Brooding By Lamp Light

Now I’d bet you readers think I’m going to rant again, but actually really do want to talk about brooding by lamplight – chicks, that is.

We first seriously experimented with brooding chicks off-grid 2 years ago.  I knew that in times past kerosene had been used to fuel both incubators and brooders.  I studied some old plans and drawings and decided to give it a try.  We initially used a plastic bin with a lid, a standard kerosene lantern, and a coffee can.  We drilled 3/8″ holes about every 6 inches in a row around the sides of the bin for air intake and cut a coffee-can sized hole in the lid to allow the lamp chimney to protrude.  My concern was fumes and possibly melting the plastic, so we cut a hole in the bottom of the can big enough to just admit the lamp chimney.  After the lamp was lit the bin lid was placed and coffee can fitted down over the chimney through the large hole and an instant read thermometer inserted through one of the vent holes.  Everything seemed to work well and the temperature soon approached 90 degrees.  We took the plunge and added the chicks.  The 2012 brooder was kept on the floor in the little cabin, which was concrete and pretty cool, so I placed an old area rug underneath and folded towels on the top for insulation on cold nights.  We didn’t lose a chick, but they soon outgrew their little nursery.  Time to expand.

The new accommodations would be a 70 gallon galvanized water tank.  David built a partition to allow half of the tank to serve as the warm brooding area and the other half to be a yard.  The brooder area was covered with a solid top of plywood.



The run was covered with 1/4″ hailscreen.


The tank was much deeper than the plastic container so David fabricated an integral lamp chimney and hover to both hold the heat and exhaust the fumes through the solid of the brooder area.  For the chimney portion he brazed tin cans together using the cutting torch and brass rod.

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The hover was constructed from an old pizza pan. . .

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fitted around the can chimney. . .

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and brazed in place.

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This chimney/hover arrangement fits on the kerosene lamp in place of the glass chimney and extends through and is supported by the solid cover.

For air intake another hole was cut in the solid top and a length of 2″ pvc pipe inserted.  An elbow was attached to the bottom to direct fresh air right to the lamp.  The top of the pipe was screened with hailscreen.


Finally we placed a remote thermometer sensor that we could read from the house to monitor temperature.  We placed the incubator an unheated, un-insulated outbuilding and on especially cold nights I wrap the entire tank in a mylar survival blanket to help keep the heat in.

So far we have used a combination of the two brooders on two separate batches of chicks and have yet to lose one despite the fact that there is still room for improvement (insulate the tank, etc.)  The lamp requires refilling about every 24 to 36 hours which keeps the system reasonably cost effective.  Lord willing, in the future we’ll be blessed with a broody hen or two, the dearth of which in modern poultry is certainly the subject for some future rant.


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