We find ourselves in the odd situation of being short on brooder space. Now, if you’d told me three years ago that I’d wake up one morning and realize that our two – two! – chick brooders were insufficient to get the job done for our spring poultry plans, I would have said, “What the hell’s a brooder?”
A brooder, as you all probably know, is just a box that you put chicks in. You put a heat lamp above it so the little things stay nice and warm while their feathers grow. They stay there for some four to eight weeks, depending on the chicks, and the climate.
We have a small brooder made from a plastic storage box, designed for use inside when the chicks need the temperature to be north of 90 degrees. We have a larger brooder made from a packing crate and chicken wire, designed for use in the shed or garage, for the next stage, when the chicks don’t have to be quite so warm.
This year, that won’t be enough. We have ducklings coming this week, chicks coming the first week in June, and turkey poults coming the week after that. It’s going to be poultry central around here.
The chicks and the turkeys will both need solid-walled brooders at the same time, which means we need another one. When I pointed this out to Kevin, he said, “Why don’t you build it?”
Why don’t I build it? Because Kevin is Vice President of Building Things. He’s the one who’s good with tools and materials. Structure design and construction is his magisterium. I show up to remind him to wear safety glasses, and to hold things in place while he hammers, saws, and nails.
Kevin must be preparing to resign his Vice Presidency, and thought a brooder would be a perfect introductory project to prepare me to take it over. Either that, or he’s just tired of doing all the work while I sit around and write about how hard “we’re” working.
Okay, then! A brooder it is.
Kevin gave me hint on dimensions. We’re making a solid box with an open top, and if we make the floor 4’x2’ and the walls 2’ high, we’ll need exactly 32 square feet of … whatever. Maybe paneling, maybe light plywood – depends on what’s cheapest at Home Depot. Hey, I get it! All those cheap things come in 4’x8’ sheets, which are, of course, exactly 32 square feet! If part of being good at building is being good at math, maybe there’s hope for me.
From there on, I was in charge. I figured out how much framing lumber we needed (more math!), picked is out (2×3), and chose the siding (the flimsiest grade of plywood). I measured (twice) and cut (once) with a chop saw and a circular saw. I assembled with a hammer and nail guns, including the big hairy Porter Cable framing gun that scares the bejeezus out of me. Kevin held things in place as I hammered, sawed, and nailed. He didn’t have to remind me to wear safety glasses.
Do you remember, back when you were in pre-school, making those potholders with the fabric loops that go on the little plastic loom? A teacher, or camp counselor, or babysitter gave you all the materials and showed you how to do it, and you spent a morning going over and under, over and under. When you were done (if you were me), you had a lumpy, misshapen potholder that nevertheless elicited compliments and praise. Nobody told you it was something any six-year-old could do.
That was the dynamic around here as I surveyed my finished brooder. The box was sturdy, the corners were square, there were no nails sticking out. I felt a little swell of pride at the sheer adequacy of it. Kevin didn’t point out that, as long as an adult was there to help with the Porter Cable framing gun, any six-year-old could have done it.
Funny thing, though. I find myself looking around for some other simple project. A planter? A bat box? Stilts?
Still, I won’t be accepting Kevin’s resignation any time soon.