Here in Huntertown, Indiana, winter took it’s sweet time getting here! December 2015 was one of the warmest on record. It’s now February and winter has officially reared its head! The cold temperatures and below zero wind chills in January didn’t stop our boys from preparing the farm for the spring arrival of our first 2016 flock.
With plans to quadruple our flock count from last year the first order of business was preparing the brooding barn to accommodate 4x the chicks. Over 20 years ago, the barn on our farm was originally built as a horse barn complete with separated stalls. Ben and Don spent most of this winter transforming the horse stalls into one large chicken brooder. What’s a chicken brooder, you ask? Excellent question.
A brooder is a heated enclosure for raising baby poultry including chicks, turkey poults, goslings, ducklings, etc. Typically, a brooder includes a heat source, food and water, and bedding. An enclosure of some sort can be used to keep natural predators and curious pets from harming the flock. It can be as small as a shoe box or as large as a barn!
Ben and Don started this project by removing the walls between the old horse stalls to create one large open area. Once the brooding area was open and clean, we built one long wall to close off the brooder from the rest of the barn. We installed several windows on each side of the brooder and three entry doors. The windows were installed on the inside of the barn so the flock could be monitored without opening the door and releasing heat from the brooder. We also plan to offer farm tours in the future and wanted to offer a great way for guests to view our chicks without compromising their organic environment.
Once the area was prepared with proper walls, we installed heavy insulation along the walls and ceilings to keep our flock nice and toasty on those cool spring Indiana nights. Electricity was run to accommodate the lights and heat sources.
The floor of the brooder was filled with our very own organic bedding. We create our own organic bedding using our own forest. Stay tuned for another blog post all about how we create our own bedding. To sum it up for this post, we work with a team of foresters to both harvest our forest and preserve it for generations of future trees. There’s a science behind the process of forest management, which we will do our best to explain in a future blog post.
Once the bedding was laid, next came the feeding system. Hand feeding thousands of birds twice a day didn’t sound like fun for any of us. So Ben and Don devised a plan for an automated feeding system. The boys purchased an old feed hopper from another local farmer. The bin had to be organically washed, disinfected, and cleared of any non-organic grain residue before it could be installed. We installed a concrete slab with pylons for the feed hopper (we won’t mention that the boys couldn’t get the concrete pylon measurements to line up with the hopper until Natalie showed up and told them how to do it using common sense and a string – oops, we just mentioned it).
Once the feed hopper was installed, we put together an auger style feeding system using PVC and food grade feeding tubes. Basically, an auger transports the organic grain from the outdoor bin into the barn and through a system of feeding tubes. The grain drops from above into our handmade feeder boxes so our chicks can stay nice and warm while they enjoy their meals. The strings attached to the pipes open and close the feeding tubes during feeding time. It’s primitive but at Hoffman Organics we do everything old school as a character building exercise. At least that’s what Ben tells us.
Still to come is the watering system. Before our birds arrive in March, we plan to install an automated watering system. The boys are currently working on their blueprints for this system. We’ll be sure to update this post or create another post on how this watering system will work.
Basically, that’s it! It’s taken months of planning and hard work, but the brooding barn is 99% ready for our first 2016 flock! We hope you enjoy following us on our journey!