Chicken brooders provide a warm environment for young chicks when a hen is not available. Chicks are placed in a brooder soon after hatching and stay in the brooder until they are fully feathered, usually at about 6 weeks of age. There are a wide variety of brooders available to successfully raise chicks. Homemade brooders can be inexpensive to construct and provide a comfortable environment for the young birds. A simple brooder can be constructed from plywood sheeting.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- 4 sheets ½-inch or thicker plywood
- 4 pieces of lumber 2 inches by 4 inches by 4 feet
- Drywall screws 1 5/8-inch
- Bedding -- pine shavings or chopped straw
- 1 or 2 heat lamps with 250-watt light bulbs
- Lightweight chain with snaps or a rope
- Chick waterers
- Chick feeders
Scout out a site for the brooder in a sheltered place such as a shed, garage of barn. The 8-foot-by-8-foot brooder will provide sufficient room for 64 broilers, 32 bantam or leghorn chickens, or about 21 heavy breed chickens from hatching to 6 weeks of age. The size can be reduced to 6-foot-by-6-foot or 4-foot-by-4-foot for a smaller number of chickens.
Build a square box by attaching a 4-foot board to the 4-foot end of each sheet of plywood with drywall screws. Stand the plywood so the box will be 4 feet high and use the sheet rock screws to secure each corner. The 4-foot height is often necessary because some birds will begin to fly by 6 weeks of age.
Suspend the heat lamp above the brooder using a lightweight chain and snaps or a rope. Use two heat lamps if the outside temperature is cool and there a chance the chicks could become too cold if the bulb burns out. The chain and snaps make adjusting the height of the heat lamp easier.
Adjust the height of the heat lamp so the temperature under the lamp is 32.2 to 35.0 degrees Cor newly hatched chicks. Reduce the temperature -15 degrees C each week until the brooder temperature is about 21.1 degrees C.
Watch the behaviour of the chicks to determine the correct temperature for the brooder. If the chicks huddle under the heat lamp, lower the height. Raise the height if the chicks avoid the heat lamp area.
Install an 18-inch-high guard to keep newly hatched chicks close to the heat lamp if drafts are a concern. Corrugated cardboard works well as a guard. If the outside temperature is very cold, cover parts or the entire brooder with heavy cardboard or sheets of plywood.
Fill the bottom of the brooder with several inches of bedding. For the first few days, cover the bedding with layers of newspaper so the chicks will distinguish the chick food from the bedding.
Place chick waterers and feeders in the brooder. Provide enough feeder and waterer space so all of the chicks can eat or drink at once.
Tips and warnings
- Carefully follow the heat lamp instructions so as not to create a fire hazard.
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