How to Build a Chick Brooder and Raise Happy Chicks

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

Recommended Materials for Building a Brooder

This brooder is good for about 15 chicks. Here are the supplies that we used:

  • 105-quart plastic, transparent storage bin
  • Voltec 6-foot brooding lamp
  • 250-watt red bulb
  • Digital wireless thermometer
  • Water dispenser
  • Food dispenser
  • Paper towels
  • Puppy pads
  • Metal net
  • Small saw
  • Wire cutters
  • 8-inch cable ties
  • ''L'' brackets
  • Staple gun
  • Poultry Protector (optional)

Do-It-Yourself Chicken Brooder

How to Build a Chick Brooder

  1. Wash the bin and allow it to dry. If you are concerned about your chicks having lice, mites, or fleas, now is a good time to spray the container with some ''Poultry Protector." Follow the directions on the bottle accordingly.
  2. Cut a square out of 1/2 of the plastic storage bin lid with the saw; leave the border for support.
  3. Place the wire net under the lid. Cut the excess portions of the wire net with the wire cutters.
  4. Use the cable ties to secure the net on the lid. Place four brackets on each side of the net. This will keep the brooding lamp elevated. It is best to use longer ''L'' brackets so you can adjust the height of the brooder lamp every week to lower the temperature. (If you are planning to keep the chicks indoors for about six weeks, you will have to hang the brooder lamp on the ceiling or find another way to move it higher and higher.)
  5. The brooder lamp has holes to which you can attach the ''L'' brackets. You can hold the brooder lamp in place with more cable ties.
  6. Fill the storage bin with an even layer of newspapers. Add a layer of puppy pads on top to absorb excess moisture from droppings and spilled water. The chicks will make a mess with the water the first days.
  7. Shred paper towels in pieces and make a nice, comfy layer with it. The paper towels will prevent your chicks from getting spraddle legs, a condition where the legs are spread apart due to slippery surfaces.

DIY Brooder Supplies

105-quart plastic, transparent storage bin.

Habitant Requirements for Your Brooder

  • Storage Bins: We looked at different storage bin sizes and found that the 105-quart bin is the perfect size. The edge of the 105-quart bin is high enough so that the chicks can't escape but still have ample room. Transparent bins are best because you can keep an eye on your chicks from a distance. We eventually made two brooders so that we could split the chicks into two containers as they grew.
  • The Heating Lamp: The lamp we chose is red since this color tends to discourage pecking when the chicks put on new feathers. It is also pleasant to see the red lamp color at night in our living room—it almost feels like Christmas! The heating lamps need to be adjusted as the chicks grow. When you first get the chicks, they should be kept at 95–96 degrees F for the first week. You will gradually decrease the temperature by five degrees until the chicks are about 4-5-weeks-old. The temperature will also vary depending on your climate.
  • The Thermometer: We originally bought a regular thermometer, but the temperatures shifted so much we decided to go with a digital one. What worked best was getting a wireless thermometer from our farm store so that we did not have to bother our chicks. We could check the temperature while dining, while watching tv, and even from our bed. Of course, if we heard the chicks cheeping from being too cold, we checked on them and lowered the lamp to make them more comfortable.
  • The Bedding: We put some puppy pads down and covered them with paper towels to prevent spraddle legs. Spraddle legs arise when chicks are exposed to slippery surfaces such as glass, plastic, and even newspaper. It cannot be emphasized enough to use paper towels for the first week or so; this helps their legs to develop properly.

Selecting Your Chicks for the Brooder

Chick season is here! Chicks are very cute, but they are frail and require the correct environmental temperatures when they are babies. Building a brooder is an easy task if you have the right materials, and a DIY brooder may be more cost-effective than purchasing one online. Our local hatchery was selling five chicks and a tiny, cheap brooder for more than 100 dollars, but we wanted more space for our chicks so that they could get away from the heat lamp if it was too hot. We also wanted to prevent overcrowding, which could easily lead to pecking.

The chicks we ordered consisted of five Jersey Giants (these are 10-pound birds when mature), five White Plymouth Rocks, and five Barred Plymouth Rocks. These chicks were selected because they had the qualities we were looking for: they are docile, hardy through the winter, and good egg layers.

We wanted chickens to keep our yard free of bugs (we hate finding ticks in our yard because of our dogs). The extra eggs, of course, are a bonus.

Tips for Bringing Your Chicks Home

  • Have the brooder lamp on for a few hours before you bring your chicks home. Place the thermometer inside. You want the brooder to be around 95–96 degrees F.
  • Upon your chick's arrival, prepare a quart of lukewarm water and add it to the water dispenser. Some hatcheries suggest mixing in a tablespoon of sugar to give the chicks energy.
  • When the chicks arrive, carefully touch their beaks to the water as you take them out of the box. This way, they will know where the water is. The most common cause of death in baby chicks is the failure to eat and drink.

Husbandry Requirements for Your Chicks

  • Cleaning Requirements: Expect to clean the bedding often for the first few days. Chicks eat and poop a lot! They are messy drinkers and will spill a lot of water. After a week, you can switch the bedding to alternative materials such as pine shavings (avoid cedar shavings as they are harmful to chicks). We use natural and toxin-free pine soft pellets that are used for horses.
  • The Feeder/Waterer: The feeder is made in such a way that chicks can stick their head in and eat. This helps prevent them from pooping in their food. The waterer must be safe since the babies can drown. Many hatcheries recommend adding some sugar or electrolytes to the water the first couple of days. Upon getting the chicks, make sure you dip their beaks in the water one-by-one as you place them in the brooder. Make sure all chicks eat and drink; dehydration and starvation are the most common causes of baby chick death.
  • The Food: We started our chicks on Manna Pro which is a medicated chick feed that helps prevent coccidia, a potentially deadly protozoa known for causing bloody stool.
  • Hatchery Requests: We also asked our hatchery to vaccinate our chicks for Marek's disease; this was only around $1.15 for each chick. Some hatcheries offer to de-beak chicks, but we opted to not have this done as it is painful and we thought unnecessary since we will be monitoring our chicks and preventing them from pecking at each other.

