Raising Ducks – 9 Best Tips for Keeping Ducks Happy and Healthy

Best tips for raising ducks

Raising Ducks – My Best Tips to Guide You Toward Successfully Raising Ducks 

Raising ducks is different than raising chickens, although you can be successful raising ducks and chickens together. Some modifications need to be addressed when raising ducks, and they add a new dimension to your barnyard.

(Raising as many different animals and Poultry as we do, people often ask what is the best way to get started with a particular species. Many times the questions involve raising ducks. I wrote down a few of the best tips I have for raising ducks)

Ducklings arrive in the feed stores and hatcheries later than the chicks usually. I have my own unproven theories about why this is the way it is. Ducklings are cute little fluffy mess makers. Not long after you bring them home, you will realize that with even a small amount of water, ducks will make a big wet mess. Those cute little webbed feet can sure track a lot of water around their brooder. You will need the best tips for raising ducks.

Ducklings grow incredibly fast, and soon are consuming a huge quantity of starter ration. The good news, and more realistic reason that ducklings are available later in the spring is, that is when the ducks lay more eggs for the hatcheries to incubate. Ducks will lay year round, but they lay more eggs during the natural mating season of March through June. Once you bring home a few ducklings you will be glad of two things.

  • 1. Ducklings grow very quickly
  • 2. Because the ducklings grow quickly they can go outside earlier than chicks. (They will still need time in the brooder with a heat lamp to start off)  Being hatched later in spring means the weather is warmer and the ducklings can move outside sooner.

You will be very glad when they are big enough to go outside to their duck pen and coop. If you were housing them in your bathtube in your house, you will be glad to have your bathroom again. If you were keeping them in a toddler swimming pool, it will be nice to not clean it up three times a day. (or more!) This is one of the best pieces of advice concerning raising ducks.

Moving the Ducks to the Great Outdoors

Ducklings are a good addition to your backyard or homestead. Ducks are reliable egg layers, easy to keep, and excellent at foraging for grubs, slugs and snails in addition to other insects and weeds. They are happiest if they can have some free foraging time every day, but can be successfully kept in a large pen as long as you bring them a varied diet of grasses, and insects. Dried meal worms, watermelon, and salad greens are favorite treats that also add valuable protein and nutrition.

raising ducks - read the best advice and tips for raising healthy ducks

Housing

Duck do need secure housing particularly at night, to protect the from predators. Since ducks are extremely cold hardy, our structure has large ventilation spaces at the tops of the walls, covered by hardware cloth. This allows maximum air circulation for preventing odor buildup inside the coop. In the coldest parts of winter, we can cover the “windows” with plastic to keep the coop warmer, if necessary.

Do Ducks Need a Perch?

The coop or duck house is low to the ground although we can fit inside to clean it out. There is no need for perches as ducks do not roost on a bar like chickens. Providing straw for nesting and to keep the floor a little drier helps. I pile more straw in the corners to encourage the hens to lay eggs there. This keeps the eggs out of the traffic lanes and keeps the eggs cleaner.

Surrounding our duck house is a large pen. The ducks can be returned to the pen when we are not watching them or if a predator is in the area. At night they are closed in the duck house.

Rouen duck with wings spread at Timber Creek Farm

Water

Water is extremely important to ducks. They need to be able to dip their entire bill into some water. In addition, they love to swim and preen their feathers in the water. You can get away with not having a wading pool or small pond for them to swim in, but they will occasionally need enough water for a bath. When it is too cold for swimming in the pools, our ducks will still stand in the water bowl and splash around. All that being said, I do recommend giving the ducks as much access to a swimming pool or pond  as possible. The ducks will love you for it!

Food

Ducks are excellent foragers and can find a good diet on their own. We do supply additional pellets for them, free choice, to supplement what they find when foraging. When the ducks can’t forage due to weather or other reasons, they will, of course, eat more of the pellets. Ducks naturally do very well on a foraging diet. You can read more about feeding ducklings in this post. While ducklings are usually easy keepers and resistant to disease and illness, another possible, yet rare complication is called Limberneck in ducks. This is a form of botulism usually contracted from infected fly larvae or moldy food. Read more about this syndrome in this post

No Bread!

