How to Make a DIY Chick Brooder

Save money by learning how to make a temporary home for baby chicks.
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Day Old Chicks

Day Old Chicks

A peeping package of live chicks is delivered through the mail.

A peeping package of live chicks is delivered through the mail.

If you are thinking of getting started with a small flock of backyard chickens in the spring, there is nothing more rewarding that raising them from day old chicks. Baby chicks are available at local feed stores and also through the mail from catalog and online retailers.

Baby chicks are initially housed in a temporary home called a brooder. They will live in the brooder for the first six weeks of their lives. Once they are six weeks of age, they are fully feathered and can safely survive outdoor temperatures in a more permanent structure called a coop. A brooder is simple to create. You will need a large container, chick feed, water, a chick waterer, a chick feeder, a heat source, and kiln dried pine shavings for bedding. When it comes to a choosing a large container, keep in mind large cardboard boxes, large plastic storage bins, old aquariums, and even large farm troughs all work well. The brooder should be situated in a dry and draft free location where you can check on them frequently.

During the first week, baby chicks need a constant temperature of approximately 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Each subsequent week, the temperature is decreased by 5 degrees. At six weeks of age, they should be acclimated to a temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Their warmth in the brooder is achieved through the use of a heat lamp with an infrared bulb or a heating device placed on the brooder floor that mimics a mother hen. Depending on the temperature needs, the heat lamp can be raised or lowered. A digital thermometer can come in handy when determining the temperature on the brooder floor.

Baby chicks are fed a diet of chick feed and water. If you plan on sharing herbs, veggies or weeds with them, then they should have chick-sized grit available as well. They need this for proper digestion. Once the chicks are older than six weeks, they are placed on a grower feed until around 18 to 20 weeks and then a layer feed for the remainder of their lives. The brooder should be set up and waiting for the chicks prior to their arrival. Once they arrive, you will need to show them where the food and water are located. You can do this by holding each one in your hand and gently dipping their beaks into the water, then the food. Next, sit back, relax, and watch the antics begin.  It is amazing to see these little fluff balls "learn" how to be chickens. They flit about the brooder, exploring, scratching and pecking. Their curiosity is endless.  They grow very quickly and by the end of the first week their wings are almost completely feathered out. As they grow and spread their wings, they will most certainly decide to try and fly. For this reason and their safety, it is a good idea to cover the top of the brooder with chicken wire or other available mesh.

Over the course of the next few weeks, spend time with your chicks and handle them frequently. This helps them become comfortable with you and your family. Lastly, as a precaution after handling chicks, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water and launder any soiled clothing promptly.

Brooder Supply List:

  • Large cardboard box or suitable container
  • Kiln dried pine shavings
  • Heat lamp
  • Bungee cord
  • Chick feed
  • Water
  • Chick waterer
  • Chick feeder
  • Chick grit

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