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! 

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.

Follow Your Chicken Dreams!

When I was a kid, I wanted to be everything. I wanted to be an actress, a talk show host, and of course, a rock star. Back then, I didn’t really know what it meant to follow your chickens dreams.

Hardcore chicken rocking out to some sick tunes.

When I grew up and the rock star thing didn’t work out, I moved to Miami Beach, enrolled myself in some film classes, and decided I was gonna become a filmmaker. Eventually, I made my way to Hollywood, where I worked as a personal assistant and then became an administrative assistant at Lifetime Television.

The place where I went to some pretty cool parties.

I had a few copyediting gigs, produced a script reading, and ended up pitching a couple of reality shows to some important people. Alas, when all was said and done, the Hollywood thing didn’t really work out either.  After about five years in Los Angeles, The First Man and I got married and moved to Bellingham, WA to start a family.

Me and the family. <3

I didn’t regret how things turned out, but I confess that I sometimes felt a little empty when I thought about the dreams I once had. That is, until the day I held my first baby chick.

One of my first babies.

On that day, my new dream was born. And you know what? Because I followed my chickens dreams now I’m doing something I really love. I’m making YouTube videos! So I guess I became a filmmaker of sorts after all. Check out my new YouTube video Follow Your Chicken Dreams by clicking the play button below.

So there you have it. My dreams really did come true. And I hope yours do as well. <3

Chickenlandia Stories: Animal Sanctuary

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit an animal sanctuary that is very close to my heart. Some of you that have been following me on Facebook for a while might remember the tragic loss of one of my friends a couple of years ago. What I didn’t say at the time was that her family contacted me to help them find homes for her beloved chickens and sheep. Enter Pasado’s Safe Haven.

Not only did this organization help me find one home for her whole flock of chickens, they also took in her entire herd of sheep, which was no easy task. Her sheep were terrified and didn’t want to go into truck. I’m sure they were confused and missed their mama. That was a hard day. Here’s a photo my friend shared with me before tragedy struck her life.

My friend died in a way that made me question the good of humanity. But when I saw the lengths that the people from Pasado’s Safe Haven went to to help her animals, my faith was restored. That’s why I was so delighted to tour their facility. I hope you’ll take the time to watch the third episode of Chickenlandia’s new series on YouTube, Chickenlandia Stories: Animal Sanctuary. You can do so by clicking the play button below. <3

For more info on Pasado’s Safe Haven or to make a donation: pasadossafehaven.org

To learn more about the tragic story of my friend and her husband click here.

Find me on Facebook: Welcome to Chickenlandia on Facebook

Chickenlandia’s Morning Routine Revealed!

After a very stressful week (see my Facebook and Instagram for details), I wanted to post something fun on Chickenlandia’s new YouTube Channel. Have you always been curious about the Chickenlandia morning routine but were too afraid to ask? In my newest YouTube video, I give a sneak peek into the dark and mysterious world of Chickenlandia.

Okay, so it’s not mysterious at all LOL! But it’s fun and I put some cute music with it. Have a watch! I think you’ll love it. 🙂

What’s your morning chicken and/or other animal routine like? Let me know in the comments!

Chicken Escape! The Story of Little Stinker

About two years ago, The Chickenlandia Family decided to go on a vacation for a few weeks. While we were gone, a good friend took loving care of my flock. It was wintertime and a little snowy, but Chickenlandia was an awesome place for a chickens just the same. At least, that’s how most of them felt.

When we returned from vacation, I realized one of my tiniest chickens was missing! She was new and didn’t even have a name yet. I searched and searched for her, but after a month of being gone, I figured she had succumbed to the elements or a predator. It was kind of a sad time in Chickenlandia.

But of course, the story doesn’t end there. Little Stinker is alive and well and loves living in Chickenlandia. Wanna know the whole story? Check out the second episode of my new Chickenlandia Series, Chickenlandia Stories. I think you’re going to love The Story of Little Stinker.

Philippe’s First Crow!