No matter what age group of ducks you are feeding, restrain yourself from feeding bread to them. The majority of a duck’s diet should be from grasses and plants. Feeding bread doesn’t contribute to their nutritional needs and can cause wing deformity, bone growth issues, and lameness which can lead to a predator being able to catch the duck easier. 

In the growing season, you can throw in chickweed, smart weed, grass clippings, plantain leaves and household or garden salad greens, if the ducks can’t forage for their own greens and bugs. Raising ducks is an excellent way to reduce the insect life in your yard or farm and garden.

Fencing

Many of the domestic duck breeds can not fly well at all. They can fly low across the ground level but rarely take off to any height. Fencing does not need to be high to keep ducks in. The only reason to have a high, covered fenced run would be so you can stand up in the covered fenced run.

In order to protect your ducks from predators, consider higher fencing and covering the duck run with more wire fencing. 

(Here’s an image to save to your pinterest boards for later reading.)

raising ducks

Eggs

Ducks will lay anywhere from 100 to 300 eggs per year depending on the breed of duck. The eggs are edible, and can be used for your breakfast or cooked in any dish calling for eggs. Many people prefer the slightly stronger flavor of duck eggs. Duck eggs are excellent for baking because they have a slightly higher fat content and richness.

I love raising ducks and enjoy the joyful fun they add to our farm. Share you duck raising stories in the comments! We love to hear how you are raising your poultry, too.

rouen duckling

If you enjoyed this post, please consider saving it to your Pin board on Pinterest. Here’s an image I made for this purpose.

best tips for raising ducks

raising ducks

Read my new children’s book. A storybook about two of our ducks here on the farm.

margarita and the beautiful gifts

Additional Reading

 Backyard Poultry Mag.com

Three Tips for Feeding Ducklings




How Much Food Does a Chicken Need

I had a reader ask me recently,” how much food does a chicken need to eat per day “. This is a very valid question and it will differ depending on where you get your information. For instance, if she had asked a meat bird facility manager, he would be able to tell her how much each chicken is fed almost to the exact gram. A commercial egg producer, likewise, will probably be able to tell you a precise amount of feed that is given to each hen per day. Commercial chicken facilities need to optimize the cost/production ratio. But in the case of a small backyard flock of chickens, the answer gets a bit muddy. Let me explain.

How Much Food Does a Chicken Need

How Much Food Does a Chicken Need to Eat?

hens at Timber Creek Farm

Many factors go into the amount of chicken feed needed per day for a back yard flock. While you may be interested in raising chickens and receiving fresh backyard eggs as economically as possible, you probably also realize that this is not your primary concern. For the backyard chicken flock of lets say, six hens, you are also not looking to make a profit on selling eggs. While it will be nice to sell a few cartons of eggs a year to neighbors and co-workers, it will not keep you in the black on chicken keeping. In my opinion,the best you can hope for is to break even on a small flock.

How Much Food Does a Chicken Need

Use Enough Food Bowls or Feeders

I recommend feeding chickens free choice with as many bowls or feeders as necessary to ensure that all the chickens can freely eat without being bullied or chased away from the food by a flock leader. For our example flock of six chickens, I would recommend two feeders or bowls for the full grown hens. At the end of the day, as the chickens go in to roost, notice how much feed is left in the feeders or bowls. Adjust the next days feed accordingly. I noticed that mine eat more in the cold weather in order to stay warm. They also seem to eat less on rainy days, but this makes no sense to me so it may not really be a factor. (don’t miss this cute video on feeding your flock!)

Decrease Waste

It is a mistake to not provide enough feed for your flock. Chickens eat from sun up to sun down. I notice that our flock eats a lot first thing out of the coop, and again, right before heading into the coop for the night. Feeding too much scratch grain can be detrimental because the chickens will choose that over the more nutrient dense ration. I tend to still lean towards over feeding the crumble ration, instead of guessing exactly how much the chickens will need.

