It’s Chick Day!

Chick day came and went with no complications, which is not usually my style. Maybe I’m slowly getting better at this! Let’s talk about what we did.

Chicks under a heat lamp at the store

We finished building our brooder earlier this week so there was none of the panic that I usually experience on these days. Thank goodness! Here’s our setup.

Since we were prepared, all we had to do today was add the bedding, plug in the heater, fill the feeder and waterer, and add the chicks. We are using fine pine shavings, un-medicated chick starter feed, and tap water with a splash of apple cider vinegar (ACV).

Chicks in our DIY brooder

(We’ll be posting a DIY build video of our brooder as soon as we get done editing it.)

We bought 8 Amberlink pullets (female chicks) with the understanding that we may lose one or two. And if we don’t, we’ll sell off our extras to improve our bottom line. We’re aiming for 6 hens at maturity.

When placing chicks into their new home, most experts recommend that you dip each chick’s beak in the water before setting them down. This is particularly important when mail ordering chicks since everything is brand new to them. Our chicks came from our local farm store and had already been introduced to the idea so it probably wasn’t necessary. But we did it anyway because we wanted to show everybody what it looks like.

The Numbers

Brooder Materials – $40

Item Quantity Cost/ea Total Notes
50 Gal Plastic Tote 1 $19.97 $19.97
Hardware Cloth 1/2″ 1 $11.87 $11.87 2′ x 10′ 19ga
1x2x8′ 1 $1.29 $1.29
Wood screws 6×3/4″ 1 $1.24 $1.24 Pack of 18
Wood screws 8×3″ 2 $2.48 $4.96 Pack of 4

Brooder Equipment – $58

Item Quantity Cost/ea Total Notes
Chick feeder base 1 $2.55 $2.55
Chick waterer base 1 $1.50 $1.50
Quart feed/water top 2 $2.40 $4.80
Heat Plate 1 $49.00 $49.00 12″x12″

Livestock and Consumables – $43

Item Quantity Cost/ea Total Notes
Chick feed, unmed 1 $8.60 $8.60 25lb bag
ACV 1 $5.62 $5.62 Bragg, 1 liter
Bedding 1 $4.99 $4.99 Fine shavings
Chicks 8 $2.99 $23.92 Amberlink pullets

Total cost to get started: $141

What it means

Alrighty. So far we’ve spent $141. If we’re aiming for $3/dozen, we just “spent” our first 47 dozen eggs.

YIKES!

If all of our hens start laying at 26 weeks and we get an average of 4 eggs per day from our flock it will be week 46 when we hit our target average price.

Wow, that’s humbling… And we haven’t even built a coop yet!

But it’s early in the game. Very early. I am daunted, but not defeated. We can do this!

And there’s always a way do do it cheaper if you’re willing to put in some extra time and effort.  Let’s look at a few areas we could have done it differently and briefly discuss why we did it the way we did it.

Ways To Save (Doin’ it on-the-cheap!)

Brooder $40 –> Almost Free

We could have simply gone with a cardboard box with trash bags underneath it.  A cardboard box can usually be found free from somewhere nearby, and we always have trash bags on hand. With very little effort and some duct tape a box can satisfy all of our requirements.

Seems like a slam dunk! Why didn’t we do that?

In my experience cardboard quickly becomes an unmanageable, stinky, slimy mess. Sure, when you’re done you can just throw it away. But we’re in this for the long game and the brooder we built will last us for batch after batch of chicks.

Brooder Equipment $58 –> $25

We could have used a heat lamp instead of a heat plate and saved ourselves $30 to $35. People have been using them for years to good effect. Really this comes down to a personal comfort level.

Why didn’t we do that? Two reasons.

Reason 1: Fire hazard. Our brooder is set up in the house, we have kids, and we have cats. Ideally we would keep both the kids and the cats out of the room with the brooder, but sometimes life just doesn’t work that way. I’d much rather put myself 10-12 dozen eggs further from our goal than risk a fire.
Reason 2: I despise fiddling with heat lamps. They always seem to need adjusting and I always manage to burn myself at least once.

So we could have saved ourselves as many as about 25 dozen eggs.

TL;DR

It cost us about $141, or 47 dozen eggs, to get our flock started. We could have done it for as little as about 22 dozen eggs. We chose to go ahead and spend the money because 1) safety and 2) homesteading is a marathon, not a sprint.
Trying to save money up front can cost much more down the road. And we don’t want the house to burn down.


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