Barn/ Garage/ Chicken Coop
Our ‘barn’ is actually a garage and chicken coop all rolled into one. We keep our lawn mowers, shovels, rakes, and implements of destruction, some hand tools, tarps, chicken feed, hay, and our poultry all in the same building. It’s not an ideal situation, but it works. The barn already had electricity when we moved in, but it needed some updating. We hired a very good friend, William Lego, who also happens to be an awesome electrician, to do the updating and make sure that faulty wiring wouldn’t burn the building to the ground.
That was three years ago. Fast forward to this week, when the power to the barn failed, due to a problem with the cable running underground from the house. I went out to check for eggs, give fresh water, and scatter some scratch for the chickens, when I noticed that the light was out. I checked on our little chicks in the brooder room and they were huddled pathetically under the cold heat lamp. Not a good situation for 2 week old chicks. I attempted to solve the issue by flipping the breaker, unplugging things and trying again, all to no avail.
43 Chicks in the House?
So you know where this is going, right?! I knew that keeping the chicks in the barn would require running an unsafe length of extension cord from the house to the barn, then plugging a heat lamp into it. Not a good idea. So I went inside and got my two brooder boxes set up in the guest room with paper towels, food and water containers, and a Brinsea Brooder in each one. The chicks were packed into cardboard boxes and toted into the house, much to their displeasure. Those poor chicks filled the brooder boxes up with barely any room for them to turn around. The brooders aren’t big enough to fit all the little tikes underneath them anymore, so they started piling on top of each other…threatening to suffocate the ones on the bottom. Tom suggested putting a space heater in the guest room to warm them up. This worked so well that I took the Brinsea brooders out to give the chicks more room to move around. They still weren’t thrilled with these new digs. And they soon had the whole house stinking of chick poo and wet food.
William Lego – Electrician to the Rescue!
I put a call in that evening to our friend William Lego, licensed electrician serving the greater Rockford, Illinois area. What a guy! Despite short notice and a painful dog bite on his hand (from a customer’s dog the day before), he came out the very next day and worked until after 6:30pm to get the power back on in our garage! After eliminating several possible problems, Bill determined that there must have been damage to the cable running underground from the house to the barn. He ran a temporary line that provided enough power to juice up the lights, garage door opener, and the heat lamp in our brooder room. We will need to dig a trench and replace the temporary line with a permanent one soon. But at least the chicks could go back in the barn and the lights for the coop will keep our hens laying in the reduced daylight hours of October.
I sent Bill home with an 18 pack of fresh eggs, a few tomatoes, some broom corn, a jar of grape jam/jelly, and some cookies. I think he deserves an apple pie or some homemade bread, what do you think?
Back to the Barn!
Before Bill even pulled out of the driveway, I was packing up those stinky little chicky-poos to return them to their room in the barn. Whew! What a mess they made in their boxes. Tom opened all the windows and set up fans to blow the stench out of the house while I gave the little ones fresh water and food. They were so happy to stretch their legs, flap their wings, and run around. It was fun to watch their antics. Things were back to normal in the brooder room. The smell in our house took a good 12 hours to dissipate, however.
Is There a Lesson to Be Learned?
There’s always a lesson to be learned! Check on your young chicks fairly often during the day to make sure that their heat lamp hasn’t burned out, or the power failed. You also need to check food and water often, since they are growing and can go through it pretty fast. But a power failure in cold weather could spell disaster for chicks. You don’t want to lose them, so be sure to check regularly.
Have a back up plan ready to implement. If I hadn’t brought the chicks into the brooder boxes in the house they would have died of hypothermia within hours. I keep brooder boxes to house chicks for their first few days of life. If the power to the house had been out also, we could have built a fire in our wood stove to keep the chicks toasty warm. It wouldn’t be an ideal situation, but it would sure beat standing by to watch while 43 chicks slowly died.
Do you have a back up plan? What would you do if power went out while you have chicks in a brooder.