DIY Baby Brooder: Built in under 2 hours for under $150

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Man At Work

Man At Work

So we built a brooder (I should say the hubby built the brooder; I held baby ducks). It was a last minute operation and most of the materials we had to purchase. This is the model we designed ours after; we figured that we are only going to be using it for a couple of months and we wanted it to be budget-friendly and easy to clean. This seemed to fit those needs.

A few differences:

*we used a bigger Rubbermaid container because we were getting so many chicks

*we added an extra measure of security by locking the lid tight the bottom part using an arrow (hole through both lid and bottom, push arrow through both)-plus it made it seem more bad-ass Katniss-y

*we used zip ties to secure the screen; I got that idea here.

Wondering why we needed more security?

Curious or hungry...

Curious or hungry…

So far we are pretty happy with the design and ease of cleaning. We added three “roosts” last night; there were some broken arrows (flashback to the days when MTV actually played music videos) in the basement that we repurposed into roosts. I added a disposable cake pan under the water dish to catch all the water that the ducks spill everywhere. It works better than not having anything, but does not catch it all, the ducks are a wet mess. Right now there is poultry bedding in the roost, but I am debating switching to sand. Not sure if that will make it easier or more difficult to keep clean.

*Additional information since this post was written: we are going to split ducks from chicks this week. The ducks are a crazy mess. They are cute fuzzy balls of poop and bad decisions. I am not sure if the chicks have gotten a clean drink of water in a week. We fill the waterer up at least 10 times a day, and as SOON as it hits the brooder they are trying to smash their chubby, squishy duck baby bodies into the small space between the waterer and the dish to drink/swim. Swink. Or maybe drim…anyway, they chicks have had it, and we are making the move tonight. I got a huge, see through-tub at Target for $14 and the hubby is going to use leftover supplies to make them their own home. 

All in all we spent about $110 (before Operation Move Smelly Ducks) on the supplies for the brooder,the started chick food, electrolytes for water, feeder, waterers, heat bulbs, etc.

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Overall between the cost of the chicks and the brooder materials it has been about a $250 experience. Actually make that $260. The hubby also made this purchase to add to my homesteading book collection.

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We are starting to think about coop ideas, so that will add more to the cost. But the joy of baby ducks and chicks peeping in your kitchen? Priceless! Are you raising babies in your kitchen or anywhere else? Let me know how it is going or if you have any advice below. I would love to know that there are other crazy adventurous people out there.

Pippa Turns 2: Chick-themed Birthday Party

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Happy Birthday Pippa!

I had a DIY brooder post planned for today, but since it was Friday and the start to a holiday weekend, I  decided to do something a little more frivolous. (DIY brooder will be posted Monday.) Pippa’s 2nd birthday was on March 19th, so inspired by our impending chick delivery AND the plentiful assortment of chick-themed decorations due to it being Easter season,we decided to go with a “chick-themed” birthday party. Usually we throw rather large events that always leave us exhausted at the end of the day, with a counter-full of dishes to clean, feeling like we should have t-shirts that say “I just spent a ridiculous amount of money to hang out with our friends and family and all I have to show for it is this mess”. In effort to keep things a little more sane, and to assure we actually got to hang out with the people we wanted to celebrate with, we decided to split the event into a few small gatherings. We had pizza and cake with the hubby’s family for her actual birthday, and then we had a few friends over that have kids the same age as ours for a chick-themed party the Sunday after her birthday. My family is last on the list; they will be joining us Easter Sunday for a HUGE egg hunt and birthday cake, and that will mark the end of Pippa’s extended birthday celebration.

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Birthday Cake Number Two

For the chick-themed party I wanted to keep it as simple and as cost-effective as possible, while still allowing for a reasonable level of Pinterest-inspired ideas that always cost more money and take more time than you think they are going to. I stuck to one color, yellow, to pull everything together. Finding things was super easy since it is Easter season and baby chicks go with the territory, if you want to do a chick-themed party after reading this post, I would suggest hitting up the clearance sections for Easter stuff next week to stock up. I am not sure if this would be as easy to execute during the off-season.

