We build our aviary, loaded it with cages and away we went. But we forgot an important piece of equipment! A bird brooder.
Not thinking it was a big problem, we began to shop around to buy one. We got a severe case of sticker shock! A decent brooder is not cheap! At least $!50!! And I needed several! All of these electronic gadgets were outrageously overpriced, in my opinion!
A brooder is a box or some sort of container that supplies warmth and humidity to your baby chicks. It must be able to circulate the air around the bird. It had to be easy to clean and maintain accurate temperatures.
We managed to locate a couple of very old and antique looking human baby incubator that came from the intensive care unit from a hospital. The thing was at least 30 years old, and it was hard to believe they would put babies in it! But it worked great for us.
I look it over to see how it worked, and was totally amazed at its simplicity. It had a regular light bulb supplying heat, a fan that passed air over it and circulated it, and a pan filled with water. The light bulb would heat the water, creating steam/humidity, and the fan circulated it.
Now how simple is that? I could build one! So I did some shopping.
I needed a case or some type of box. I wanted it to be plastic because it had to be easy to clean, wouldn’t rust, or have any sharp edges. I needed to figure out a way to put a door on it, so we could observe the babies and have easy access. Where the heck was I going to find something like that!
I quickly located the perfect box! Van Ness sells a “sifting enclosed cat pan”. It measures 19 inches high, 15 inches deep and 10 inches wide. The “sifting” part means that there are two pans and a screening tray, and this is supposed to make it easy to clean your cat’s litter.
But this works absolutely great as a brooder! Disinfecting your brooder is critical. Remember, where you combine heat, humidity and bird droppings, you have created a great place to grow all sorts of nasty germs and bacteria. The brooder needed to be cleaned at lease twice a day. Having a brooder that can quickly be disassembled for cleaning without disturbing the babies is perfect!
The height (19 inches) made it perfect for larger birds. The electronics would be mounted to the roof, out of their reach.
I quickly planned my design out. This was going to work ten times better then my antique human brooders!
If this sounds like something you want to build, it’s very easy to do. But I would urge you to find someone experienced with working around electricity. If you don’t wire this up right, you can toast the wiring, blow fuses, and get yourself hurt.
BUYING THE PARTS
I drew up my parts list and went shopping. I started at the pet store.
Covered Cat Litter Box. This can be picked up at most of the large pet stores or department stores. Van Ness is a major brand carried by all of them. If they don’t have it in stock, it can be ordered. Last resort, search the internet.
Black Basking Light bulb. If you raise reptiles you know all about this. It’s a simple 60 watt light bulb painted a very dark blue. It radiates heat, and puts out a dark blue light. This will not disturb the babies, and supply more then enough heat for my brooder.
Then it was off to the hardware store.
I needed a light bulb socket. They have one that is very small, made of ceramic, and once mounted takes up only a small space. There are two screws for attaching the wire.
Dimmer Switch. I wanted one with a dial to adjust the voltage to the bulb, and when you push in it would turn the light on or off. By turning the brightness of the bulb up, it radiates more heat. Turn it down, and you get less heat. Simple, huh?
I picked up an inexpensive extension cord to supply the power. It’s much cheaper than getting a plug and wire and making it myself. I also picked up a package of machine screws and nuts to mount all of this stuff inside the box. You will also need a spool of hookup wire. Also grab a box of wire nuts to connect all of the wires together, and a roll of tape to cover up any exposed connectors.
I needed a fan. Something like a cooling fan from a computer would work, but it would require me to build a transformer to convert power to 12 volts DC. What I found was a 120VAC fan that looked like a large computer fan. This is available at your Radio Shack Dealer. This fan would be used to blow air over the light bulb, and then circulate the heated air around the brooder. I didn’t need a lot of air flow, but it had to be sufficient to do the job.
I got a stainless steel food dish and sponge from my aviary to use for humidity. By putting the sponge into the dish, then filling with water, it would “wick” the water to the top of the sponge and evaporate. This would work until I found a better method.
To really make this work, I needed to be able to control the temperature using an electronic thermostat. It had to be fairly adjustable for accurate settings between 98 and 105 degrees.
Most home made brooders used a “wafer” thermostat. This was a mechanical device where a metal disk would expand and contract in response to temperature changes, and would operate a relay to turn off the heat source. It was accurate, but only for a couple of months. Then it became very unreliable.
Every electronic thermostat I located was either not suitable for what I wanted, or was far too expensive. I finally had to settle for a reptile thermostat made by Zoo-Med. The sensor went into the box, and the controls were on the outside of the brooder. It was fairly inexpensive but not as reliable as I hoped. We ended up placing a temperature alarm inside the unit to signal of the temperate was getting too high or low.
One more optional addition…I added a 120v outlet plug. That way, I could daisy chain additional brooders, plug in an auxiliary light, or any other gadget I needed. Having a plug readily available was handy.
Now comes the tricky stuff. You don’t have to be an electrician to build this but it helps to have an understanding with electronics.
You want to mount the fan near the top of the brooder. Try to mount it so there is a little bit of space behind it to supply air.. Mount the light bulb/socket so that the bulb is in front of the fan. The fan is wired so that it runs constantly. The light bulb is wired through the dimmer switch. Mount the dimmer switch to the top front of the box. With some experimentation you can determine the temperature settings, and mark them next to the dial.
If you go with the thermostat idea you need to wire the bulb so that it’s controlled through the thermostat. There are several ways to do this, so use your own judgement.
Buy a good thermometer and tape it to the front of the door. You need to constantly monitor the temperature to ensure it does not go outside the 98-105 degree range.
The only problem I have had with this box is when the birds get very big. They may be able to reach up to the electronics, or mess with the fan. You may wish to experiment with a method of covering the top with a screen. With this box, I only had this issue when I was raising the large Macaws. But by the time they are big enough to reach the roof, they are fairly feathered out and we can turn off the power. The box kept out drafts and the bird did fine.
The entire cost of this project is about $60 (without the electronic thermostat).
>>Check out my ebook at http://www.TheTameParrot.com/cb/ – I believe every parrot owner should have a copy of this. Discover more about getting the perfect bird to fit into your home in “The Easy Parrot System”
Jerry & Sapphyre
I’d love to hear your own technique and experiences in building a brooder. Or if you’re planning of building one, please ask away in the comments box below. Thank you!
[tags]build a brooder, building a brooder, brooder lamp, parrot brooder, how to make a homemade brooder, baby bird brooder, building a brooder for parrots, making brooders, bird brooder[/tags]
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