping on it.

IMG_20170606_122621We also began to expose the chicks to the great outdoors with trips to the backyard. We were careful to keep them corralled in areas where there was plenty of shade, but with some exposure to sun if they wanted to warm up. At first we used some flattened cardboard boxes as a sort of pen to keep the chicks together. While it worked well at confining the chicks, it wasn’t very predator proof. which meant we needed to constantly be watching them, and couldn’t let them enjoy being outside for as long as they could have liked.

Ultimately we switched to using a large dog kennel so that the chicks could remain outside for extended periods of time. This solution worked extremely well. The chicks were safe and had plenty of space. That is until we reached… CHICKEN PUBERTY!


Ok, so technically it wasn’t chicken puberty, because the chicks were still small and no where near becoming sexually mature. They were starting to get their first set of adult feathers! I just thought they looked like the chicken equivalent of gawky, growing, human teenagers at this point. Still cute… but in an ugly sort of way 😁 (Also if you are thinking the center barred “pullet” looks a lot like a rooster in the making.. you’re right.)

IMG_20170620_153320At this point (4-5 weeks) we began to let the chicks explore the yard under careful supervision. They had their first experiences of catching and eating their own prey (grubs and worms) and we could really see their flock mentality at work. We also started to get pretty good at chicken herding. We did have one harrowing experience where someone got under the fence and on to the horse property next door. 😖 Fortunately she survived and is happily laying eggs today! Never underestimate a chick’s ability to squeeze through tight spaces!


The chicks also received an updated perch, which some began to sleep on.

But even with the increase of indoor and outdoor stimulation. We felt like we were just barely keeping up with the flock’s spatial needs. We were fortunate that even with all 13 birds cooped up together, we weren’t having any problems with aggressive plucking or fights, and we really didn’t want to invite problems in by keeping everyone in closer quarters than was healthy.

And so we hit the UT version of craigslist in search of our flock’s next home.

More on that next time!

Thanks for reading!

Ameraucana Chick Saga Part II: The Arrival

NOTE: I apologize for the delay between the last post and this one. We were moving, and it took some time to get settled and to get our internet up. Thankfully we are back on track! I hope you enjoy the second chapter in our chicken journey!

Two days after moving into our new home, it was time to introduce thirteen feathered friends into theirs.

IMG_20170605_223046Choosing where to set up our brooder was the the first important decision. We opted to set up shop in the unfinished portion of our basement. We knew the temperature of this room would remain constant since it has no windows and is underground. This meant we wouldn’t need to worry about over/under heating the girls as the temperature fluctuated throughout the day; the brooder would be at a controlled temperature 24/7. Another pro is that since it’s in the basement, the delicate aroma of chick poo is a good distance away.

IMG_20170605_221842We purchased our chicks from a western co-op chain, IFA. We opted to add a bit of variety to our flock, and in addition to purchasing nine Ameraucanas, we bought two Buff Orpingtons, and two Barred Plymouth Rocks. Now, to be honest, I don’t think that several of the chicks are true Ameraucanas, but more on that later.

Keeping the young chicks warm during transporting was an important consideration. The simple solution was to lay a heat pad in a cardboard box, with a towel on top of it.


Untitled designI had read somewhere that you should also turn the AC off and let the car warm up as you drive. Speaking just from my own experience, I wouldn’t recommend that. We had an issue with one of our chicks getting OVERheated. When we placed her in the brooder, we noticed she was really struggling to walk. We knew it was common for chicks not to make it, but the prospect was still a sad one. Fortunately, she was still expressing interest in water and feed, and after about 30 minutes, she resumed acting normal, and hasn’t had any problems since.

IMG_20170601_140308There were no other incidents with moving the chicks in, and it was ridiculously fun watching them get used to their new surroundings. The chicks were between 2 days and 10 days old, and depending on their age, had some behavioral differences. The younger chicks were primarily interested in eating and then finding a cozy spot to sleep, while the older ones were much more excited about exploring every inch of the brooder. Although the larger chicks certainly made it clear they were in charge, We have yet to see any major pecking issues.

IMG_20170605_221813As adorable as they were, we exercised a LOT of self restraint while handling the chicks at this delicate stage. Chicks are very susceptible to being over-stressed their first few weeks, especially when there is no mother hen to run back to. We chose to wear gloves, and only handle them in the evening when it was time to clean the brooder. Despite this seemingly limited interaction, the chicks are now quite used to being picked up. And although it isn’t their favorite thing in the world, most of them tolerate it quite well.

IMG_20170605_221902The last thing I want to touch on has to do with our cleaning routine for the chicks. It is so important for the health of the chicks to keep the brooder clean and their water and feed fresh. I typically check to make sure the feed and water dispensers are clear of debris at least twice a day, and in the evening, we replace the soiled puppy pads, as well as the aspen shavings we chose to include. Occasionally, someone will have an BM that lands and dries on the kiddie pool. Fortunately it is easy to carry it outside and hose off.

IMG_20170605_221444The nightly cleanup routine also gives us an excellent opportunity to have an in depth look at each chick. and make sure there aren’t any health or hygiene issues. For example, sometimes young chicks will have a buildup of feces that blocks their vent, and keeps them from being able to excrete. This is an (understandably) life threatening occurrence, and is something which needs to be checked for daily. Other things to watch for are energy level, feet and leg issues, and growth rate relative to their peers.

We have LOVED raising the chicks and watching them grow through this first stage. In fact, something I’ve gained an appreciation for is just how FAST they grow and develop from day to day! But more on that in our next post. In the mean time, here’s a photo of a cute buff bum to tide you over until then. Enjoy the peep show! (;


Ameraucana Chick Saga Part I: Building a Better Brooder

Ok, confession time.

When I say, “building a better brooder” what I really mean is, “build a cheap and easy brooder.”

