Heat a Seedling Shelf with a Chicken Brooder

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Photo by John M. Williams
Combine two spring activities for a more efficient seed-starting setup.

We live in gardening Zone 4a, and in early spring, we use our mud porch as a makeshift greenhouse. We have less space than the average greenhouse, so we have to make every square inch count. One of the clever things we’ve done is use our brooder, stocked with chicks, to heat the porch. 

We then place our seedling flats above the chicken brooder’s heat lamps, on a table or atop 2-by-4-foot frames covered with hardware cloth. The heat from the brooder radiates up, increasing our germination rates dramatically and allowing us to start plants earlier. The chicks exhale carbon dioxide, which improves seedling growth, while the plants release oxygen for the birds.

John M. Williams
Aurora, Wisconsin