How did people brood chicks before electricity? Lots of ways, and a few are still useful today.
Homesteading.news just posted an article about how to do January(!) brooding without electricity, using a heavily insulated brooder with bubble-wrap insulation to reflect the baby chicks’ body heat, allowing them to do well without supplemental heat.
The article kindly credits my insulated pasture hover page, which discusses these topics.
Generally speaking, the body-heat-only technique has been around for 150 years or so, and has been used with several variations:
- Using body heat alone in an insulated brooder from day 1.
- Using supplemental heat for a while, but using an insulated brooder to remove supplemental heat early.
The second method is the most flexible, of course, since it can work even when the weather is too cold for the first method.
My preference, of course, is to go ahead and use electricity, because it’s convenient, reliable, and affordable unless you’re off the grid (which I’m not). My second choice would be to use supplemental heat for a while, using jugs of hot water, replacing them as needed. This is especially important for the first three days, when the chicks are still learning the ropes.
The video below shows one approach to this.
My book, Success With Baby Chicks, covers winter brooding in considerable detail.