In the past when I have shared pictures of birds still inside our brooder boxes, I have gotten comments asking how I keep the brooder so clean. The short answer is: hard work and determination. However, there are a few things that make that hard work more effective in the long run which I will be sharing here today. Read on to learn more about the cleaning method that has made all the difference for us.
The importance of a clean and chemical-free brooder.
When we first started out hatching birds, I believe we did what most homesteaders and hobby farmers do: We built our own brooders. And though they worked for the most part despite difficulties with temperature regulation and air-flow, the main problem was how to get them clean.
Let's be clear. When you have a box stuffed with fifty or more baby birds with access to water and heated to around 99 degrees Fahrenheit, you are not going to keep the brooder spotlessly clean. However, that makes it all the more important that each hatch starts out as clean as possible.
This is one of the reasons why we switched to a pre-fab commerical brooder system when the time came to either rebuild or discard our home-made brooders. Better temperature regulation, food and water mounted outside the unit, and a wire grid bottom to keep chicks out of soiled bedding were selling points. But the fact that the boxes are fabricated from lightweight galvanized sheet metal was the clincher. We knew that they would get dirty, but at least we could be confident that they could be completely cleaned between hatches.
Even with the ability (in theory) to start fresh with the brooders each hatch, we have had to consider the best methods for cleaning. Chemical cleaners are effective at killing bacteria, but they also have the potential to kill more than that: that is, your birds. Chemical residues can build up and react with the galvanized metal. They can also release toxic fumes when exposed to the heat of the brooder. It does not take much exposure to such fumes to endanger day-old birds.
Our solution involves removing each brooder box from the stacking unit and removing all electrical components. (Electrical components are dusted with a light brush to remove dust and down and then left in the sun for some good old-fashioned UV radiation cleaning.) The brooder boxes are then staged in a sunny spot on clean concrete.
What you will need.
What to do.
First, thoroughly spray each brooder box with the bleach solution -- paying particular attention to heavily soiled areas as well as crevices -- and set aside to rest while preparing your cleaning area.
When ready, hose down each box with the garden hose. Make sure everything is completely soaking wet. In this step, you are trying to soften any hardened dirt or poo to make the rest of the cleaning easier. You can also use the moderate pressure of the hose to remove large clumps. Be sure to spray any matter that you remove far away from your cleaning area or you will regret it later.
If you have a pressure washer, next you will use it to blast the visible bits of poo and dirt from the wire floors, feeder gates and sides, and droppings pans. Pay close attention to corners and crevices. (Also, I should have mentioned that you should be dressed for swimming at this point, because you're going to be wet. ) If you do not have a pressure washer, you can skip this step and instead repeat the first step with the garden hose until the majority of visible crud has been removed.
If you do not have a handheld steam cleaner, then the next step is to purchase one. This step is vital for cleaning the important stuff that you cannot see.
With the steam cleaner, go over every square inch of each brooder and components. Again, pay attention to corners and crevices. If you notice any remaining stuck-on dirt and debris, blast it with the steamer to loosen it and then rinse with the garden hose sprayer. Remove every speck of dirt that you can actually see.
When the brooders and components are sparkling clean, spray everything with your bleach solution again. However, be careful not to let it dry before continuing to the next step.
While the bleach solution is still wet, go over every square inch (I mean it.. every square inch!) of everything one last time with the steam cleaner. You want to be sure to remove any and all bleach residue here. For all metal parts you will want to steam clean until the metal actually becomes hot to the touch (Be careful, because it does). For plastic parts, hold the steamer farther away and blast until you can see the plastic fogging up. Don't get carried away here -- unless you want to melt your plastic parts.
At this point, particularly if you have hard water in your area, the clear plastic areas of your brooder may be spotted with mineral deposits. If you are a perfectionist like me, grab some good microfiber towels and buff the plastic until it gleams. This step is not crucial to the well-being of your birds -- but it will make you feel better to look at it after you have worked so hard cleaning.
Finally, sunlight is the best disinfectant. Leave everything in the sun until it is completely dry before moving it back in and putting them back together.
I will not lie to you, it is hard work. However, if you want to protect the investment you have made in your commercial-style brooders AND if you want to greatly improve the health of your young hatchlings, it is well worth it.
Posted by Anita
Egg collector. Hatcher of birds. Vanquisher of poo.