We use wide shallow bowls for feeding, which also means we lose some feed everyday to “billing out”. Billing out is when the chickens scoop feed out and leave it on the ground. Also, the chickens will scratch through it with their feet and kick some feed out of the bowl. Using a hanging feeder may help with this problem and keep feed waste to a minimum. Some people feel there is less waste when feeding a pellet ration instead of crumbles or mash. I am not sure I see much of a difference between the two myself, so I just feed what my chickens seem to like better.

How Much Food Does a Chicken Need

Are Certain Chicken Breeds Better on Food Economy?

The breed of chickens you have might have some bearing on how much feed they need to consume. This is a good topic to research when choosing the breeds for your backyard flock. Some breeds are good at foraging for food. Leghorns, Buckeyes, and Ameraucanas are a few breeds known to be good at foraging. Mixing your flock with good foragers will help keep food costs to a minimum.

 flock of chickens at Timber Creek Farm

How do we get a ball park figure on how much it will cost per week to feed this flock of six chickens? A well known ballpark figure for estimating purpose is 1/4 pound of feed per chicken per day, or, 1.5 pounds of feed per chicken per week. Keep in mind that this is a ballpark figure. I think I feed a little more than this amount. Most feed is sold in a fifty pound sack.

For estimating purpose, I am using $16 per 50 pound bag, as this is an average for my area for natural chicken feed. If you plan to feed organic feed, the cost in my area (east coast) will be double that. There are cheaper options on feed, but I advise you to read the labels carefully and ask questions if you don’t recognize an ingredient or question it’s being included in the feed. Soy free options exist but will cost a bit more and are harder to locate in some areas. Organic feed is available, too, such as Manna Pro and Scratch and Peck. Larger feed manufacturers are rolling out new organic versions of layer feed, too. 

How Much food Does A Chicken Need

So just how much food does a chicken need?

Using numbers and recommended feeding amounts from a traditional layer ration, the following graphic breaks down how much a full grown hen requires.

how much food does a chicken need

how much food does a chicken need

Using an Organic Premium Layer Blend

When we switched our flock to premium organic feeds a few years ago, some notable changes occurred. I had previously fed a ration sold on the shelf at many feed stores. Switching was a difficult choice because I like to support local business. However our feed store did not carry any of the brands I was interested in trying.

Knowing how much feed a chicken needs based on what we previously fed, I started feeding the flock the new food. The food was gradually introduced so as to not upset their digestive systems.

Once we had transitioned to the organic whole grain feed, I noticed that there was quite a bit left at the end of the day. I started to reduce the amount we fed, keeping a close eye out that they had feed available until time to roost. Of course I did not want to waste any premium feed!

How Much Organic Feed Does a Chicken Need

Over time, our food bill for the chickens was reduced by a third. The bowls were fairly cleaned out by roost time. Even more important, the flock looked fluffy and healthy! There feathers glistened, and their was very little poopy butt. Conclusion: It appears that as with humans, chickens are as healthy as the feed they eat.

One other note, our older hens that live a retirement life of leisure, are living longer! They are healthy and active and occasionally grace us with an egg. And since the chicken require less feed, it doesn’t cost me more to provide them a premium organic chicken feed.

Supplement With Free Weeds and Wild Herbs

chickeweed for chicken supplements
Chickweed and other common plants thought of as weeds can be great sources of free nutrition for you flock, as long as you don’t use chemical weed killers and fertilizer on your lawn.

How Much Feed does a Chicken Need with Free Choice Feeding

how much food does a chicken need

My method of free choice feeding involves four feed bowls for 25 chickens. I give them feed in the morning, along with leftover veggie scraps. The run is large so they have room to forage for insects. In addition, supplements are offered free choice and also given as treats.

We do free range, but only when we can keep watch. We are in the woods and the risk of predators is great. Before we had the fence around the poultry area, the chickens rarely had a time to free range outside of their run. It worked because the run is large and we provide grass and leaves and weeds for them to peck through.

Since we installed the fencing, the chickens can be out foraging more often. The amount of feed we use each week has dropped by half. I still don’t recommend full free range due to predators. But, even using free ranging part time has had a big effect on our feed bill. 