Bantam Rooster Phillipe

Can Philippe really fill Boy George the Rooster’s fab shoes?

I was so worried when I introduced Philippe to my existing rooster Boy George. You just never know how roosters are gonna get along, if at all. To my surprise, Boy George was friendly to Philippe. In fact, my keen chicken intuition indicated that Boy George was looking to make Philippe the son he never had, and pass down his great Chickenlandia legacy to him. But there was something he needed to observe before he made that final decision. He needed to hear the strength of Philippe’s first crow.

Rooster Boy George

Is Philippe worthy of filling Boy George’s shoes? Boy George has always had the most magnificent crow. Our lucky friends and neighbors can hear him far and wide, singing, “KarmaKarmaKarmaCockadoodleDoo!” or something like that.

Well, it just so happens I was able to catch Philippe’s first crow on video (okay, so it wasn’t his ACTUAL first crow but pretty close!). You can check it out on Welcome to Chickenlandia’s new YouTube Channel! Don’t forget to like the video and subscribe to my channel so you can see all the Chickenlandia fun. <3

(Turn up the sound!)

So, what do you think? Does Philippe’s first crow pass the test?

#ChickenMath and a NEW YouTube Channel!

Go straight to the Vlog!

Some of you that follow me on Facebook and Instagram might remember a sweet little chick I brought home from one of my Scratch and Peck Feeds ambassador events. The event was held on a Saturday, at a farm store that had just received a new batch of baby chicks.

Welcome to Chickenlandia

But one wasn’t doing well. She was listless and peeping. The employees told me they wouldn’t be able to help her the next day, as the store would be closed. Of course I had to take her home! To see a video of me syringe feeding her, click here.

Lucky actually bounced back well once I got her home and started some emergency TLC. With regular feedings of egg yolk and vitamins, she appeared to be making a breakthrough, so I decided to get her a couple of friends. That’s when Poptart and Philippe entered our lives! #ChickenMath, amIright???

Over the next couple of weeks, Poptart and Philippe thrived, but I noticed something wasn’t quite right with little Lucky. She didn’t grow normally and I knew there was something wrong. I tried so hard to save her but she flew over the rainbow bridge. She died very loved by the Chickenlandia family!

Welcome to Chickenlandia

Lucky has gone, but Poptart and Philippe are still here warming our hearts. Even though I already have a rooster, I’m hoping to keep Philippe. If it turns out I can’t, I’ll send him to live with my very good friends over at Barclay Farm Retirement Sanctuary. (If you would like to make a donation to the Barclay Farm, click here!)

So, it’s been a Spring of many ups and a few downs. But I have some very exciting news! My new Youtube Channel has officially launched! Check out this fun vlog about Poptart and Philippe by clicking below. Make sure to like my video and subscribe to my channel for more chicken fun. <3

The First Man’s Surprise

The First Man has a very hectic schedule. A few days ago, he came home for just an hour after working on this super cool train project, and then left for another several days on another trip. Such is the life of The First Man. That, and dealing with my metamorphosis into The President of Chickenlandia.

Dalia Monterroso

The First Man has many amazing qualities, but one of the best is his willingness to support my chicken love. His hard work is one of the main reasons Chickenlandia exists at all. And he always indulges my #ChickenMath tendencies. Which I guess is why he surprised me during his short time home with something amazing! But what is it? Even Missy, The Baby Demogorgon of Chickenlandia, was eager to find out (bottom left).

Surprise!

My kids and I were anxious to open it up and see!

Welcome to Chickenlandia

Okay so there were a few glitches…

But with a little perseverance, we finally got it open!

I could already tell that Teddy, The Chupacabra of Chickenlandia, was waiting for an opportunity to pee on it. So I moved it into the hallway.

Welcome to Chickenlandia

Thank you so much to The First Man for bringing me this rooster from Found Objects in McMinnville, Oregon! I’ve got some big plans for it. Stay tuned and sign up for Chickenlandia News and Stories to see what happens!

 

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