Basically I’m assuming that if you are reading this you don’t currently own chickens. Or a coop. Or a farm. And I’m assuming that because as I write this, I don’t have any of those things either.

But all of that is about to change.

20 (1)Whilst aboard the emotional roller coaster that is purchasing a first home, we decided life wasn’t exciting enough, and could use the addition of 12 fuzzy, future egg layers. Specifically, future SEA BLUE EGG layers.

That’s right folks. Blue eggs. Because white eggs are boring.

These beautiful blue beauties come from the Ameraucana Chicken Breed. A beautiful bird whose manifold qualities include
-Cold Hardiness
-Blue eggs
-Beard-Like feather tufts known as “muffs.” (Google it.)

We’ll get into this particular breed in a later post. But today, lets focus on what you came here for: the brooder box!

If you are planning on consistently hand-raising chicks year to year, it’s a good idea to invest in a sturdy, multi use brooder. This is not that brooder. This brooder is for those of you who, like me, plan on raising very few batches of chicks, and need a cheap, functional option. It’s a good idea to start this project a few days before your chicks come. I found inspiration for this setup from this post by The Easy Homestead and this pre-made lamp stand. I made a few modifications that I’m quite pleased with, so without further ado…


For this brooder, I used a plastic kiddie pool as the base, cardboard boxes for the walls, and a simple, PVC structure as a support for the heat lamp and other hanging objects.

DIY Brooder 2

A quick note here. Be sure to do your research before bringing your chicks home. It will make a life and death difference. There are a lot of sources out there. I found these info graphics from Chase Hatchery to be a good starting point. I’ll go into more detail about the basic chick supplies a little later, but for now, here’s what you’ll need for this project:

Brooder Supplies

  • One 45″ plastic kiddie pool
  • 150″x45″ of Cardboard
  • Nine 4′ lengths of 3/4″ PVC pipe
  • Four 2′ lengths of 3/4″ PVC pipe
  • Four 3/4″ 3-way PVC elbow fittings
  • Four 3/4″ PVC 90° elbow fittings
  • Two 3/4″ PVC Tee fittings
  • Duct tape
  • Box Cutter

1. Start by building the PVC support for your heat lamp.

Base: Start by building a square with four of the 4′ PVC lengths and the four 3-way PVC elbow fittings. Insert another 4′ length of PVC into the remaining opening on each for the 3-way elbows.

Top: Fit two tee fittings onto either end of one 4′ length of PVC. Insert a 2′ length of PVC into the two remaining holes on both tees. Finish the 2′ lengths off with an elbow fitting.

Attach the top of your PVC structure to the base by fitting the elbow pieces to the top of each of the four upright poles.

Untitled design

2. Start adding your chick supplies. It is easiest to set up your heat lamp, bedding, and feeders before you assemble the cardboard walls.

Basic Chick Supplies and notes:

  • 250 Watt Heating Lamp – hang your lamp ~24″ off the ground in the center of your brooder.
  • RED heat lamp bulb – Red light reduces aggressive pecking and makes it easier for the chicks to sleep at night.
  • Thermometer(s) – As cozy as they look, a chick’s feathers are insufficient to keep them warm their fist 6-8 weeks of life. For the first week of your chick’s life, your brooder temperature needs to be kept between 90-95°F. Each week the temperature will need to be lowered about 5° until it reaches 70°F. At this point the heat lamp can be removed unless the temperatures outside the brooder are significantly cold. Keep an eye on your chicks throughout this process. They will be the best indicator of whether or not they are too hot/cold. Watch their behavior and adjust your heat lamp accordingly. If they are all clustered in the center, they are too cold. If they are spread far apart, trying to stay away from each other and the lamp, they are too hot. If they are evenly dispersed throughout the brooder, they are just right.
  • Chick Starter feed – NEVER feed chicks scratch
  • Bedding – Aspen shavings or sand are both safe options. BUT if you are hatching your chicks yourself, or if you are bringing them into your brooder at just a few hours old, you need to provide a grip-able surface for the new chicks so they can learn to walk. We elected to use puppy pads.
  • Water/feed containers – Chicks need to be given access to clean food and water immediately. Provide one 24″ feeder and one 1 Gallon chick fountain for every 25 chicks.
  • Chick Electrolytes – If your chicks are being shipped in, or if you will be transporting them to your home, they will be under a significant amount of stress. This stress can be lethal. In lay-man’s terms, electrolytes help the chicks to combat their stress and calm down quickly.

3. Assemble your cardboard walls.

Prepare your cardboard by lightly scoring it every 3-4″ with a box cutter. The idea is to cut though just the top layer so as to allow the sheets of cardboard to bend easily. This step is important because you need the cardboard to fit snugly around the kiddie pool, leaving no gaps which chicks could accidentally fall into.

Wrap the cardboard the around the full circumference of the kiddie pool. Enlist a friend to help you pull the cardboard tight and hold it while you duct tape it into place.

Cut a few flaps into your cardboard walls to provide adequate access to your chicks

carboard walls

4. Calibrate heat

As I mentioned before, it’s a good idea to start building your brooder a few days before you are ready to bring chicks home. That way you can adjust it to the perfect, consistent temperature before your chicks arrive. It can take several hours for the air in your brooder to become equally heated, and you don’t want to accidentally over or under-heat your chicks.

Attach your thermometer(s) to the inside of the cardboard walls near the base. Ideally they will be high enough that curious chicks can’t pull them down. I also placed a thermometer on the floor directly under the heat lamp, just for the calibration, so I could get a more accurate reading. Once your brooder has consistently remained at your desired temperature for 24 hours, you are ready to add your chicks!


Our chicks will be coming sometime this week, and we couldn’t be more excited. Stay tuned for post #2 in our Ameraucana Saga!