How to Build a Homemade Chicken Brooder

Written by cody sorensen
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How to Build a Homemade Chicken Brooder
Baby chickens stay warm in a homemade chicken brooder. (Grove Pashley/Photodisc/Getty Images)

A chicken brooder keeps baby chickens warm until their feathers grow in when chicks are raised without a mother hen. When baby chickens hatch out they only have fuzz covering their bodies. A brooder provides an artificial heat source in the form of a heat lamp. Chickens instinctively know when it's too hot or when it's too cold. They will regulate their own body heat by moving toward or away from the heat source.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Cardboard box
  • Straw
  • Broom handle
  • Saw
  • Heat lamp
  • Infrared bulb, 250-watt
  • Feeder
  • Waterer
  • Thermometer
  • Power source

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  1. 1

    Calculate how large the brooder will need to be based on how many baby chicks you'll have. Figure each chick needs 10 square inches of space directly beneath the heat source and 1/2 square foot of total brooder space. Six baby chicks would need 60 square inches under the heat source plus 3 square feet of space outside the heat source. Find a cardboard box large enough to accommodate the amount of baby chicks you will be brooding. Use a box with a minimum sidewall of 24 inches.

  2. 2

    Fill the bottom of the box with 4 inches of straw and scatter it around by hand. Lay a broom handle across the top of the box from side to side in the middle of the box. Cut the broom handle down with a saw so only 6 inches hang over each side of the box.

  3. 3

    Slide the top hooks of two heat lamps onto the broom handle until they hang down into the middle of the box 15 inches above the straw. Insert a 250-watt infrared light bulb into each lamp. Plug in the lamps and measure the temperature 2 inches above the floor of the box at the edge of the heat lamps with a thermometer. Use higher or lower watt bulbs to achieve a temperature of 32.2 to 35 degrees Celsius for day-old to 1-week-old chicks. Decrease this temperature 5 degrees per subsequent week until the chicks are fully feathered. Use a minimum of two lamps to avoid loss of heat due to one bulb burning out.

  4. 4

    Provide a chick feeder allowing for 1 lineal inch of feeding space per bird for the first 2 weeks, 2 lineal inches per 2- to 6-week-old chicks and 3 lineal inches after 6 weeks of age. Provide a 1 gallon waterer for 50 chicks during the first 2 weeks of life and 1 gallon per 15 chicks between 2 and 10 weeks of age. Set the waterers and feeders on top of the straw just outside the heat source.

  5. 5

    Place the chicks in the brooder and keep an eye on their behaviour. Increase the temperature if the chicks are huddling beneath the heat lamps and decrease the temperature if they are trying to get away from the heat source. Show the new chicks where the water is by dipping their beaks in. Place a little bit of feed on a small piece of cardboard near the feeder to encourage pecking.

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