Brooder Blues

So after I bragged to the internet about how great I am at brooding chicks I have to talk about my failures too.

These are management issues. Totally management issues.

The blame falls on me. That’s it. I failed to follow through on a conversation Julie and I had. Julie moved a heat lamp to the third tank in preparation for moving birds. We just wanted to warm things up a little bit. We made a bad decision.

The second failure was a lamp burned out and we didn’t have a spare. I thought we could make it on two lamps.

The third failure was using a lamp that didn’t produce as much heat as expected. So the chicks in brooder #2 weren’t as warm as they should have been. And they all crowded up under one lamp.

The fourth failure is a lack of fresh bedding in the brooder. The remaining birds aren’t as clean as I would like them to be.

I should have bought extra lamps. I should have made sure the temperature under each lamp was consistent. I should have spread the birds out among the brooders immediately. I also rolled the dice on weather, trying to brood chicks when it’s negative infinity outside.

But here’s the end result. For four hours brooder #2 was a little cool. Over the following 48 hours 32 chicks died.

One little mistake.

I’ll recover from the loss of chicks. It hurts. It hurts badly. But I can never take back words said in anger and frustration.

My worst mistake in this was blaming others.

That too is a management issue.

7 thoughts on “Brooder Blues

  1. I’m so sorry! I don’t know how many chicks you started out with, but that does sound devastating, for now. If it’s any comfort, I’m sure you were doing what you thought was best at the time. And by sharing your experience, you’re helping keep the rest of us from repeating your mistakes. Everything is a learning curve. I would love to raise chickens but haven’t even begun to start. In the meantime, thank you for sharing your experiences.

    • There are still nearly 300 out there. But it’s a real blow.

      We hit some particularly cold weather and with the adjustment in brooder setup I think we hit a threshold that they could not bear. Like we were riding right on a line there and finally broke over. We are OK now. Heavy snow but warmer weather. Two weeks is a major turning point in their age. We are almost there.

  2. I’ve gone through a similar learning curve – 50 out of 200 chicks in the first week of brooding. About 5 years ago. I still think about how many things we did wrong, how we were too slow to take action, etc. Like you we had started early in the season, got caught by an unexpected cold snap, and the bottom line really is that we were complacent and cocksure about our ability to brood chicks successfully; that was our 4th or 5th batch of broiler chicks and we thought we had it down pat. I now know that every season is a little different, and while we’ve improved the brooder set up a LOT, we have to recognize that we will always be learning, tweaking, adjusting, improving. Our losses the first few years were negligible, but our batches were also really small – 50 birds or less, Jumping to 200 chicks should have made us more vigilant but we just acted like the extra numbers wouldn’t need different handling. In subsequent years, I have found that every batch is slightly different, and every year different things seem to go wrong. We have a pretty good set up, lots of equipment, and our routine is, well, more routine. We are far more aware of what can go wrong, and what steps to take to fix things, but it does seem like no batch ever goes completely smoothly.

    • Cocksure. Punny.

      In short, I laughed at Murphy. Murphy turned around and smacked me. Chicks are fragile. We made a small adjustment and lost a lot of birds. We had to make the adjustment…but we could have managed the transition better. Instead I was in a warm chair at home, book in hand.

  3. We had a similar incident with goats this week– also my fault. My wife was right but I ignored her intuition. In the end a kid was born to a first timer two days early in the middle of the night at -20C and she found it uncleaned and dead in the stall in the morning. How the second survived is beyond me. I have a smart wife. Me?- still learning to listen to her after 40 years. Like you, I hate the having to beat ourselves up part of this life.

    • Jeff, I’m very sorry to hear that. We had a goat with quadruplets once. The mother “picked” two to keep and discarded the other two. We didn’t notice. One was found dead, the other hungry and cold. I named her Shivers. We fought hard to keep her going but, ultimately, lost the fight. Then we cried. A lot.

      But I have good news, though I hesitate to share it. The brooder incident was costly. But we certainly learned our lesson. The brooder was a complete success except the part where I screwed it up and killed 10% of the birds. On the flip side, the birds are doing GREAT on pasture. At least they were until I wrote that last sentence. Sigh.

      • Kind of keeps you in the moment.
        I’m jealous of your pasture access. Ours is still covered in snow–forecast is for a week above freezing, so maybe we’ll see grass by the end of the week.
        I really do appreciate your sharing your stories in their raw and real state.

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