Grow Fodder to Cut the Feed Bill

A great idea for supplementing your chickens feed is to grow fodder. This is actually sprouted grains and packs a big nutrition punch. Murano Chicken Farm uses fodder to help keep the feed cost down. In my book 50 Do it Yourself Projects for Chickens, I show the process in photos with a description. 

Adjust the amount of feed based on what you see left in the bowls at the end of the day. I want the chickens to have enough to eat both first thing out of the coop and also, to have feed available right before dark. These are the times I witness the most intense eating. In between, food should be available, as chickens will continue to graze all day long.
We do not leave food in the coop while the chickens are sleeping. The feed left in the coop will attract vermin. You do not want to attract these pests, so I highly recommend taking the leftover feed back to the storage area at night.

Use Sprouted or Fermented Grain to Increase Nutritional Benefit of Feed

Sprouting or fermenting the chicken feed is another method of cutting cost by increasing nutrition. The sprouted grain or fermented feed offers an easier to digest form of nutrients. Fermenting increases the nutrients available to be absorbed from the feed. In addition B vitamins, Folic Acid, Riboflavin, Thiamin and Niacin levels are increased.

Some things that will help you maximize your feed expense

  • Use a hanging feeder or feeders

  • Decide whether your flock prefers pellets or mash.

  • Choose a breed of chicken that is good at foraging for its food.

  • Do not leave feed out at night for the raccoon, rats, skunks, mice to picnic on.

 timbercreekfarmer.com

The question, how much food does a chicken need, has many variables in the answer. It is possible to be frugal with the chicken feed and yet make sure that your flock gets plenty of nutrition that they need without limiting food intake. While you won’t be looking at the chicken feeding project the same way as a commercial facility, it is possible to keep from wasting feed while raising your happy backyard chickens.

Thanks for Pinning this post!

how much food does a chicken need

 Grab my new chicken care book! It’s packed with projects that will give your chickens the best life. From housing to health care and lots of fun ideas, 50 Do it Yourself Projects for Keeping Chickens is the book you need in your home library. grab a copy here or on Amazon.

how much food does a chicken need

(This post was reviewed and vetted for accuracy on  March 21, 2019, September 25, 2016 and  Originally published on October 29, 2014)

For more on raising a flock of chickens for eggs:

Attainable Sustainable has a free download guide titled How to Feed Your Chickens for Free

From One Acre Farm 4 Benefits of A Mix Flock of Backyard Chicken

What to feed chicks and using whole grain chick feed.

How much food does a chicken need  Optimize your costs by not over feeding the flock




How to Revive a Weak Chick and Keep it Healthy

Two days into a recent hatch and I had to revive a weak chick and then another! The hatch was sporadic. We had eight broody hens. There was no schedule to the hatch. The eggs were started sporadically and I was out of town. While I was away, new eggs were gathered by the broody hens! It was a bit out of control. One hen out of the eight allowed me to move her to the nursery. The other broody hens had a fit about being moved and so I put them back in the coop where they continued to brood. I continued to try to monitor and save any chicks that hatched, before they were harmed by other flock members. Who said it was easier letting a hen hatch out eggs?

Disclaimer

Before I go any further in my methods of how to revive a weak chick, keep in mind that I am sharing what worked for me. I am not advocating or giving any guarantee that my methods will save your chick’s life. Also, I am a firm believer in thinking outside the box, and using what is available at that moment. My methods might be a little controversial to some who prefer to follow strict guidelines. 

What do Chicks Need After Hatching

If you have a broody hen, she will take care of all the chick’s needs. Broody hens can take care of quite a large brood. Tucked under her wings, the chicks are snug, warm and dry. She encourages them to eat and drink throughout the day, while looking out for their safety. Pasty butt is rare in broody raised chicks because the hen knows what to tell the chicks to eat. 

