The Big Brooder


When I say “the big brooder”, I’m not talking about a large person who routinely worries about (or broods over) life. For lots of farmers, and especially everyone here at Polyface, the word “Brooder” conjures an entirely different image… “The Brooder” is a heated building on our farm designed to provide an optimal environment where we can control the heat, light, food, and water required for young chicks to grow and develop.


Polyface Brooder

Over the next several weeks I hope to introduce you to our brooders and share with you a glimpse of their purpose/cycle.


Every year our brooder here at Polyface provides a warm, comfortable, safe environment for thousands of chicks that will become our egg producers, our grass fed turkeys, and our ‘beyond organic’ broilers. This means that we have to be able to: #1 house and #2 provide adequate protection for large quantities of birds.



A view of the chicken wire walls and doors inside


This is one of six hovering propane heaters in our brooder


The nipple drinkers run along the back wall of the brooder. The height can be adjusted as the birds get older.

Ok. Now I’m going to break down the brooder for you (uh…figuratively)… Notice in the picture above that there are three doors and six windows across the front. Four windows line the back of the brooder opposite the front windows. Our brooder is 60 feet x 20 feet, divided into three sections. Each outer door enters into a different section inside the brooder. These sections are made by adding a chicken wire wall and a door so that each section can be accessed from the inside, too. These “sub-divisions” are made for several reasons… Subdividing the chicks allows more control over where the chicks ‘huddle’. If you only have 1000 birds huddled together there is a lower chance that the chicks will stack on top of each other than if you have 3000 birds in one huge section. If one section gets scared or stressed it’s not likely that the other two sections will be scared or stressed since they are divided. The open walls allow air to circulate throughout the entire building. The added circulation ability benefits both hot and cool weather… More on that later…  All three sections of the brooder are set up to run as individual units and are equipped with a set of nipple drinkers and overhead gas heaters designed especially for chicks. Here’s where those walls come in handy… If we only need a place to put…say… 700 chicks, we can put them all in one section, only take care of one set of nipple drinkers, only use one set of heaters and or only open one set of windows… If we need all three sections, the chicken wire walls allow heat to circulate the entire building helping keep the whole thing warm. When it gets too warm for the little birds, we can open all ten windows and allow fresh air to circulate the entire building faster…



The feed bin

On one end of our brooder there is a feed bin that can be accessed from either inside or outside. This allows the chick’s caretaker to feed without going in and out of the brooder several times. This makes things faster and easier for the person, and avoids the need to open and close the outer doors several times and disturb the indoor temperature.


…One last thing – the foundation… Our brooder is sitting on a concrete floor and riser – a giant “concrete cake pan” as Joel once said… The concrete floor provides something solid to lay our bedding on. This solid foundation comes in handy later in the year… I’ll be telling all about that in later weeks! Stay Tuned!


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About Hannah Hale

Hannah hails from McComb, Mississippi, where she farmed with her parents and three sisters. Home-schooled all her life, she grew up helping her grandfather on his Black Angus farm and working with her family to raise dairy goats, laying hens, and bees. Her love for animals blossomed through her involvement in 4-H and cattle showing. Hannah discovered Polyface through a lecture by Joel, and while reading his book You Can Farm, she realized that her life-long dream of farming could become a reality. The summer of 2013 saw Hannah a Polyface intern, and she was subsequently chosen to become an apprentice. Now married, Hannah helps her husband as they work as Polyface rental-farm managers. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of the Polyface team and learn from the best. In the future, Hannah wants to farm full-time and keep Jesus central in her life.

3 Responses to The Big Brooder

  1. bryan says:

    Terrefic stuff Hannah….makes me miss good ole Virginia and reminds me of how hard it is to find healthy, natural food here in Atlanta.

  2. Kristin says:

    Very informative and well-explained! Thanks.

  3. Matt Cadman says:

    Thanks for the post, Hannah. My wife forwarded me this article a few days ago. Quite timely too, as we are about to break ground on a new (and bigger) brooder house next week for this spring’s production. I’m really looking forward to your future posts!