Bob and I held the boxes in place atop the wagon as we slowly made the journey to the white chicken coop. We paused by the door. Mom opened the door, removed the top box, placed it inside the coop, and set it close to one of the brooder heat lamps. She kept a close watch on the new brood. “Egg money” helped our family survive, so taking care of chickens was an important chore.
The boxes were about three feet square and five inches high. The sides of the boxes had an ample number of half-inch round holes so that the chicks could get fresh air. Each box was partitioned into four cardboard compartments. About ten White Leghorn chicks were in each little compartment. This arrangement of cubicles prevented the chicks from crowding together and smothering each other. The baby chicken boxes had a cardboard lid, much like a shoebox. The lid also was dotted with plenty of air holes.
We would reach in the box and cradle a baby chick in both hands. They were so small and cuddly with their tiny yellow feathers, small black eyes, and beaks that opened and closed. Baby chicks had to be taught how to drink water, so we would dip the chick’s beak into the drinking fountain water. Then we placed them ever so gently under the heat lamp, amid admonitions to “be careful not to squeeze them.”
The chicken coop or brooding house was prepared days in advance. Walls were cleaned, the floor was scraped and disinfected with a smelly brown liquid that was applied with a wide paint brush and sprayer. That stuff was eventually banned. But it did kill lice!
The brooder was a contraption with a four-sided sheet metal hood. A thermometer kept track of the temperature, which had to be held to about 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Mom had to go out to check the temperature almost every hour. Chicks soon develop their own heat, so periodically the thermostat could be turned down or sometimes turned off.
We helped set up glass bubblers for water and small metal trays for chicken feed. Baby chicks needed warmth, water, food, and a quiet brooder house. Sharp, loud noises would frighten them and cause them to bunch up in the corner and smother.
We had two “chicken” buildings. The white brooder house was about 12 feet on each side, mounted on skids, and could be pulled into a new position with a log chain and tractor.