There’s been a lot going on… So, I’m putting up a group of posts at once.
- You might want to start here: What’s Going On? (Sing me some Marvin Gaye.)
- When Gardens Don’t Go As Planned
- End on a High Note: Relish Happiness
This Post: Chicken Hope Chest
Okay, am I showing my age? Do you know what a Hope Chest is? (Wiki definition.)
If you are dreaming of having chickens, think about starting a Chicken Hope Chest NOW. And, lucky you, I’m here to share some insight as to what you should or could start gathering as a part of your… pre-nesting. 😉
Being a new Chicken Keeper, I was surprised at what I needed to buy (seriously, needed), and what I bought because it made life easier or better. One of the needed items, for example, was a galvanized steel garbage can. Needed? you ask? Yes. Here’s why: If I am storing the chicken feed in the garage, I need to protect the feed from RODENTS. Did I think about this before I brought my sweet, little chicks home? No. But then I realized the risk of storing the food unprotected. So galvanized can, check! (Actually, I ended up buying three. More on that below with photos.)
This post isn’t going to cover all those items that you know you need to have… Like a chicken coop, feed for your chicks / chickens, fencing to keep them safe (you know: chicken wire, hardware cloth, welded wire), etc. But, I’m going to list the items we purchased and share them here so you can start on that Chicken Hope Chest. If I think the item is an “absolutely necessary one,” I will note that.
A chicken “brooder” to keep your chicks. For us, that meant getting a “CountyLine Oval Galvanized Stock Tank, 2 ft. W x 4 ft. L x 2 ft. H” (NOT an affiliate link) for about $99.00 at Tractor Supply.
For us, this was a good buy and helped us keep everything clean and secure. It gave us a place to raise our chicks before… they outgrew it. Now we have a galvanized steel “brooder” that we can use for many years. It’s also easy to wash. Additionally, if we ever need to keep a chicken separate from the others, this will be an option. Currently, it serves as my washing station for “chicken dishes” outside by the hose. It’s perfect.
PLUS, if you buy it first, you can call it your Chicken Hope Chest and store your items as you plan and buy for your future flock.
Note, my husband also built cover for the brooder – a wooden frame with chicken wire. Eventually, your chicks will get to the top of their waterers and feeders and attempt to jump out.
Spring clamps to hold the cover on the brooder. Two will probably do it.
TWO heat lamp fixtures and at least TWO red “lightbulbs” – actually, heat bulbs – for those lamps. Why two? Easy: what if you need to separate out a sick chick from the other chicks? You will need to keep the sick chick warm. Also, what if a lightbulb (heat bulb) goes out? You will need to have a working replacement ASAP.
Why red bulbs? To quote author Gail Damerow (more on her book later): “A red lamp… …won’t burn out as quickly, and the red glow discourages picking; as long as everything looks red, truly red things won’t attract attention.” (Like blood.)
Also, you might need to have something rigged up to hold the heat lamp safely and securely over the brooder. While the heat lamp has a clamp on the end (you can’t see it in the photo above), you might need to set something up to raise the heat lamp higher over the brooder it if gets too warm for the chicks.
A thermometer (inexpensive) to monitor the temperature of your brooder. Here’s the deal: Necessary? No. If your chicks are huddled UNDER your heat lamp, they are probably too cold. If they are staying on the end far away from the heat lamp, they are probably too hot. Raise and lower as necessary. Still, we bought the thermometer because it was not expensive AND we are glad we did. We use it now in the chicken coop and that has been useful.
Your mini chick feeder and mini chick waterer. We used the round chick feeder when they were really tiny. Your chicks will eventually outgrow these little feeders and waterers, but in the beginning, the small waterers are safer because chicks “face plant” and sleep at the drop of a hat. The smaller waterer helps prevent chicks from face planting into the water and drowning. They are also easier to wash in your bathroom sink.
If you are handy like my husband, build them a mini roost to practice on with 2 X 4 blocks and a dowel. Only make it a couple of inches off the thick layer of pine shavings (see photo below) to keep chicks safe.