Because I am lazy, because it was 10 o’clock at night, and because I was more worried about drinking my beer while it was cold, I do not have any “tutorial pictures” on how to do things. However, I will try to provide links for where my inspiration came from where applicable.

Party Prep

Party Prep

Some of my favorite decorations were the fabric banners, I think I spent about $20 on fabric scraps at JoAnns, prepped the material by cutting little slits in it, and then let Maggie (our 7-year old) tear them all into strips ranging from 1-1 1/2 inches in width. If you are interested in making your own there is a great tutorial here. Once I had all the fabric ready, and the kids in bed, I just tied them onto some brown string I had lying around the house. I had picked up some burlap letter “Ps” in the Target dollar bins ( I have no idea how to type that, and none of my versions looked correct). I got one completely done Saturday night, and then Sunday morning Maggie and my sister’s husband finished the big one for the kitchen. The really great thing about these is that we can use them every year to decorate for Easter!

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The next crafty idea involved taking the girls on a hike up the mountain to look for the perfect “tree”. We found a nice branch with lots of places to hot glue gun fluffy chicks and lace, which I then displayed in the middle of our kitchen island. So cheap, so easy and so cute. Definitely wait for small hands to be asleep before you attempt the hot glue gun. Definitely do not wait until you are four beers in before you attempt to hot glue gun. I made it out with only one fingerprint erasing burn; so compared to other past hot glue projects, this was one of the least painful yet.

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Another super easy, and super cheap creation were my chick pom poms. My sister picked  up some yellow expandable poms at Party City, and then I had Maggie cut out triangles and circles for the faces. I hot-glued the “beaks”‘ and “eyes” on and we hung them around the house. The black eyes make them look a little LaLaLoopsy-ish, but adding white made them look too cartoonish, so I stuck with plain black.

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The rest of the decorations just involved using some things I had picked up in the Target dollar bins (little wooden boxes) and at Joann’s (yellow poufs of feathers and green paper “grass”) to fill out the party. I also went through my Easter decorations in the attic and found some chick baskets that I repurposed as snack bowls, and some other odds and ends. I had some Sticky9 prints featuring Pippa’s little face that I set out with the party decorations. Eventually I plan to turn these into some sort of display somewhere in the house, but it has not happened yet. Also, for kids parties especially, I love butcher paper. I picked up a roll from Lowes for under $10. Kids can color on it, spill things on it, and at the end of the party you just roll it up and compost it (or throw it out). Maggie cut out some chicks from yellow scrapbook paper and glued them onto the butcher paper to add some “chickness”.

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The dessert table was the major focal point of the party. We had three things on it: the chicken cake (decorated by my sister, baked by me), eggs in a nest cupcakes, and chocolate-dipped Birthday Cake Oreos decorated to look like chicks. I baked the cake in my Kitchen Aid bowl. It did not ruin the bowl, and it baked all the way through, but boy was it dense! And small. And dense-did I mention that already?

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The party went really well, I did not over plan activities and stuck with a coloring activity, a chick shaped piñata my sister picked up and an egg hunt outside. It was nice weather (a little breezy and cool, but at least the snow had melted from the day before), so the kids spent most of the time on the play set outside. I was hoping that the chicks would have been delivered before the party, but that would have been a little more crazy than a three-ring circus run by toddlers, so in retrospect that was a complete blessing in disguise. Of course, once the party started I forgot to take pictures so all I have that evidences the good time had by all is this pic of the birthday girl searching for eggs. How do you celebrate birthdays? Low key, all out or somewhere in between? Share below, and if you have any links to fun birthday themes I would love to check them out!

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Chick In A Box

On Monday I ended my post with a picture of a package I picked up at the Post Office, and because most of you who are reading this right now are probably my Facebook friend, you already knew what was in it. Chicks in a box!

Chicks in a box!

Chicks in a box!

So last year the hubby and I started talking about getting some chicks for the kids to raise (Pippa has been practicing carrying water in buckets) and to increase the amount of farm fresh eggs we have access to. Currently his brother has chickens that love to roam into our backyard and wait on the back steps for Cheerios. (Not a plug for Cheerios, the ladies are very specific in their tastes. Do not try to pass off stale Raisin Bran at 7 AM because they will call your bullshit.)