What Is Marek's Disease?

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 08, 2013:

We're possibly getting some more again this coming spring, due to a grasshopper infestation.

moonlake from America on October 08, 2013:

Love chickens can't talk my husband into them. This looks great. Thanks for the information. We had babie chicks years ago and I think we kept them in a cardboard box with light bulb over the top, this is a better idea.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 08, 2013:

I think you are right, thanks for making me aware of this. I got mine from Walmart about 3 years ago, and I went on the Walmart website and it showed 105 quart container which looks like the one I had, that is 105 quart (26.25 gallon). I am editing this detail, thanks again!

glwhiddon on October 08, 2013:

Are you sure that is a 105 gallon container? Looks more like a 105 quart to me. Please confirm.

Granny's House from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time on March 14, 2011:

Thank you for the details on how to build the chick brooder. It is great! I want chicks. Will share bookmark and voted up

GetSmart on March 13, 2011:

I just love the picture of your dogs watching the chicks - How adorable!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 13, 2011:

Thanks for the the detailed instructions for building a chick brooder that will keep the chicks happy and healthy. Raising the chicks would be a great classroom project - educational and fun - as long as the chicks have a good home to go to when they're grown up!

Barbara Badder from USA on March 12, 2011:

This looks like so much fun. If I lived in the right area I would do this.

Supply Checklist For Baby Chicks

If you’re new to raising chickens, finding all the right supplies, can be tough. Here are some basics to get you started, before you go out and buy items you don’t really need.

Brooder Container

A cardboard box works, but might leak. You won’t have that problem with a plastic tote.

If cardboard or plastic don’t fit your aesthetic, check out this wooden version, made especially for baby chicks.

Heat Lamp

This sturdy ceramic bulb fits standard light sockets. It will last up to 10,000 hours.

Pine Shavings for Bedding

Pine shavings are soft, fluffy, and don’t emit harmful aromas. This brand is kiln-dried to eliminate dust.

Chicken Feed

Chicks need vitamin-rich feed as they grow. We recommend this certified-organic, non-GMO brand out of Bellingham, Washington.

Food and Water Trays/Feeders

You can use any trays you have, but this type of feeder is reusable and keeps the food or water clean.

The EcoGlow Brooder

Many heat lamps run at 250 watts. The EcoGlow runs at just 14. This energy-efficient brooder is made of durable, anti-bacterial polyurethane plastic, and can be adjusted to different heights as your baby chicks grow.

10 Tips for Taming Chicks so They Become Friendly and Social Chickens

Tasha has been an active herb gardener, foodie, and from-scratch cook since the year 2000. In 2014, she started homesteading for greater self-sufficiency in rural Surry County, North Carolina. She currently keeps dairy goats, chickens, ducks, a pet turkey, worms, and (occasionally) pigs. She gardens on about two acres and grows a large variety of annual and perennial edible, medicinal, and ecosystem support plants. She is an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer and teaches classes in her community related to Edible Landscaping, Organic Gardening, and Introduction to Permaculture. She has also co-authored several books about backyard chickens, livestock watering systems, and vinegar production.

Do your chickens run to greet you and stand still so you can pick them up for a snuggle? Do they curl up in your lap and purr like a cat while you pet them? If yes, then you’ve got pet chickens. If not, then your chickens might still be awesome, but they’re more livestock than pets.

Chickens are one of those animals that can go either way. They can become spoiled rotten pets, or they can be easy to care for livestock. It all depends on how you socialize them.

The first set of tame chicks we raised became beloved pets. We brooded them in the house and spent enormous amounts of time taming chicks. It was fun at first.

But later, when they started free ranging, they followed me everywhere and made it hard for me to do my homestead work. They didn’t get along well with new chickens, which made it hard to restock my flock.

Three More Easy Brooder Ideas

Other ideas include large dog crates, large coolers (not with a lid!) and purchased chick corrals. All of these may require some modifications for use as an easy brooder idea. When chicks are small, they will squeeze through the openings on the dog crate. Attaching chicken wire or cardboard to the crate sides may work to keep the chicks inside the crate. The cooler can be a good re-purposed idea. When you need a cover for this brooder, do not use the lid of the cooler. It will prevent air getting to the chicks. Instead, cover the cooler-brooder with wire mesh.

Chick corrals are an easy brooder idea if you prefer to purchase. These can also be used as a grow out pen as the chicks transfer to the coop.

What is your favorite method of preparing a chick brooder? Do you have easy brooder ideas to add to my list? If you are looking for further do it yourself style ideas, take a look at my book shown below.

DIY Brooder Instructions

Level of Difficulty: Intermediate

Begin by making modifications to the lid of the brooder. For the dimensions of our storage tote, a hole of 91⁄2 by 14 inches was just about right. Leave a couple of spare inches free on each side of the hole to avoid interfering with the locking mechanism and structural components of the lid. Use a ruler (or framing square) and pencil to mark straight lines for your cuts and then carefully use a utility knife to remove the plastic.

Watch the video: How to Set up a Baby Chick Brooder (August 2021).