Chicks raised in a brooder have a bit of a harder road. No matter how closely we observe for problems, issues can arise. Pasty butt, chilled chicks, spilled water, and aggressive chicks can wreak havoc. Most of the time things go well, but there are times we need to intervene. Chicks need warmth, dry bedding, and food and water, that they can easily access. (Read about how much food a chick needs in this post )When a chick’s needs are not met, it experiences stress. Chicks that are stressed by the environment cannot thrive. 

how to revive weak chick

My recently hatched chicks were a few days behind the other three. The broody hen wanted no part of adopting the last hatchlings. So into the brooder they went. I use the warming table style heaters. All the chicks had access to water and food, with clean bedding. But  the last two chicks that hatched, weren’t strong. They stopped eating and drinking within 24 hours of hatching. I needed to try something or they would die.

revive a weak chick

First step 

Always make sure the chick is warm before trying to give food or water. I held the chick in my one hand while completing chores with the other. Next, I tried some Nutra-drench product for poultry because I had it available in the barn. I mixed it in a bit of water and used a syringe to let drops fall on the tip of the beak. The chick was interested and started to open it’s beak for the water. If you do this, also make sure the chick isn’t getting wet from the drips. 

As I was feeding the barn cats I had an idea. By now the chick was looking really weak despite the water. The bits of canned cat food looked like something I could try to feed the chick. At first the chick wouldn’t open it’s beak for the food. Then it took a bite. And another! Then it took a big bite. I gave it a few minutes to settle. I continued to give bits of wet cat food and after a few minutes more, the chick was struggling to use it’s legs again. It was reviving! The eyes reopened and it chirped. How about that!

revive a weak chick

Other Options to Use When You Revive a Weak Chick

Now, as I said in the disclaimer, this is a last ditch effort. I don’t think chicks should routinely be fed cat food products. Cat food is high in protein, and the canned food is high in water. Both of these were good for the chick short term. If I hadn’t acted quickly, I am not sure that this chick would have lasted while I prepared something else or If I had driven to a store. A good reason to have some ideas on hand, in the barn or feed shed. 

More Ideas to Revive a Weak Chick

Warmed plain yogurt

Scrambled egg

Hard boiled egg chopped tiny

Molasses water – Molasses also contains other nutrients 

Make a mash or tea of fresh herbs that contain Vitamin E such as Parsley, Oregano, Sage, and Thyme

Sugar water *use very short term. Too much sugar can lead to pasty butt

Nutra-drench product

Poly-visol infant vitamin drops without iron –*This also helps with wry neck which is a result of Vitamin E deficiency. You can read more on Wry Neck syndrome here.

The important thing is to get some nutrition into them and get them over the hard part. After 24 to 48 hours your chicks should be back on chick feed and able to cope. You may need to assess when to return them to the brooder with the other chicks. 

What Do Chicks Need to Thrive?

In the best case scenario, a small number of chicks arrive and are transferred to a waiting brooder. They stay warm and within a short time, find food and water. The weaker ones learn from the bolder stronger chicks and all do quite well. But sometimes, chicks need some TLC to get past the initial days. They may have become chilled at some point and become too weak to get to the food. They may be not as strong and easily trampled by the other chicks. Once they are knocked down, it may be too much to struggle back up on their feet. 

If possible, raise the weak chick with another non-aggressive chick for company. Chicks all do better with at least one friend in the brooder. 

revive a weak chick

Of course, we all want a good outcome and it is often a matter of timing. Do what you can to observe the chicks and help with some TLC if you see a weak chick. When you revive a weak chick, it is a rewarding feeling. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. When situations don’t go as hoped, remember you gave that little chick, the best life it could have, even if it was a short life. I hope these ideas will help you if you have a need to revive a weak chick. Please leave your own remedies and ideas in the comments.

revive a weak chick

Do you love Do it Yourself Projects? My new chicken care book is just right for you. Chock full of projects to build, make, sew, and concoct for the chickens in your yard. You can purchase a copy here (amazon link) or through my website.




Make a Chicken Coop from a Garden Shed

Make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Make a Chicken Coop from a Garden Shed!

The day I brought home the first two chicks, I  went against all the advice I give to people thinking about getting chickens. We had a farm but had no chicken coop or really any plan to build one. But two chicks followed me home from work at a feed store and the future was changed forever. Not long after, twelve more chicks arrived to keep the first two chicks company. We now had fourteen baby chicks growing up in our house but they could not stay there forever. It was very clear that in the near future we were going to need a chicken coop on the farm. 