Chicken Sit-in: Hell no, we won't go

Chicken Sit-in: Hell no, we won’t go.

Before we even moved I had started talking about getting some chickens, to which the hubby’s response was always “No. They are dirty.” Fast forward 3 years and he is enamored with the squatter chickens and their antics. We had been debating on when would be a good time, and then we had a friend over for brunch and Bloody Marys. She was getting some chicks, which sealed the deal for us. I did let the vodka wear off before I acted on our impulse, but two weeks later this still happened:

You can buy anything on the internet.

You can buy anything on the internet.

So we got some peeps! I had ordered the Guinea Hens for tick control, but then after doing some research POST-purchase, I decided against it and switched them out for a Polish Buff and a something that sounds like it should on the menu at Oktoberfest. We are the type of people that are painting the nursery the night before the baby comes, so as expected, the night before the chicks arrived we had to construct our brooder. Frantic Pinterest searching and list making led to the hubby taking the 7 year old out Tractor Supply at 7 o’clock at night (it was a busy week). Somehow he not only came home with $120 worth of brooder materials and chick supplies, but also $20 worth of fuzzy ducklings. Baby Ducks. Cuteness overload. If you ask him, he was “just kidding” about the ducklings. I don’t understand how you send a text message like that as a “joke”.

#jk

#jk

I am not going to lie, this could be worst idea ever. It seems like I have had a run on those lately. Also, do not be fooled by the mind-numbing cuteness of these little faces, they have the same effect tequila does on the decision making process. They “get grown”, and they “get grown” fast. Cute, fluffy Easter basket stuffers become big, loud fowl who need space and poop everywhere. And rather than just start with a “few” we somehow ended up with a brooder of 10 babies and 5 more on the way in May. I will share in my next post the materials we used to construct the brooder, in case you get any grand ideas. Remember though, if you fall for the fluff, your of walk of shame the next morning will include an audience of ducks waddling after you. Pooping everywhere. Friday morning I got the call from our local post office (which interestingly is NOT the closest post office to our house) that the chicks had landed! Finding the post office was the first obstacle because it did not look like a post office; it looked like a house. Post office masquerading as a house. Once I turned around (twice) and parked outside I actually had to sit for a minute and pull myself together because I was so excited. The excitement was legit though because as soon as I opened the door I could hear the peeping! And not only did they have my chicks; they had my mail-order coffee. When I told the hubby about the BEST POST OFFICE PICK-UP EVER, his response was “huh..those ladies probably think you are something else…”. (Since moving I bought a coffee subscription from my favorite Harrisburg coffee shop, Little Amps. It makes me a feel little less Harrisburg-sick every month.) Best PO Pick Up Ever After the pick up I rushed home and had minor panic attacks the whole way that one or two may be dead. Even the most reputable hatcheries cannot guarantee that all chicks will arrive alive. http://lancasterfancyfowl.com/policy#guarantees Luckily when I opened the box they were all living and breathing balls of feathers and fuzz. I checked the little bottoms for “pasty butt” and dipped their beaks into the water the brooder per these directions. The ducklings had been in the brooder since the night before and it took a little while for them to adjust and stop hiding behind the feeder. Ducks being not impressedSo what are we brooding (is that even a word)? Here is what we have:

All chickens came from Lancaster Fancy Fowl, rather than have to orchestrate a pick-up with our crazy schedules, we paid about $30 to have them mailed to us. They were sent out around 5 PM Thursday and arrived at the post office around 7 AM Friday. Let me know if you are current flock master or thinking about getting starting one. Any advice for new babies would be greatly appreciated. Also, you may still be looking at that list above, thinking, so you have 10 feathered fowl in that brooder, all who could be male? Yes. Yes we do. But let’s not worry about that now. Let’s just focus on the cuteness. Pippa loving up on a ducky, hopefully a girl ducky Handful of cuteness...hopefully female cuteness Also, if you read this far, tell me this skit from SNL did not pop into your head when you read my post title. Christmas Present Advice from SNLSource: http://s3.amazonaws.com/rapgenius/justin_timberlake_dick_box.jpg