The Age-Old Practice of “Cold-Brooding” Baby Chicks

By Dalia Monterroso, The President of Chickenlandia

How did chicken farmers raise baby chicks before electricity?

I often sit and ponder about how things were done long ago. When I say “long ago”, I’m talking about before Amazon Prime, before iPhones, and even *shutters* before Netflix. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m so old I remember when kids’ television shows (think: Loony Toons) only aired on weekdays from 3 to 4 pm and Saturday mornings. We had to watch commercials and even remote controls were futuristic! Alas, sometimes the world I grew up in seems like a dream that never really happened. I wonder how my great-grandmother would feel about the world we live in today. And I wonder…how the heck did she brood baby chicks without an electric heat source?

My first batch of baby chicks!

Cold-Brooding Baby Chicks

When burning questions concerning chickens keep me up at night, I feel have no choice but to go down the chicken rabbit hole so you don’t have to. I must say, though, there really isn’t a ton of information online about brooding chicks without electricity. I found a few blog posts and videos about raising chicks off-grid, but most of what I could find was about heat lamp alternatives that still required power. Even my collection of mid-1900s chicken books mostly focused on wacky contraptions that, to be honest, seem pretty dangerous through my modern lens. But through it all, I did manage to piece together some nifty ways in which baby chicks can survive without heat. The practice is called “cold-brooding,” and if nothing else, understanding how it works could be extremely helpful in the event of a power outage.

Chicken Math gone awry!

More is Better

Chicken keepers like to joke about a phenomenon called “chicken math,” which is the tendency to get more and more chickens despite ominous looks from our spouses. If you decide to cold-brood baby chicks it’s important to know that more is actually better in this case. Under natural circumstances, baby chicks rely on their mother’s fluffy body to keep them warm. The younger chicks are, the more in danger they are of getting chilled. If there is no mother hen or artificial heat source available, baby chicks will naturally turn to each other for warmth and comfort. This is why it is best to have no less than a dozen chicks if you plan to cold-brood. You want them to be able to huddle together so that they can generate enough heat to keep from getting chilled.

Baby chicks hanging out indoors like they got it like that.

Your New Housemates

You may or may not know this already, but baby chicks generate a ton of dust, especially if they are being kept on shavings. Because of this fact, I often suggest keeping your brooder in an area other than inside your house, such as a garage or shed. This is not the best option for cold-brooding, however, because the ambient temperature needs to be at least above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If possible, it’s safest for your chicks to keep your brooder near your family’s heat source, such as a wood-burning stove or fireplace. Keeping them near your heat will be a much-needed layer of protection against becoming too cold.

Keep Them Cozy

I normally say that as long as there are no drafts or other dangers present, the more space you can give baby chicks the better. This is not the case if you are cold-brooding. Having your chicks in a smaller space (not over-crowded, but cozy) makes it easier for their environment to retain heat. In fact, some cold-brooding set-ups consist of two “rooms” for chicks, one small, very insulated compartment for chicks to go into, huddle, and warm up together, and another compartment with feed, water, and some space to stretch their legs. If you have your chicks inside where the ambient temperature is above 70 degrees, one area should work just fine. Many of you likely have a plastic bin that might be too small if you were using artificial heat but is perfect for cold-brooding. Having a smaller brooder will also make it easier for you to insulate their space by placing thick blankets over and around it. Of course, always make sure there is adequate ventilation and clean their brooder often to ward off any ammonia build-up.

Snuggle Bugs

Give them something to snuggle with

Baby chicks can generate heat by snuggling under or near something cozy such as a feather or wool duster, a wool blanket, or even a stuffed animal. Make sure anything you offer them is free of chemicals such as fabric softeners or artificial fragrances, as well as loose strings that they can get caught up in. You also don’t want to use a blanket so heavy that a chick could get stuck beneath it. Above all, use common sense.

If you are the diligent sort, you can wrap a hot water bottle in a towel and offer it to them to warm up near. If you decide to do this, just be sure you are checking it often and make certain it stays warm even overnight. Once your baby chicks get used to a heat source, you want to keep it on offer until they can be slowly weaned from it as they grow into their adolescent feathers.