 

Make a chicken coop from a garden shed

We had two garden sheds in our yard. Downsizing was in order because having two sheds just meant that you saved and held onto twice as much “stuff”. We would use one of the sheds for a coop but first it needed to be emptied and then moved to the barn area. 

Getting Things Started

chicken coop timbercreekfarmer.com

The first step in converting the shed into a coop happens before the shed even arrives. Level the ground and get materials for elevating the coop off the ground several inches. You could use 6 x 6  timbers or cinder blocks. We opted to go with the treated lumber 6 x 6 timbers to raise the coop up from ground level. 

There are two main reasons to do this, one is to allow drainage and air flow under the coop and prohibit rotting. The second reason is to deter predators and pests from chewing into the coop from the ground. 

 

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Inside the coop we spread a layer of cement and let it cure for a couple of days to dry completely. This also deterred rodents from chewing into the coop from the ground level. 

Once that prep work is complete it is time to retrofit the shed and turn it into a coop. Some things you will need to add are listed below.

What to Add To a Chicken Coop

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Roosting bar /Roosting area– Many people use a 2 x 4 board as a roost. This should be turned so that the 4 inch side is flat for the chickens to perch on and comfortably cover their own feet with their feathers during cold weather. 

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Nesting Boxes–  There are many formulas on calculating how many nest boxes for the number of hens in the coop. I will tell you that no matter how many nest boxes you have, all the hens will wait in line for the same box. Sometimes a few will crowd into one nest area. I recommend having a few nest boxes in the coop but don’t be surprised if one nest  box becomes the popular nest.

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Windows– Our shed did not  have any windows in it. Before we could use it for a coop we added four windows in the back and two windows in the door. This allowed  cross ventilation, and daylight to enter the coop. Since chicken wire will not keep predators out, be sure to securely fasten quarter inch hardware cloth to any windows or ventilation  holes you cut into the coop.

 

Safety Concerns

Exterior latches–  We added a couple extra latches in addition to the door handle. We have a wooded property and the racoons are literally everywhere. Racoons have a lot of dexterity in their paws and can open doors and latches. So we have a secure lock down situation for our chickens!

A fan– Hanging a box fan will keep the chickens more comfortable and help with air circulation during the hot humid summer days and nights. We hang ours from the ceiling pointing towards the back windows. It makes a big difference. Be sure to keep the fan clean because dust will build up quickly from being used in the coop, which can become a fire hazard.

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Don’t Forget Regular Upkeep Inspections!

After building the perfect chicken coop from a garden shed, remember that upkeep is needed. Doing routine inspections, and repairs as outlined here, will help you get many years of wear out of the coop.

Necessary Coop Furnishings

Droppings board–  When this coop was first used, I didn’t know the importance of a dropping board under the roost bar. Stinky droppings accumulated under where the birds roosted at night, attracted flies and the chickens walked in the droppings! Ick!

The dropping board was very easily added and made a huge difference in keeping the coop clean and free of flies. You can read more specifically about our coop dropping boards in this post. Basically, the board is installed under the roost bar and is removed to clean the droppings off of it. If the board is attached you would use something like a garden trowel or cat litter scoop to clean up the droppings and remove them to the compost pile.

 

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Extras

Our coop is not fancy. No frilly curtains, or interior paint. I did paint the one nesting box in a very cute pattern and added lettering that stated “Farm Eggs”. The girls still pooped all over it and decided to peck the lettering off of the top. I still think it would be fun to paint the inside and add some wall art. I’ll add that to this Spring’s To Do List!

make a chicken coop from a garden shed

Before the nest box was added to the coop

 

 

 

DSC_0168

after the nest box was used

 I hope you enjoy this short video tour of our chicken coop!

I poured a lot of Do it Yourself Information and detailed step by step projects into my book, 50 Do it Yourself Projects for Keeping Chickens (skyhorse publishing 2018)  You can grab a copy through local bookstores, Tractor Supply stores, Other garden and farm supply stores, and through my website.

