When you first bring your new chicks home, or hatch out some eggs, you will need a place that the babies can call home. This is called a brooder and there are lots of different ways to create a brooder. Most of these cost very little and some may be made from items you already have around the house. Using a brooder that is the appropriate size for the amount of chicks and changing it once or twice as they grow, will keep the chicks warm enough during development. It will also make it easy for you to clean up after them and keep them safe from any curious household pets.
6 Easy Brooder Ideas
Large Plastic Tote– These are easily found in hardware and home stores. The totes come in various sizes and the size you need will depend on how many chicks you are going to raise. I often start with a smaller tote for the first weeks and then move them into a large, long storage tote as they grow and begin to eat more and run around more. This year, I also added a wire fence around the tote to give it more height. The chicks are able to fly up and out of the bin after three weeks and this keeps them contained a bit longer! Large plastic tubs are one of the easiest chick brooder ideas.
Children’s Swimming Pool– My favorite brooder for ducklings is a toddler swimming pool. These come in various sizes and the only problem is that they take up a good bit of floor space in your home. Ducklings can go outside earlier than chicks, but while they are still covered in down, they need to be kept warm and dry. This is not easy with the mess they create. Ducklings can make a soggy mess out of a small amount of water! Using the swimming pool allows you to wipe it out easily, keeping the brooder cleaner. There are poles that can be purchased to hang the heat lamp over the brooder.
Large Dog Crate wrapped in chicken wire – I have also modified a large dog crate and used it as a brooder for chicks. I needed to add some chicken wire around the outside to keep the chicks from squeezing through the bars in the crate, but it worked just fine for many weeks.
Large Cooler with Lid Removed – If you have a large ice chest cooler, this would work as a brooder but I would remove the lid to prevent it from accidentally closing and reducing the air supply to the chicks. Like the toddler swimming pool, the cooler will be easy to clean out. A drawback would be that it is not transparent so you would not have as much light getting into the chicks.
Water or Feed Trough– One of my personal favorites and an idea that many feed stores use for brooders is the metal water troughs. They are usually a more expensive option. But they work extremely well and if you have an older one that leaks and can’t be used in the field any longer, you could re-purpose it as a chick brooder.
Brooder Corrals – These are often found at larger farm retail stores. The corral consists of many panels that are connected together to form a round pen that sits on the floor. The space requirement is similar to using the child’s swimming pool although you can adjust it to a more oval shape or take some panels out to make it smaller. The floor still needs to be covered with a tarp or drop cloth and covered with shavings or newspaper. I have used a system like this for a grow out pen to give the chicks more space as they grow and before they have enough feathers to move to the coop. It’s not a bad system but the cleanup is a little harder and more intensive.
Adding some cover to the brooder-
As your chicks grow and the wing feathers develop, you will need to add some sort of cover. If you don’t, you are likely to come home to the chicks having a party all over your house! I use some repurposed items from around my homestead, such as a piece of chicken wire, some window screening, a large piece of cardboard, anything that allows air to flow and keeps the chicks in, should solve the problem.
What kind of brooder system do you like to use? Please share you idea with us in the comments.
Janet writes about many homestead and livestock related topics on her blog Timber Creek Farm. Her new book, Chickens From Scratch, is available now through the Timber Creek Farm website or from Amazon.com