Mama and LOTS of babies

‘Tis it Really the Season?

If you are considering raising chicks without heat, it’s best to plan that baby-raising according to the seasons. There is an important reason that mother hens normally go broody in the spring: it’s so her babies will hatch during an ideal climate when she doesn’t have to worry about them getting accidentally chilled. Even when you’re brooding chicks indoors, keeping the ambient temperature above 70 degrees can be more difficult and definitely more expensive in the cold of winter. This is why it’s better to hold off acquiring your baby chicks until later in the year after things warm up. In the Southern USA, there are times when the temperatures are so high in the summer that chicks don’t need additional heat even if you wanted to offer it! So, make things easier on yourself and your chickens. Remember: cold-brooding works best during the late spring and summer months.

A healthy, hardy hen.

Bullet-Proof Babies

Baby chicks that survive cold-brooding often grow up to be very hardy and healthy adult chickens. As with most things, though, there are risks to raising chicks this old-fashioned way. It is an unfortunate possibility that you may lose a chick or chicks because they became chilled or otherwise stressed. For this reason, my soft heart will always recommend using a mother hen or artificial heat source. However, I must acknowledge that not every person has access to heat lamps or heat plates, so I wanted to be sure this information was out there in an organized way. If you choose to cold-brood your baby chicks, I’d love to hear about it! Let me know about your experience in the comments.

This article is featured in my online course Chickenlandia’s Backyard Chickens 101 – A Chicken Course for Everyone! Find out more about this easy and interactive course by clicking here.

Chickenlandia’s NEW Book is Now Available for Pre-order!

I can’t believe it’s finally happening…

Words cannot express how excited I am to finally be sharing the pre-order link for my new book Let’s All Keep Chickens! which has been a labor of love for nearly three years. Since I became a Backyard Chicken Educator over a decade ago, I’ve been gathering the information I need to put it all together. For the months that I was actively writing, I would sit in my youngest son’s bed and type away as he fell asleep. That’s how I was able to get this done, by squeezing in moments to write whenever I could. It was hard, but it has been so worth it. You can find all the purchase options for Let’s All Keep Chickens! by clicking the link below:

Pre-order Let’s All Keep Chickens! here.

Aren’t chickens awesome?

This one is different…

At the risk of tooting my own horn, I have to say that I don’t think there’s another chicken book like this one on the market. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many great chicken books, some of which I have used in my own education throughout the years. But Let’s All Keep Chickens! is different because my goal is not only to share with you the ins and outs of chicken keeping but also to inspire you to use this age-old practice to enrich not only your life but also the world. I really mean that! 

The actual release date for the book is February 28th, 2023, just in time for baby chick season! Leading up to the release, I’ll be updating you via social media regarding any interviews I’ll be doing and any in-person events I may be participating in. It’s going to be a very busy and very exciting time, so make sure you’re following me on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Me and Gizmo sporting the same hair LOL

Chicken Keeping is for everyone.

I’m so glad we have found each other on this wild chicken adventure we’re on. I hope you will take a moment to pre-order my book and share the link with your friends. But even if you can’t buy my book or my online course, remember: there’s a ton of FREE content on my YouTube Channel and Podcast. And above all, remember that you are always welcome in Chickenlandia! 

Avian Influenza: Rule One is Don’t Panic

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza is a concern but not an emergency (yet).

Written by Dalia Monterroso, The President of Chickenlandia

You may have heard in the news that Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza has been confirmed in wild birds, factory poultry houses, and backyard flocks in some areas of the United States. To find out if your community has been affected, click this link.

The Poultry Industry is greatly affected by HPAI.

Many folks aren’t aware of this, but Avian Influenza is very common among wild birds. Most of the time, it’s what’s called Low Pathogenic, which means it’s not as dangerous to the wild bird population, poultry houses, or small backyard flocks. Sometimes, however, a circulating strain is very threatening to the poultry industry. Such is the case with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). Learn more about HPAI by clicking here

Waterfowl are at high risk for HPAI.