Blocks of 2 X 4’s to raise the chick waterers and feeders up to chick chest level when they are in the brooder. Helps keep the waterers and feeders cleaner, too. (We still use longer 2 X 4 blocks in the coop as well.) Just make sure that they are big enough to support the waterer and feeder so they don’t tip over.
Pine shavings, big bags. We chose to use pine shavings for bedding and eventually also used in the coop. I have a photo of the shavings later on in this post along with the straw bedding we buy for the coop nesting boxes. (Both bought at the local Tractor Supply store.)
A small supply of plastic forks – excellent for flicking out pine shavings and the occasional dried poop that gets kicked into the little slots of the chicken feeder. I still use a fork for this even though the chickens are out in the coop. It’s a great way to help keep feeders cleaner between washings.
Paper towels. LOTs of paper towels. Also useful if your chick has pasty butt (good article on pasty butt here) and you can soak a paper towel in warm water, then gently press against the chick’s behind, holding until the poop softens and you can gently wipe off. Note, sometimes it won’t easily wipe off, so again, see this article for more info.
Scoop for scooping food from the bag.
Kitty litter scoop for scooping poop droppings.
Disposable vinyl gloves are nice and handy, but not necessary.
Small plastic garbage can with a bag in it near the brooder – convenient for disposing of said poop, but again, not necessary.
Soft, CLEAN rags if you need them. I have old flannel pillow cases that are so soft and thick enough to be useful.
Gallon-sized plastic chicken waterers (I discuss why I use plastic further below) – both the hanging and the non-hanging kind. I recommend two of each. Why? That way you can quickly swap out a dirty one for a clean one if you need to do so.
Large plastic feeders – both the hanging and the non-hanging kind. Again, two of each for the same reason cited for the waterers above.
Plastic cone(s) for the top of the feeder (maybe even the waterer, depending upon what yours is like). This helps keep the chicks (and chickens) from roosting on the top and pooping in their water and food. Because they will if they can.
Trust me on this one.
Pack of zip ties. Perfect for keeping the cone on the feeder.
Chick grit when the chicks are old enough – about 2 weeks old. We started with Scratch and Peck Feeds – Cluckin’ Good Grit Supplement for Chickens and Ducks. You can get it at Amazon.
A kitchen washing brush for scrubbing out the plastic waterers and feeders. See how that chicken “brooder” became my washing station now that the chickens and in the coop?
Dish soap – I like the Seventh Generation brand if you can get it.
Apple Cider Vinegar – You will read arguments for and opposed; I made my decision based upon Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, by Gail Damerow. She references using the vinegar in at least three separate chapters in her book. Not only does the vinegar encourage healthy gut bacteria in chickens, Damerow suggests that chickens seem to like the taste and it helps promote water drinking. My chickens definitely don’t mind it.
Dosage of the vinegar to water: I provide 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar per 1 gallon of water in their waterer. NEVER use vinegar in a galvanized steel waterer. The vinegar will react with the metal and it will hurt your chickens. Only use vinegar in your plastic waterers. Also, I noticed that the tiny amount of vinegar keeps the plastic waterer cleaner.
A plastic tablespoon dedicated just for the vinegar measuring.
The book, Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens (affiliate link), by Gail Damerow
3 galvanized steel garbage cans:
1 for storing your big bag of chicken feed (buy it fresh when you get your chickens, check the date on the bag)
1 for protecting your pine shavings (mice and other rodents love to find places to make nests)
1 smaller can for holding your other chicken-related consumables: bags of meal worms, oyster shells, bags of grit – I also store my “outdoor” feeder in this smaller steel trash can overnight. The other feeder stays in the coop with the chickens.
Chopped Straw Bedding for their nesting boxes in the coop. To be honest… I am considering buying a fourth galvanized steel can strictly for the straw. This is the straw bedding I purchased (NOT an affiliate link).
