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any off-grid brooder ideas?

Kari Gunnlaugsson
volunteer

Joined: Jun 22, 2011
Posts: 308
    
    8
I'd really like to get a bunch of turkey poults this spring. Or if they are going to be too fusy, then maybe more chickens for meat birds. The turkey poults sound pretty fussy for temperature, it's a bit intimidating.

Springs can be chilly up here but you need the full season to finish a turkey by thanksgiving. So I need a decent brooder that doesn't suck up a ton of electricity.
I would love to hear any solutions the off-grid crowd has came up with for this.

The profit margins are pretty narrow, so it's got to be simple and cheap or it will be too hard on the bottom line. I was thinking of something well insulated and inside my hoophouse. Maybe some wood fired contraption with a bunch of rocks piled over for mass? Let the birds thermoregulate by getting closer or further away. Or super insulated brooder box and heat from a well vented kerosene lamp? It will have to be an easily enlarged space as they grow up...

It could still be dipping down to freezing by then.

thanks...
P Thickens


Joined: Jan 15, 2012
Posts: 177
Location: Bay Area, California (z8)
A hen?
Kari Gunnlaugsson
volunteer

Joined: Jun 22, 2011
Posts: 308
    
    8
If it was just for me that would be the perfect permaculture solution. I'm trying to make a living off my farm. At least fifty turkeys or a hundred chickens to make it worthwhile. And started early and about at the same time so they will finish on pasture before the cold weather sets in. I will be trying to gradually build up some breeding stock of heritage breed birds so that I can at least do my own incubating. It might not be the right question for this forum, but there seemed to be lots of off-grid folk here so i thought i'd ask.
thanks...
Cj Verde
pollinator

Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 3134
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  54
I'm pretty sure there is another thread about this but...

Two years ago I brooded 10 poults in my off grid house for about 2 weeks. The 1st week I had them in a 20 gallon fishtank with firebricks at the bottom to hold heat and hooked the heat lamp up to a thermostat:
Turkeys 3 days old
They all survived.

I kept a few over the winter and they did their own brooding. 1 female -----> 16 eggs --------> 8 poults -------> 4 surviving turkeys.
Turkey Hen & Poults 3
I thought I could do better and collected the next round of eggs and I forget how many hatched but they all died within 2 weeks. Maybe I didn't keep it warm enough that go around.

If you are trying to do 50 then get regular broad breasted in July. You wont have to give them much heat and they will have plenty of time to finish by November.

Your other option is to get a heritage breed and keep at least 3 females overwinter.


My project thread
Agriculture collects solar energy two-dimensionally; but silviculture collects it three dimensionally.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I also have had high mortality with turkeys. I think they are much more difficult to raise than chickens, though I prefer turkeys to chickens. Some folks say Muscovies are easy to raise and good at raising their own babies. I might try them next year.


Idle dreamer

Kari Gunnlaugsson
volunteer

Joined: Jun 22, 2011
Posts: 308
    
    8
Turkeys might be difficult. But the marketing would be so much easier.

I probably should have just said 'no electricity'...I don't think I can pull off a heat lamp. There are some low wattage ones out there I am looking into. From what I'm finding, it looks like some kind of masonry wood heater was used in the old days.

And then there is the stage where they aren't fully feathered and hardy for pasture, but too big for a brooder.

I think i have a few Narragansets lined up, will try to keep breeding stock of these. We have a hatchery that does Bronzes (not the real ridley bronze, but a nice bird)...For this year I might try to top up my numbers with those.

Of course our Thanksgiving is the second monday in October which doesn't help, and springs don't get real warm..
P Thickens


Joined: Jan 15, 2012
Posts: 177
Location: Bay Area, California (z8)
Kari Gunnlaugsson wrote:Turkeys might be difficult. But the marketing would be so much easier.

I probably should have just said 'no electricity'...I don't think I can pull off a heat lamp. There are some low wattage ones out there I am looking into. From what I'm finding, it looks like some kind of masonry wood heater was used in the old days.

And then there is the stage where they aren't fully feathered and hardy for pasture, but too big for a brooder.

I think i have a few Narragansets lined up, will try to keep breeding stock of these. We have a hatchery that does Bronzes (not the real ridley bronze, but a nice bird)...For this year I might try to top up my numbers with those.

Of course our Thanksgiving is the second monday in October which doesn't help, and springs don't get real warm..


In the old days they would put the box of chicks under/next to the wood-fired stove.
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
Some old-timers in that situation just kept small pot bellied stoves for their poultry house and kept a fire in it. Even my old coop has a hole cut in the roof for a stovepipe and I found a FatBoy stove out there, so I can only put 2 and 2 together.
Cj Verde
pollinator

Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 3134
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  54
Kari Gunnlaugsson wrote:robably should have just said 'no electricity'...I don't think I can pull off a heat lamp.