My job as a Backyard Chicken Educator is to give you the best information I can while empowering you to feel confident in your chicken-keeping journey. I want to let you know that I’ve been through previous HPAI cases in my community and I likely will again in the future. If there are active cases where you live, it’s important to follow the guidelines suggested to you by your local authorities. If your community does not have active cases, following the simple suggestions I offer in this video will help to hopefully avoid all manner of disease in your flock, as well HPAI. Just click the play button below to watch the video.

Good luck out there, friends! Let me know how you’re feeling about all this in the comments.

Everything Your Chicken Coop Needs is RIGHT HERE

Friends, I have a confession. Maybe you already know my dark secret.

Infomercial Measuring GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Yep, it’s true. I cannot operate a staple gun or build ANYTHING myself. It’s only embarrassing because as a Backyard Chicken Educator, I feel that many people expect me to not only be a chicken-care-expert but also a master builder. Aren’t I supposed to be able to build a coop from an old fridge, two pallets, and a milk crate? It’s in my DNA!

I hate to break it to you, but it turns out that while I’m 100% that chicken lady, I have zero percent coop-builder in my ancestry chart. Perhaps it really is true that aliens built the pyramids (my family is Guatemalan).

Alien GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
Wait, what?

But wait, I can STILL HELP

One thing you CAN count on me for is telling you what to look for in a coop. I know the attributes a coop needs to make your life easier. So whether your buying or building, you should check out this video to make sure your coop has all the right things:

Also, I know all the Cool People

I’m also excited to share that even though I don’t build, I have friends that do. I recently discovered a new YouTube channel Sonnie’s Place that has some easy DIY coop-building content I think you will love. Check out these two easy to follow videos for your coop-making research:

She’s got the SERIOUS SKILLZ
Even more skillz!

What about you? Are you a builder, a buyer, or a little bit of both? Let me know in the comments!

Return to Chickenlandia!

Henlo, Friends! It’s been a while. I’ve been in Canada for several weeks, saying goodbye to my dear mother-in-law. You may have seen my video about it on YouTube:

Needless to say, it’s been a rough few weeks for The Chickenlandia Family. But made it through and we continue to move forward while dealing with the huge loss. One comfort in all of this is that my mother-in-law suffered with illness for a long time, so when the time came, she was ready and left on her terms. This was how she would have wanted it.

Ardith Trapman, 1938 – 2019

Last night, we arrived back in Chickenlandia. How wonderful it’s been to be among my flock again! In this reunion, I’m reminded of how fortunate I am in life, and how no matter what the loss, there will always be new beginnings all around me.

Please check out this short return video and make sure to stay tuned on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter! And remember: You’re always welcome in Chickenlandia.

A Chickenlandia Public Service Announcement!

Are you tired of explaining to your friends and family all the wonderful benefits of having chickens? Well, I’ve done all the work for you with this new Chickenlandia Public Service Announcement, Try Chickens! Watch it, share it, and most of all, GET CHICKENS! Just click the play button below. 😉

What are your reasons for keeping chickens? Let me know in the comments below!

The Forbidden Chicken Dance!

Once upon a time in Chickenlandia, The Little King declared his love for dancing. The President of Chickenlandia was a benevolent leader, and so encouraged dancing of all kinds. Well, almost all kinds. There was one chicken dance that was strictly forbidden!

On one fateful day, The Little King of Chickenlandia declared his desire to dance The Serama, The Forbidden Chicken Dance! It was, of course, met with disgust from The President of Chickenlandia.

But that didn’t stop The Little King from bustin’ some serious moves!

Do you think The President of Chickenlandia came around? You’ll have to watch the video to find out!

Henny and Roo January 2019 Unboxing!

Not gonna lie, unboxing videos are one of my favorite things to create. I love love LOVE the whole subscription box thing, but I can’t really indulge in too many of them (I mean they do cost money lol!). Thankfully, Henny and Roo boxes always contain very useful and fun items that I know I’ll use. Just look at this scarf that came in the January 2019 box! Full disclosure: Henny and Roo does sponsor these videos. But I would not do them if I didn’t really believe in this company!

Me killin’ it with my new piece of #chickenfashion!