For more on building your own chicken coop take a look at these  posts –

Pallet Project – Build A Cheap Chicken Coop

Chicken Coop Expansion

How Much Space Does a Chicken Need Anyway

Coop Raising Day

Raising Chickens on a Budget




6 Easy Brooder Ideas to Start Chicks

How difficult is it to set up a brooder? Here are my favorite easy brooder ideas for you to use for your own chicks. Easily cleaned and commonly found items can make a good home for the chicks to begin their lives.

Your new flock of chicks will need a special home for the first few weeks. This home is called a brooder. It takes the place of what would naturally be provided by a broody hen. Chicks require a much higher level of warmth than full grown chickens. They are not able to maintain their body temperature well without sitting under a momma hen or under a mechanical heat source. Easy brooder ideas listed here are some of the ways you can duplicate the environment provided by a broody hen.

Most times this warmth is provided by a heat lamp and a red bulb. The red light is calming and results in less aggressive pecking between the chicks. Alternatives include brooder warmers. The warmers can be a safer choice as far as accidental fires are concerned. When using the traditional heat lamps, make sure they are securely attached to something that will prevent the light falling into the brooder.

In some cases you may choose to place the broody hen and her chicks into a brooder for safety from the aggressive members of the flock. In this case you won’t need an additional heat source.

Easy Brooder Ideas and Sizing for Growth

How large a brooder you choose will depend on the amount of chicks. The growth in chicks is fast but not as fast as ducklings which seem to grow overnight. Depending on the weather, you may have to switch to larger brooders as the chicks grow. You can read more about the warmth requirements and chick development in this post.

In addition to providing warmth, easy brooder ideas will also have room for food and water. Both of these need to be available at all times. Chicks are developing rapidly and eat numerous times in a twenty four hour period. Keeping the food dish or feeder clean and full, and the water clean are two ways to help your chicks grow happy and healthy.

Safety Considerations

Safety from household pets should be considered when choosing from the easy brooder ideas. Using a sheet of cardboard is helpful for covering the brooder when the chicks begin to fly. Sturdier covers will be required if the family dog or cat is aggressive toward the chicks, or just overly curious! Read about the safety considerations of setting up a brooder inside the chicken coop here.

When using a large plastic tote for a brooder, it is easy to adapt the cover into a secure brooder lid. The steps are simple.

  • Using an exacto blade, cut the center out of the lid.
  • Cut a piece of 1/4 inch grid hardware cloth (rat wire) that completely covers the opening and overlaps the remainder of the lid by an inch or more.
  • Mark and drill holes for bolts to attach the wire to the lid.
  • Secure the wire in several spots using small bolts, washers, and nuts.

easy brooder ideas

easy brooder ideas

The Best Bedding for Easy Brooder Ideas

The chicks need bedding to absorb moisture, droppings, and for secure footing. Using a sheet of rubber shelf liner, topped with a layer of pine shavings is my favorite method. It’s easy to dump into the garden for compost, and the chicks are able to scratch around as they would in nature. When using shavings, it’s a good idea to raise the food and water dishes up to chest height of the chicks. This helps keep the food and water from being filled with shavings as the chicks scratch.

My Top Three Easy Brooder Ideas

Large plastic storage totes as described earlier make fantastic chick brooders. They come in various sizes. If you don’t use the lid right away, keep it handy, After the first three weeks the chicks will begin to try out their tiny wings. Plastic totes are one of the easiest chick brooder ideas.

easy brooder ideas

A child’s plastic swimming pool works well for the first few weeks. These plastic pans are easy to rinse out with a garden hose. Wading pools are especially good when raising ducklings. The amount of wet mess from ducklings can be mind boggling. This keeps the wetness contained and easy to clean.

easy brooder ideas

Water and feed troughs work very well and are often deeper than most other easy brooder ideas. The cost is higher but they last a long time and can be reused year after year. If you have an older trough that leaks, it can still be used as a chick brooder!

easy brooder ideas

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.

easy brooder ideas

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.