I did do it off grid but not with a regular heat lamp. I used a 75 watt bulb for probably the 1st week. And, like I said, it was hooked up to a thermostat so it turned off after the set temp was reached.

My house is pretty warm though.
Matthew Brittain


Joined: Aug 10, 2011
Posts: 12
If you have access to a lot of biomass perhaps you could pull a Jean Pain style compost heap for a heat source. Have the heated pipe wrap a few times around the frame or even under a section that they could huddle on when cold or leave if they felt uncomfortable.
I would think a good enough pile would last long enough to see them through. And as you wouldn't be using the water from within the pipe, it should be a relatively stable heat source with little input from you beyond the initial constuction.
I guess the flaw would be that it would take a little while to get up to temperature, but if you only need it for a short period of time perhaps the pile could be made of 'faster burning' materials. It would take some tinkering, but that's half the fun of coming up with new methods.
Katy Whitby-last


Joined: Apr 18, 2011
Posts: 151
Location: Scotland
What you need is a hay box brooder, also known as cold brooding. There is a really good explanation here http://naturalchicken.blogspot.co.uk/2010/09/cold-brooding-chicks.html of how to construct one.
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
Katy Whitby-last wrote:What you need is a hay box brooder, also known as cold brooding. There is a really good explanation here http://naturalchicken.blogspot.co.uk/2010/09/cold-brooding-chicks.html of how to construct one.


I am currently using a hay bale brooder(not the style shown in the pics on that website) and the chicks are currently being weaned off the light at day #8. For the past three days they have only had light at night, though they are in an open air, outside brooder space and the temps have been down into the 30s for some of these nights. Daytime lows have been in the 50s, so they don't stay in the brooder area during the day, but come out to an open, bigger space on the grass floor of the coop.





Outside the bedding, brooder area during the day and intermingling with their guardian roo:

Walter Jeffries


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 907
    
  18
We aren't off grid but I loath using heating pads, lights and electricity if I don't have to. Fire risk. We make brooder hovers out of foil-bubble-bubble-foil insulation. It is essentially a box with no bottom. We make a wire frame inside to support it and hang it with the bottom edge a couple of inches up from the ground so the poultry can go in and out as they like. They generate a lot of eat and this works even in our cold norther Vermont mountain climate in the middle of the winter.

Cheers

-Walter
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop

Check out our Kickstarting the Butcher Shop project at:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sugarmtnfarm/building-a-butcher-shop-on-sugarmountainfarm
Cj Verde
pollinator

Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 3134
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
    
  54
This is for day old chicks? Have you taken the temp in there?
Could you post a pic?

Thanks
Crystal DeCarlo


Joined: Apr 08, 2012
Posts: 1
Hot water bottles, that's what I use. I raised a batch of 30+ chicks last year and a batch of 11 ducklings using only hot water bottles.
During the first couple weeks I keep a hot bottle in the brooder all the time, then depending on the weather I gradually decrease the amount of time I replenish the hot water till I am only using it at night. If the brooder is pretty big, I place a Tupperware tote on its side and put the hot water bottle(wrapped in a towel) in there and hang a towel of the most of the front of the tote to retain the heat inside. The chicks learn pretty quickly to go in the box for warmth.

If you have good size PV system, try looking at the Brinsea Eco-glow, it's not a terrible energy hog. Brinsea also makes a incubater that pretty energy efficient as far as those things go.

Also, consider ducks...they are much more hardy and feather out faster, they can go outside after 3 weeks or so. Much sooner then chicks. The draw back to ducks is that they are MESSY, and a bit harder to market if you are doing it for profit.

I wish I had some broodies, would love to let a mamma(or a couple) do all the work
Walter Jeffries


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 907
    
  18
Cj Verde wrote:This is for day old chicks? Have you taken the temp in there? Could you post a pic?


I'm not running that incubator this year so I can't get pics but it's simply a box of the foil-bubble-bubble-foil with no bottom and then a few inches of the bedding. Very simple. Temperature is hot - body heat. It works great for day old and beyond. Keep raising the brooder hood as they get older. If you don't raise it then it gets too wet in there.

The hot water bottles works well too. We've used that especially with piglets who needed ICU care.

Cheers,

-Walter Jeffries
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop

Check out our Kickstarting the Butcher Shop project at:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sugarmtnfarm/building-a-butcher-shop-on-sugarmountainfarm
Jay Green


Joined: Feb 03, 2012
Posts: 587
    
    8
My rooster just took over the job of brooding the CX chicks~no light needed now at 2 wk. of age:



 
 
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