Long handled rake – useful for coop cleaning and pulling the used pine shavings out of the coop and into the wheelbarrow.
Long handled push broom – useful for sweeping out the coop after the raking.
Wide shovels – for shoveling said used pine shavings into the compost pile.
Scraper – for scraping poop off of the chicken ramp to the coop (and roosts). This is Mr. Gordon’s job. 😀
Bucket strictly saved for collecting the aforementioned poop. We dump that into the youngest compost pile. (We have three.)
Kitty litter plastic pan – we filled this with “concrete wash” sand (there is NO concrete in this sand) from a local gravel pit and it gives the chickens a place to dust bathe outside in their chicken run.
Heavy bottomed, wide-mouthed bowls for their chicken grit and oyster shells when they are in their run. Heavy bottomed to help discourage being flipped over.
A hook installed way high up in the chicken run – you wouldn’t believe how handy this is.
In an effort to beat the heat, I kept looking for a shallow plastic “pan” that I could put cold water in and float frozen fruit. This would be placed in the chicken run to encourage chickens to peck into the water (encourage drinking) and maybe even wade into in order to cool their feet. Nothing I put into the run worked like I wanted. Finally, I found this: A 5 Gallon Rubbermaid Commercial Food Storage Container. (Best “non-chicken” item I bought yet! See all the photos below.)
In the photo above, I placed it next to disposable foil roasting plan – which I tried to use. It was okay, but the chickens wanted to roost on the sides and it wouldn’t support their weight.
The sides of this new Rubbermaid container are thicker (not sharp) and I hoped would will work well. It’s also not too deep, so the thought was that the girls would be more inclined to pop into the “chicken wading pool” and cool their feet. (Spoiler alert: They did!)
It worked! Keep scrolling…
This is Daisy perched on the side. It’s strong enough to support her.
I got it from Amazon – that’s the container in the ad below. Worth. Every. Penny.
Oyster shells – for when your chickens start to lay eggs
Chicken First Aid Kit
A BIG thanks to Chicken Librarian for posting a blog on what she puts in her chicken first aid kit. Inspired by her list, I have begun to build mine. I do recommend making these purchases when you get your chickens. Some of the items on this list will have expiration dates, so you might want to wait on purchasing. Instead, start a little “money envelope” and tuck that into your Chicken Hope Chest, too. Then you save up for these perishable items.
So far in my Chicken First Aid Kit I have:
- Saline Solution
- save-A-chick Electrolyte Powder Packs – I would say this is a must have, BUT, not all chickens seem to drink water when they should – like on those wickedly hot days. So, it’s tough to get them to drink the water with electrolyte powder. Mine prefer watermelon (I give them seedless) and other fruit. Still, on some says I have provided both regular water and electrolyte water.
- save-A-chick Probiotic Powder – I haven’t used it, but I have a few packs on hand just in case.
- Q-Tips and cotton balls
- Soft, clean rags
- Paper towels
- Plastic measuring spoons
I still need to pick up some vaseline or salve for their crops in prep for winter, as well as other items like disposable vinyl gloves to round out my kit.
What I Bought, But I’m Not Using
Well, the large hanging waterer with the water cups seemed like such a good idea for the coop. Nope. My chickens DID drink the water in the cup, but once it was empty, they didn’t seem to understand how to tap the yellow tabs to get more water. I will hold onto it for now, but we’re not using it.
We had hoped that the water mister – hooked up to the hose – would give the girls a little cool mist on hot days. And it does… if you can keep the hose out of the sun. We can’t with our set-up. The water will not go through the hose fast enough and you might end up causing a mist of… hot water wafting through the run. On cloudy days, however, we can use this if need be. We arranged it so chickens who didn’t like the mist could get away from it. If you use one, check the area often to make sure the mist really is cool and that it’s not creating a wet mess.
The real winner on a hot day is watermelon!
And there you have it. These are our recommendations to get you started on building your Chicken Hope Chest.
How about you? Do you have any ideas or recommendations to share? Please share in a comment below – we’d love to learn more!