Be Sure to Set Up Your Chicken Brooder Before Your New Baby Chicks Arrive!
When you first see Your fluffy, cheeping baby chicks you may feel a bit overwhelmed and that’s OK!
You and your family are going to do a great job of raising baby chicks because you'll have prepared the necessary materials and gained the right knowledge to take care of them.
Since your family is going to be a stand-in for the "Mother Hen" to your baby chicks it's a good idea to plan for their arrival ahead of time just as you would for a newborn child.
Baby chicks need the warmth and protection of a Chicken Brooder. This refers to the heated space or area that you're going to use to raise baby chicks.
The purpose is to provide a secure area where you can maintain your baby chicks’ body temperature with an additional source of heat.
A big part of your preparation is to have everything set up before your baby chicks arrive. It must be big enough to hold the chicks to an age of 6-8 weeks and deep enough to keep the chicks from jumping out or flying out as they grow.
Baby chicks require constant care and monitoring, so make sure your schedule is clear for the first 4-5 weeks! You or someone will need to be available to check on your baby chicks at least 5 times a day.
Once your chicks reach about 5 weeks of age, they'll be able to maintain their body temperatures fairly well as long as the ambient temperature is around 70° F.
Ideally you'll have a garage, workshop, or basement where you can set up.
In the pictures below our dear friend Rhiannon and her hubby Robert from Riverside County, California have an 8' x 2.5' brooder set up in their garage. This is a great set-up and is probably one of the best we've seen.
Why not the main living space? Baby chicks love to "scratch" their bedding materials, which creates dust that gets everywhere.
Baby chicks also have a smell. The smell isn’t too bad but you may not want it in your house.
If you don't have a garage, workshop or basement in which to keep your baby chicks, perhaps you have an enclosed porch where it won't get too cold or a spare room whose surfaces you can cover. Some people even use their bathtubs.
Chicken Brooder Container
Create a well-ventilated, draft-free, temperature controlled, predator-proof space with abundant natural daylight and good bedding on the floor.
Make sure the space is not too large to start with and can be expanded as the baby chicks grow. If the space is too large the baby chicks will move too far away from their source of heat.
If it is too small they may be too crowded and start pecking at each other.
Buy a Baby Chicken Brooder Container or Make Your Own
Your family can buy a brooder container from a company that specializes in making them for families like yours, that want to raise chickens or you can just make your own.
Here are just a few of the tried and true ideas for home-made brooder containers that have been used by other families.
Cardboard or Wooden Box
It needs to be big enough to allow chicks to move away from the heat to cool off, eat and drink.
You can use a plain, old cardboard box approximately 28" long by 25" wide by 24" high with holes made in it for for ventilation.
A large, sturdy cardboard box is perfect if you only have a few chicks. It costs very little or even nothing and it keeps your baby chicks safely contained and free from drafts.
The wooden box is similar to the cardboard box. You can just build a box out of wood. Make it a little bigger than you initially need and then partition the box into a smaller area and expand it as needed.
Cardboard or Plastic Strips for a Circular Container
Use a large cardboard box or buy corrugated cardboard rolls 24" or taller. Cut the cardboard boxes or rolls into strips 24" high and connect them together to create a circle that will be your fence and a draft guard.
The advantage of a circular design is it’s easily be made larger if you need and does not have corners where the chicks can crowd together and risk smothering each other. The structure needs to be strong enough that it can’t easily tip over.
If you want to use plastic, it's the same idea as the cardboard box strips. Plastic rolls can be bought inexpensively to make your container and you don't have to worry about them getting wet..
Large Plastic Under the Bed Storage Container
This type of container is nice because it allows light in, keeps the chicks contained and free from drafts, and you can watch the chicks through the sides. They’re also easy to move around.
Cover the bottom with two or three inches of bedding.
Cut a piece of screen or light-weight wire mesh to cover the entire top of the box, and let it hang over the sides by a few inches. Fold the edges over so the top fits securely.
A children’s plastic sand pit or a kiddie's pool could also serve as an effective container.
Complete the Set-up of Your Baby Chicken Brooder Before Your Chicks Arrive
Everything should be ready when your baby chicks arrive. Have the heat lamp set up so the ambient temperature is correct; feeders filled with chick feed; waterers filled with water; floor covered with clean, dry bedding.
Give Your Chicks the Space They Need
The size of the container depends on how many chicks you have.
If chicks are to grow and remain healthy, they must have plenty of room to exercise, eat and drink, and sleep.
They should have enough room to be able to move away from the heat if needed.
But the container must keep the baby chicks from wandering too far from heat and nourishment.
Here are space guidelines for baby chicks:
Your container also needs enough space for waterers and feeders.
Feeders and Waterers
If you have a large space and a lot of chicks, you'll want to set up your feeders and waterers so baby chicks will not have to travel much more than 6-8 feet to eat or drink. To ensure that the chicks can find their feeders and waterers no matter which way they go, place them in a design that makes it easy for your chicks to get to.
If you're just using a small box or brooder space for just a handful of chicks, you'll probably just have one feeder and waterer
Set your waterers and feeders so they are not entirely under the heat lamp or entirely at the edges, but where the chicks can eat comfortably and not get either chilled or overheated.
Feeding and watering equipment can be obtained from feed stores, hatcheries, farm supply stores and on the internet. For a few dollars each, you can buy chick feeders and waterers. This equipment will help keep the food and water clean and tidy.
Check with your feed dealer or shop online for proper feed for your baby chicks.
You May Want a Cover for Your Chicken Brooder
To prevent having your baby chicks ‘fly the coop’, you can cut a section of chicken wire just big enough to drape over your container. This will also help to restrict handling and to protect your baby chicks from predators.
The baby chicken brooder must have proper ventilation, without drafts, to allow the escape of the moist air, fine dust and ammonia baby chicks create.
Keep It Dry
Keeping the brooding area dry is essential. Wet bedding can create an environment that promotes disease. Proper ventilation will help keep the litter dry. You'll want the chicken brooder where it is dry and to keep it dry.
Put plastic on the floor of the brooding area and put bedding on top of the plastic.
Always use bedding because baby chicks slip and become spraddle legged on bare floors, cardboard or newspaper.
Scatter 4 to 6-inches of fresh bedding material on the floor of the brooding area
Bedding for the floor of your chicken brooder can be pine shavings, sawdust, peat moss, rice hulls, ground corncobs, sand or other semi-coarse, absorbent materials that do not easily mat.
Do not use cedar shavings because cedar is toxic to chickens.
Now You Are Ready for the Arrival of Your Baby Chicks
The principles of brooding are the same regardless of the number of baby chicks you are raising.
Baby Chickens have to be kept warm and clean, well fed and watered, protected from predators and dampness, and provided with plenty of fresh air without being exposed to drafts.
If you do all these things, you will have a comfortable home for the baby chicks.
Now your chicken brooder is set up and you are ready for the arrival of your baby chicks.
You and your family's lives are about to get much more fun and interesting. I'll bet you can’t wait!