If you get a chance, please check out our latest unboxing video for January 2019. And don’t forget to use the coupon code CHICKENLANDIA for your own Henny and Roo subscription! Details are on YouTube, in the description of the video. Just click here. <3

What do you indulge in? Have you tried out a chicken subscription box? Let me know in the comments!

The Mealworm Farmher

Last week, I had yet another opportunity to meet an amazing farmer. But she doesn’t actually call herself that; she calls herself a farmher, and I’m totally here for it. Meet Holly Winters, the egg and mealworm farmher.

Holly Winters, Mealworm Farmher and owner of Egg Song Farm

Holly is the owner and operator of Egg Song Farm at The Barn at Holly Farm (she wants to be sure everyone knows that Holly Farm has been around for a really long time and is not named after her). Her story is similar to many I’ve heard before. While working as a Spanish teacher at her child’s preschool, she ran the schools chicken program. From there, her passion for poultry grew to something much more substantial.

The ones who started it all: Chickens!

She now sells her rainbow colored eggs at several surrounding farmer’s markets, and has a thriving live mealworm business that includes not only delivering live mealworms to customers and teaching others how to grow their own, but also collecting their frass (bug poop!) to sell and use as a sought after fertilizer. Who knew?

Happy mealworms chilling out in their substrate

Meeting Holly was a delight. She has an easy and enthusiastic personality that is truly infectious. When she shared all about the different life-cycles of her beetles and the benefits of their frass, her love for what she does was evident. I really had no idea there was such a growing mealworm industry, but I now understand why. Holly did mention that some folks even raise them for their own consumption! I’m not quite there yet, but maybe someday.

Holly Winters (left) and me, Dalia Monterroso, aka The President of Chickenlandia

So, yeah, I made a new awesome chicken friend and I couldn’t be happier about it. Holly and I had a great time geeking out over all things chicken and mealworm, and I think you will too! Just click the play button below to watch the full episode of Chickenlandia Stories: The Mealworm Farmher.

Did you have any idea mealworms were such a growing industry? Let me know in the comments!

Learn more about Farmhers here.

Holly is also an ambassador for Scratch and Peck Feed. Click here to learn more.

The Queen Mother of Chickenlandia

I’m so blessed to have a great relationship with my mom. She’s a very active seventy-six-year-old who travels way more than I have the energy for and still makes time to visit us about twice a year. When she comes, it’s all about making homemade tortillas, cooking amazing soups, and in general being an awesome grandma to my kiddos. That’s why she’s earned title of The Queen Mother of Chickenlandia.

Making homemade tortillas!

When I first came up with the idea to get chickens, my mom was skeptical. The Little King of Chickenlandia was a baby, and I already had my hands full with lots of responsibility. But I was determined to have a hobby that would be only for me, so my mom eventually took on the role of chicken grandma. It’s actually come pretty natural for her, because although chicken tending skipped a generation, my grandmother raised poultry in her native country of Guatemala.

The Little King of Chickenlandia with my Mamita Elsa (my late grandmother)

Turns out the pet-chicken-bug is contagious. A few years ago, my sister, The Pippa of Chickenlandia, adopted a flock of her own. She rivals me in her chicken enthusiasm and has become quite the chicken mama. Now if I can only get my oldest sister and my brother to join the fun (they’ve ensured me this dream will never come true lol).

The Pippa of Chickenlandia’s flock enjoying some Black Friday shopping!

When I was in the hospital giving birth to my youngest, my mom cared for my chickens like they were her own. And since she lives in Texas near my sister, she cares for her flock whenever her family goes on vacation. She’s such a good chicken grandma! Which is honestly not that surprising, because she is a really good mom, too.

The Queen Mother of Chickenlandia with a chicken puppet!

This past week, I got to sit down with my mom and show her how to sprout some grains. If you remember the video we did about fermenting chicken feed, you’ll know that we had a lot of fun. Not only did she learn how to sprout grains, I also presented her with a gift from Chickenlandia! It was just a token of my appreciation for being such a good chicken grandma. To see the gift and to learn how easy it is to sprout grains in a jar, check out my new video on YouTube. Just click the play button below! Remember to like, subscribe, and click the notifications bell so you never miss out on fun Chickenlandia videos.

Do you have a good chicken grandma in your life? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

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